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Need help choosing a single wine for a multi-course Valentine's Day dinner

Hello! I'm looking for suggestions for a single wine for a multi-course Valentine's Day dinner at our neighborhood restaurant. We're leaving town on Friday so I don't want to open several bottles. Here's the menu:

Raw oyster w/green apple viniagrette

1. Foliage
Lettuce, watermelon radish, kohlrabi, egg, sourdough, garlic, parm

2. Dirt
Crispy kale, roasted beets, carrot, turnip, house ricotta

3. Forest
Rabbit, king trumpets, Benton’s bacon, peas, onion, parsley, balsamic

4. Ocean
Ruby red shrimp, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, ginger, parsnip, garlic

5. Dessert

Any suggestions? I'm particularly interested in courses 2, 3, and 4.

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  1. In my opinion, the only wine that goes with oysters to rabbit to bacon to shrimp to chocolate ..... Is champagne. Get an extra special bottle and savor it all.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      Absolutely. With a special nod to Rose Champagne.

      1. re: maria lorraine

        Though it doesn't go with chocolates. For those, you need a fortified wine.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          With two people on such an occasion, the one bottle ought to be empty by the fifth/dessert course!!
          The choice of rose, or any bubbly, was my inclination as well.

          Btw, foritifieds are obviously the top choice for chocolate, but I like late-harvest zin with darker chocolate flavors too.

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Well, there CAN be an exception - a Demi Sec Champagne with the chocolates (depends ON the chocolates), but you get the drift.

            Now, I would greatly hesitate to pair a Demi Sec Champagne with the rest of the meal, so one is rather left hanging.

            How about a half-bottle of Banyuls for the chocolate and a Brut Rosé for the other courses?

            Of course, today IS St. Valentine's day, so unless the OP is in, maybe Hawai`i, the meal is done.


      2. Riesling... kabinett. Elevates everything on that menu except the chocolate.

        1. I'd go for Champagne, and probably a Brut Rosé . . .

          1. Actually, if you want just one bottle of wine... to match everything on this menu INCLUDING the chocolate (especially if lighter chocolate)... consider a Moscato d'Asti...

            Also for the salad, if doing champagne I'd use chevre instead of parmesan, if riesling emmental instead. Easy on the balsamic notes with the rabbit, a hint is enough.

            5 Replies
            1. re: TombstoneShadow

              But then they'd have to drink Moscato d'Asti :) :)

              The OP said it's a restaurant so probably can't tweak the preps as you suggest.

              1. re: john gonzales

                ahhh good catch...

                what's wrong with drinking MdA?

                1. re: TombstoneShadow

                  I was just being a smart-ass. Nothing wrong with it, especially if it floats your boat.

                  I just don't care too much for MdAsti. I don't dislike it, and will sip it on a warm day. But never am I wowed by it, nor do I consider it very interesting. I certainly haven't had them all, but my wife sells quite a bit of it, so have tried quite a few.

                  Btw, if the OP finds NV Billecart Salmon or NV Laurent Perrier on the winelist, those are broad production wines but good and not utra-expensive priced forays into rose.

                  1. re: john gonzales

                    "I just don't care too much for MdAsti. I don't dislike it, and will sip it on a warm day. But never am I wowed by it, nor do I consider it very interesting."

                    Same here, and I've had quite a few. Nothing near the complexity of Champagne, especially Rose Champagne, for Valentines Day and this dinner. The Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne has historically been a good buy.

              2. I agree on all the sparkling recs. A dry riesling would also go well. If you decide to go with champagne, I'd select one with a bit more body/roundness to it (for me that means one that isn't 90% chardonnay grapes). For widely available and decently affordable, I like Pol Roger White Foil Brut myself - but anything that has a good percentage of Pinot Noir or Meunier (or both) should give that character.

                1. Wow, thanks everyone! I know a bit about kabinett rieslings, but I know very little about rose champagne.

                  The restaurant is BYOB only. I'd love your suggestions in the $40-ish range. So far I've seen a rec for:

                  Pol Roger White Foil Brut
                  NV Billecart Salmon
                  NV Laurent Perrie

                  Any others for me to research? Thanks again for your input.

