STRAIGHT-TO-YOUR-HEAD sensual and deliciously compatible with gourmet goodies, champagne is the go-to choice when it comes to love-day libations. But like “roses are red” poems and chocolates wrapped in a heart-shaped box, carbonated classics—Cristal, Veuve, Krug—have become something of a Valentine’s Day cliché.
Not to worry. With dozens of lesser-known sparkling wines being imported every day and some delightful new domestic sparklers, there are now hundreds of ways to break the bubbly mold. Fill your loved one’s flute with wine from Larmandier-Bernier or José Dhondt—small champagne producers that offer high quality at affordable prices. Or try thinking outside the region—while only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne appellation can be called such, effervescents like prosecco from Italy and Spain’s cava have been stirring up tasting groups across the country. Got a locavore lover? Opt for a Northwest sparkling wine like Mountain Dome Non-Vintage Brut from Washington or Oregon’s Argyle 1997 Extended Tirage Brut. Both make magnificent matches with shellfish, caviar, and other edible indulgences. And if your date has you thinking pink, there is no end to the bubbling rosés popping up on local wine store shelves.
Picking from among all these novel new fizzies could leave anyone giddy, so start with these simple pairings of sparkling wines with elegant foods to get you in the mood.
Seattle Caviar Company sells some of the world’s finest fish-egg spreads—from chum salmon to white sturgeon. Try one of their first-rate roes with Perrier Jouët Grand Brut ($31) champagne, a fresh and lively mate for caviar’s delicate and complex flavors.
Seattle Caviar Company, 2922 Eastlake Ave E, Eastlake, 206-323-3005; www.caviar.com. Wine available at Leschi Food Mart, 103 Lakeside Ave, Leschi, 206-322-0700; www.leschimart.com
Lucky Seattleites have easy access to those most storied of aphrodisiacs, raw oysters on the half shell. Wash down a couple of the slippery little suckers (we recommend Totten Inlet Pacifics) with José Dhondt Non-Vintage Brut Blanc de Blancs ($38)—the minerality and dry, citrusy finish really bring out briny sea flavors.
Totten Inlet Pacific oysters available at City Fish Co. (call a day ahead to place order), 1535 Pike Pl, Pike Place Market, 206-682-9329; www.cityfish.com. Wine available at Pike and Western, 1934 Pike Pl, Pike Place Market, 206-441-1307; www.pikeandwestern.com
Everyone goes doe-eyed over strawberries and bubbly, and the fruity pink flavor of Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV ($16) tastes great with nature’s most romantic sweet treat. Berries also pair well with a demi-sec (slightly higher sugar content) champagne like Laurent-Perrier ($23 per half bottle), but be sure to avoid very dry wines, which can clash with the fruit’s flavors.
Fruit and wine available at Whole Foods Markets, www.wholefoodsmarket.com
The rose-petal and raspberry perfume nose of Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui 2006 Pineto
($21), a sparkling red wine from Piedmont in northwestern Italy, will bring out dark, hidden flavors in rich, decadent desserts like Simply Dessert’s chocolate truffle cake.
Simply Desserts, 3421 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-633-2671; www.simplydesserts seattle.com. Wine available at Esquin Wine Merchants, 2700 Fourth Ave S, SoDo, 206- 682-7374; www.esquin.com