February, 2018

Ottawa, ON

Today on CTV Morning Live, CTV’s Henry Burris and Sommelier Matt Steeves showcased some sexy wine picks that are perfectly suited for a romantic Valentine’s date night. Check out the full CTV video here.

When planning a special Valentine’s date night, there are so many terrific wine styles from all over the world to complement and enhance your night.  From starting the evening with an iconic bottle of Champagne,  to enjoying a decadently sweet ending with a glass of world-renowned Canadian Icewine, and many great wine styles in between, there are no shortage of sexy wines to enjoy and we’ve got a great line-up to share with you today for your romantic Valentine’s date night!


Valentine’s Day is also a great time to enjoy aphrodisiac foods like chocolate.

Chocolate contains a number of compounds associated with pleasure, well-being, and excitement, such as phenylethylamine and anandamide (the ‘bliss’ or ‘joy’ molecule). Chocolate also helps the brain produce feel-good serotonin which you can never have too much of, can you?

Chocolate Mousse with Drunken (Brandied) Cherries – a terrific pairing with a sweet digestif such as Brandy, Port, and of course Icewine, but also delicious with dry full bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon! Try it with a California Cabernet and see for yourself.

Other aphrodisiac foods include oysters, caviar, vanilla, and red wine – yes, wine! Just one of many benefits of enjoying a glass or two of wine.  No wonder why we love it so much!

Here is a short list of some aphrodisiac foods that you may want to add to your date night, and pair with some great wines.

Oysters as an aphrodisiac sounds so clichéd, but they really can spark randiness. These shellfish are rich in zinc, a mineral that boosts the production of testosterone, which has been linked to a higher sex drive.  No wonder Casanova, the 18th century lover, ate 50 raw oysters every day…


Caviar offers similar benefits as Oyster do, boosting libido.  By the way, sparkling wine, such as Champagne, pairs beautifully with oysters and Caviar… Try the Moet & Chandon Champagne or a bottle of value-priced Ruffino Prosecco with some fine caviar or oysters on the half shell and enjoy the complementary pairings and the possible side effects…

Red wine: In addition to relaxing you faster than a simultaneous foot and neck rub can, red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during you know what…

Vanilla: The erotic effects of vanilla have been the subject of numerous studies, with men in particular showing a strong sensual response. The aroma
not only lowers stress levels to get you in the mood, but also evokes warmth, indulgence and euphoria.  Just happens that most oak-aged red wines have vanilla aromas…hmmm, so a nice California Cabernet seems like an essential ingredient for a romantic Valentine’s date night!

Strawberries: Since the beginning of time, well ancient Roman times anyway, strawberries have been regarded as romantic fruits. In fact, they’re the symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love, which makes sense given they’re naturally heart-shaped and red in colour. Often referred to as the Valentine fruit, they’re a perfect choice for a


romantic dessert option. Moreover, they’re also rich in Vitamin C, which helps to keep your blood flowing. So think of this as nature’s undercover Viagra. Plus, they’re perfect for dipping into warm, melted chocolate (another known aphrodisiac!) and who doesn’t like the thought of chocolate dipped strawberries, especially if paired with a sweet Canadian Icewine like the Inniskillin Riesling Icewine.


Ok, so now that we’ve touched on romantic foods, let’s get into my top romantic wine picks.  This year I decided to showcase some of my favourite wines from romantic wine regions, including Champagne, Spain, Niagara, California, Tuscany, and last but not least, Verona (Italy) – the home of Romeo and Juliet.

One of the styles of wine we’re showing today is Pinot Noir, so commonly known as the heart break grape, given the challenges that winemakers go through trying to grow Pinot successfully throughout the year.  Pinot is also a grape that many have a love interest in…and you can count me in that camp.  I love a fine Pinot, and although some can costs thousands a bottle, you can find great Pinot at affordable prices, which I’ve got a couple that are very reasonably priced and sure to be enjoyed by all, including a local one from right here in Ontario.