                  1. And to further complicate matters, the chef just messaged me, saying he would "lean towards a crisp full bodied chard on the white side or a subtle earthy tone pinot noir.... The wines [ed: kabinett / generic champagne i.e. did not specify rose] you mentioned seem a little on the sweet side than my preference."

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ptaylor2112

                      Brut is the DRIEST (i.e.: the least sweet) Champagne produced. It is a very dry wine. A Brut Rosé will simply be a bit more full-bodied, generally, than a traditional Brut from the same house.

                      If you go for a Chardonnay, then I'd opt for a Chablis 1er Cru.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Have to agree with Zin and disagree with the chef =P If we're talking about Brut Champagne it's one of the driest wines there are (very high in acid) and the effervescence allows it to pair with a good number of foods.

                        Agree if you end up with a Chardonnay go Chablis - very acid/mineral like focus for a Chard. Anything too buttery/too full of stone fruit is going to clash with a lot of these dishes (flavors like Brussel Sprout are hard on wines).

                        Pinot Noir will work fine with "Dirt" and "Forest" but all that acidity and green-ness listed in the "Ocean" dish urges caution. Unless it's a very well integrated, light, high-acid pinot the pinot will be discordant with the dish.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          Though the menu is very inventive, the Chef's comments on wine pairings and sweetness lead me to believe his expertise is his food, not wine.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Yep. I agree. Obviously Kabinett will have sweetness, but not Brut Rose.
                            Everyone has their own wine preferences,but I don't see how anyone knowledgeable would feel that a Rose bubbly does not pair very well with that meal, especially if one is trying to do one wine.
                            My second choice was Chablis. Though that is not "full-bodied" as the chef suggests, and that suggestion isn't warranted IMO. I also think, the Chablis will go less well with the Rabbit.
                            Pinot isn't the end of the world, especially if the drinker just really prefers red wine. I love pinot and DO drink it with almost all foods, even though it does not have the perfect matching profile at times.
                            Actually I might have something like chablis or bubbly first off, then flip-flop the Shrimp and the Rabbit courses and have a glass of pinot over the rabbit and the chocolate. It won't go real well with the chocolate, but if you like Pinot won't be bad and I tend to linger over my wine between the last savory course and dessert anyway.

                            1. re: john gonzales

                              Maybe I'm this silly romantic oenophile, but to me, Valentine's Day means Champagne or sparkling wine. Rose bubbles have the remarkable ability to pair with food with some heft in their flavors, even rare roast beef. The heftiest item on the menu -- rabbit -- is still well within the range of flavors that pairs well with Rose bubbles. And bacon is remarkable with Rose Champagne -- the operative pairing rule is "bubbles love fat and salt." The Pinot Noir will be too intense, IMO, and doesn't pair with more than one dish, and even that pairing is not the best. I don't see Riesling with this meal or the occasion.

                              Please note, a chocolate dessert is not chocolates. Chocolates, meaning tiny chocolate candies or bon bons, because of their high sugar content, will not pair with wine -- wine tastes sour when combined with something so sweet. Chocolates require a fortified wine like -- my favorite for gourmet chocolates is a Malmsey Madeira -- or port. I can see how a late-harvest Zinfandel might work, one like Bella, but IMO it's not as sexy or voluptuous as other choices. Plus, a bottle of fortified wine, once opened, lasts for a very long time.

                              Even a little "airplane" bottle of a liqueur, like Grand Marnier or something else that goes with chocolates, would work. Just a few sips is all you'll need.

                              Offerings might be limited in Tennessee, but I'd urge the OP to seek out a French Rose Champagne, or a US-made sparkling wine, even something as inexpensive as the Mumm Brut Rose. Just be sure to look for a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (méthode traditionnelle or méthode champenoise). Your wine store will know all about this, or the label will have these words. Keep the bubbles very cold during your journey to the restaurant.

                              I do like the idea of half-bottles, but that gets away from the one-bottle request. Since it's Valentine's Day, that really tips the choice, at least for me and my romantic oenophile friends, towards Champagne or sparkling wine. Have a romantic dinner. Hope it's special.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Even her trade friends call my wife Champagne Shirley, so yes, Valentine's Day does call for bubbles for us. Though we typically avoid restaurants on that day. Usually it's fresh oysters and some Maine Lobster at home. Being the less romantic half, I'm angling to go see Bonnie Raitt this year.

