I’m not the romantic type, but only a fool would turn their nose up at a flute (or coupe, plastic cup, bottle, or Nabuchadnezzar) of Champagne on Valentine’s Day. Aspen is about as romantical a destination as it gets, and we have the added bonus of having some of the world’s top wine experts in town.
The Limelight’s sister hotel, The Little Nell, has achieved global renown for its wine program (which includes a 20,000-bottle cellar, featuring major producers and esoteric labels). The hotel has turned out 10 of North America’s 140 Master Sommeliers, including current Wine Director Carlton McCoy, at 30, one of the world’s youngest and one of only two African Americans to receive this distinguished title. Carlton is also a lot of fun, unafraid to admit his affection for cheap lite beers, and there are few things he loves more than turning people on to wine, be they high-rollers or ski bums.
Carlton is my go-to man whenever I need a beverage pairing, so I asked him for his top five Champagne/sparkling wine picks for Valentine’s Day. He dismisses the old-school belief that Champagne should be relegated to merely an aperitif to stimulate the appetite, proclaiming, “The modern thinking is not just pouring it for special occasions. It can be appropriate for every course of a meal.”
That said, he does offer this one piece of advice: “No matter how delicious the beverage, you should probably be paying more attention to your date than the wine.” Smart guy, Carlton.
Here’s what you and your significant other (don’t have one? Treat yourself.) should be drinking this Valentine’s Day
Laurent-Perrier Rosé: “We’re talking date wine, here,” says Carlton. “Fifteen-percent alcohol content and up. Laurent-Perrier provides a great start to the evening, and it’s good value.”
Krug: “If you had a bad year with the wife, or otherwise need to make amends, this should be your purchase of choice.”
Nino Franco, Cartizze: The Veneto region of Italy yields spectacular Prosecco. Carlton recommends this one, made from 100% Glera grapes, for its lush, aromatic notes of tropical fruit. Tropics, heat, beach, bathing suits….sexy.
Pierre Gimonnet Cuis Cuvée France NV: This is actually my pick, because how many hotels have a house Champagne? The Nell’s signature restaurant, Element 47, offers this signature label from the township of Cuis, and it’s excellent: light, slightly creamy, made with Chardonnay grapes.
Giulio Cocchi, Bracetto d’Acqui DOCG: Carlton loves this Spumanti from from the Piedmont region of Italy. While not a true rosé, it’s made by pressing and cold macerating 100% Bracetto d’Acqui grapes in small baskets, which provide its flavor and color. With an appealing (and holiday-appropriate) cherry hue, it’s dry, bubbly, and refreshing, and makes for a perfect finish to a meal, especially paired with dark chocolate (aphrodisiac alert).
As for the flowers, candies, cards, and rest of it, Carlton and I are in agreement. All you really need for a great Valentine’s Day is a bottle of something special (price doesn’t always equal quality- if you need an under $10 suggestion, he’s your guy), and a place to enjoy it. Whether it’s room at the Limelight or The Little Nell, the top of Ajax, or a park bench in town, Valentine’s Day is about who you’re with (even if that’s just you), not how much you spend.