                                Getting the French Rose for $40ish will be a challenge, as all rose just costs more. The Billecart is $70ish, so out. Pierre Peters rose at about $75 is awfullynice too. I think the L-Perrier is about $55. I also like the Ruinart R and Billiot at about $55. Below that it gets trickier. Best bet maybe Henriot which should be about $45. Jacquart might be a bit less but is not as good. For $35ish N. Feuillate Rose is a decent value. Below that one probably has to go domestic. Roederer Anderson Rose must be about $20. Costco sells a Schramsberg Rose for about $20. Some people like it, but it's not my fave. IIRC the Mumm is not Prestige, but just Rose or the more expensive Reserve.

                                1. re: john gonzales

                                  Nice recs, with prices. Useful.

                                  Mumm Brut Rose note -- you were correct, and I corrected.

                      2. re: ptaylor2112

                        I don't see the pinot noir matching the shrimp very well... nor the chardonnay doing much for the rabbit... the chardonnay might work with the shrimp but then there's that grapefruit element which works better with riesling and nice with moscato...

                        Remember we're trying to hit this entire menu with ONE WINE:) That's why I like an extremely versatile food-friendly wine like riesling here... (or moscato d'asti for the same reason)...

                        As for no sweetness, we're not talking alot of sweet in a kabinett and I think what is there would actually add something to the palate. Go half-trocken if you prefer a bit drier.

                      3. Can we see the wine list on line?

                        1. Hi WEW,

                          Unfortunately there is no winelist. The restaurant is a casual (and expertly prepared) farm-to-fork breakfast/lunch spot. They only do special occasion dinners. It is BYOB only. I have access to a couple of decent local wine shops here in Knoxville.

                          I am leaning toward one of two options:
                          a. 375ml champagne (rose or otherwise) & a Pinot Noir
                          b. 1er Cru Chablis

                          Decisions, decisions...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: ptaylor2112

                            After reading all the replies - I would go with Champagne. Not even a Rose' Champagne. Just straight up Brut Champagne. There are so many flavors on the menu......

                            1. re: chloebell

                              Brut Rosé for two reasons: 1) its added roundness on the palate and weight will work better with the rabbit (IMHO) than a lighter bodied Champagne; and 2) well, it IS Valentines Day, after all . . . .

                            2. re: ptaylor2112

                              V. Dauvissat, La Forest or Sechet
                              Fevre, Montee de Tonnerre
                              Picq, Vosgros

                            3. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. One quick note about the chef: yes, I think his skills lie in the kitchen, but in his defense I did not suggest brut rose, just "champagne."

                              And posters are right about Pinot Noir; I drank one tonight (from Oregon) and couldn't imagine it with the rabbit.

                              Anyway, I will visit my local wine shop tomorrow and will post the results.

                              Thanks again for everyone's input!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: ptaylor2112

                                <And posters are right about Pinot Noir; I drank one tonight (from Oregon) and couldn't imagine it with the rabbit.>

                                Really? those flavors are a combination I often pair with Pinot Noir.

                                1. re: ChefJune

                                  Yeah, not to further confuse the issue, but Pinot should actually do well with that dish. Barring some stange dominance by the balsamic, the mushrooms, and even bacon, lend themselves to pinot. I find rabbit itself to be one of those middling meats that can go with white or red.

                                  1. re: john gonzales

                                    I had a cab franc the last time I had rabbit. I don't think my brain has fully recovered from how terrific it was.

                                    And I am having difficulty seeing how the Pinot would pair with the shrimp dish.

                                    1. re: ptaylor2112

                                      "And I am having difficulty seeing how the Pinot would pair with the shrimp dish..."

                                      You're not alone :)

                                      1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                        well, it wouldn't. but it shouldn't follow the rabbit in the menu order, either. and the Champagne would go great with it.

                                      2. re: ptaylor2112

                                        I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about . . .

                                        Bottom line: drink whatever the heck you want! Period.

                                        Now, as I'm sure you've already gathered, were it me having this dinner, I'd do a Brut (very dry) Rosé Champagne . . . which will probably work with the rabbit, although that will be the weakest match (IMHO). But it's your rules, and you want to stick to one bottle (or two half-bottles, it seems).

                                        Pinot Noir and rabbit is a great match, but -- yes -- it won't work with the shrimp. You happen to like Cab Franc with thumper, so drink that. But neither Pinot nor Cab Franc (again, IMHO) will work with the Amuse, the Foliage, or the Ocean . . .

                                        Then again, there is never ONLY one wine that will work with a particular dish . . . one always has options . . . UNLESS you're trying to limit yourself to a single choice across a broad spectrum of foods.

                                        There's always more than one wine to perfectly go with a single dish, but no one wine will perfectly match every single dish.

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          I agree. I know my share about wine pairing, but even I don't always follow my own advice. In general I think the perfect pairing can be over-rated. Afterall, I drink diet coke and cocktails with meals sometimes to. I'll out myself and say that I drank a Beringer PR Cab with some mussels the other night. Neither item was harmed by the other. People need to drink wine that they like, and at times not even a great pairing is going to make someone like a wine they aren't inclined toward. Somms are often trying to push Sake on me as a pairing. I don't like Sake and I never like the pairing.
                                          Some people love the skin-contact oxidative whites coming out of the Friuli area and rave about the match with Italian fare. I tried one again the other night at a newish Italian place featuring them and still hated it.

                                          The pinot definitely is not a good match for the shrimp or moreso the ginger and grapefruit prep. I'd still even place that dish prior to the rabbit, but realize that it's a restaurant.

                                    2. re: ChefJune

                                      Maybe the OP meant the Ocean dish? I agree that Pinots and rabbit are usually a lovely combination.

                                      The rules of "safe" conventional pairing as follows (e.g. basic familiarity with the menu and the types of wines but not enough time to experiment with it all to come up with unconventional pairings)

                                      There really is no right and wrong, to the OP, usually Pinot Noir goes with most Poultry/Pork/Duck/Rabbit dishes that have earthy flavors (say mushrooms, bacon etc.). If the dish is too light with a lot of green flavors (say a sea bass w/ lime cilantro etc.) it's safer to go with an acidic white - say sauvignon blanc, and if the dish is super heavy (say beef in a bernaise) then it's better to go with a red with a bit more oomph as it were - say a cabernet sauvignon.

                                  2. "One bottle" will not "match" with everything on that menu. Rose Champagne would be pretty good with everything,but not a match.

                                    I'd probably opt for a 1/2 bottle of Champagne for the first 2 courses and a red Burgundy for the rest. Or could be an Oregon Pinot.

                                    1. Hi everyone -

                                      Dinner was a huge hit. The wines were:

                                      NV Jacques Copinet Brut Rose (375ml)
                                      2008 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir

                                      The rose was terrific. I can see why some folks only drink champagne. And I liked the Bouchaine enough that I'd buy it again. It paired especially well with the rabbit course. I also really liked that the Ocean course followed the rabbit. The chef did that on purpose, as he wanted the meal to arc so the heaviest course was near the middle. And warm shrimp with rose champagne is really quite nice!

                                      Those of you without children can stop reading here.

                                      Those of you with children will appreciate this: After dinner, we went back home and danced to Tony Bennett for a while. Then we went to the neighbor's to pick up the kids, at which point our 4 yr old decided to barf all over my wife's new dress. C'est la vino.

                                      Thanks again for your suggestions. I never would have thought of champagne.


                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: ptaylor2112

                                        Thank you for reporting back! Sounds like it was an awesome dinner.

                                        1. re: ptaylor2112

                                          Sounds good.
                                          My pairing ended being Sam Adams Lager with pizza, as we were pressed to make a concert.

                                          The only thing about an "arcing" menu is that it can be more of a challenge wine-wise.

                                          1. re: john gonzales

                                            You're right about the difficulty in pairing. But we just saved a bit of the rose and switched back that. It was worth it, as the rabbit dish was so savory that I'm glad it wasn't right before dessert. My palate needed the acidity of the Ocean dish; it helped me appreciate the chocolates!

                                            1. re: ptaylor2112

                                              "My palate needed the acidity of the Ocean dish; it helped me appreciate the chocolates!"

                                              An insight worth sharing far and wide and one of the reasons we have salad after the main. When I think of moving from roast beef to chocolate cake at someone's idea of a feast, it just sounds plain unpleasant!