So, let’s get into the wines that I chose to showcase for your Valentine’s date night.


Champagne is a must!!!  When it comes to Valentine’s, Rosé Champagne makes the ultimate statement!

Here’s a gorgeous example of fine Champagne from a storied Champagne house, Moët & Chandon…

Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial – Champagne, France – $82.95


Moët & Chandon is celebrating 270 years as one of the world’s most celebrated Champagne houses. The Rosé Impérial is a soft rose-petal pink with coral highlights and a fine-textured mousse. Lifted aromas and flavours of strawberry , citrus, rose petal and fresh pastry. Dry, with medium body and palate-cleansing acidity.   Fantastic on its own, or when paired with popcorn!, it’s also delicious with seafood, game, cheese, and even desserts. Champagne is one of the most food-friendly wines and this is a fantastic example! Also, in addition to it being one of the finest Champagnes available, here’s a neat tidbit of trivia, Roger Federer is the brand ambassador for this Champagne House.

Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial Food Pairing

Try this sexy Champagne Cocktail with Moët & Chandon Rosé Imperial, a splash of Meiomi Pinot Noir and two splashes of Belvedere Vodka

Moët Love Elixir Cocktail with Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial

Pinot Noir, so commonly known as the heart break grape, given the challenges that winemakers go through trying to grow Pinot successfully throughout the year.  Pinot is also a grape that many have a love interest in…and you can count me in that camp.  I love a fine Pinot, and although some can costs thousands a bottle, you can find great Pinot at affordable prices, which I’ve got  a couple of those lined-up for us today.

Arterra Pinot Noir – Ontario – $29.95


In its second vintage, the 2016 Arterra Pinot once again benefits from a small percentage (20%) of appassimento winemaking where the grapes were harvested then partially dried for a period of time before pressing. This takes the already impressive Pinot Noir and adds further textural, aromatic, and flavour complexity, all in a subtle but noticeable way. The nose shows dark cherry, chocolate, cranberry, plum, clove, sweet herbs, cedar and a hint of sous-bois. This wide array of aromatic groups mingling together results in a very stimulating aromatic profile. The palate shows those familiar refreshing Niagara Pinot characteristics yet in a different style, one that preserves the crisp fruit characteristics and youthful tannins, and shows off some dried fruit and spice that opens this wine up to even more food pairing opportunities. Roasted pork tenderloin with cherry-balsamic sauce comes to mind, just as dark chocolate dipped cherries do too! An impressive and unique style of Niagara Pinot that I’d highly recommend. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted January 2018. 90+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Meiomi Pinot Noir – California – $24.95 ($3 off)


Meiomi’s 2015 Pinot Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir from three beautiful wine regions along the California coast: Monterey County (52%), Sonoma County (24%), and Sanata Barbara County (24%). Each lot was individually fermented and aged in 100% French oak, 60% new, to add additional texture whilst preserving the elegant and complex fruit characteristics. Blended to achieve the greatest complexity, the result is a very expressive, dry, and flavourful medium-full bodied Pinot Noir. The nose shows rich and smoky black cherry, creme de cassis, cola, baking spices, cedar, and dried herbs. The palate is incredible smooth, round, and luscious. Loaded with sweet dark fruit, black cherry, dried cranberry, mocha, baking spices, and kirsch. Another terrific vintage that’s sure to be loved. Enjoy with braised lamb, roasted pork with cherry-balsamic sauce, or simply on its own after a long day at the office. Tasted January 2017. 91 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Valentine’s falls smack dab in the heart of our winter, when many of us love enjoying big hearty red wines, such as California Cabernet, Spanish Tempranillo, and Italian Amarone and Super Tuscans, to name a few fantastic options!

Here we have a few of those, which are all super value priced yet deliver great quality and flavor!

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon – California – $19.95


Wente Vineyards have been making fine wine since 1883, in fact they’re America’s oldest continuously operated family-owned winery. Their Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay region which produces exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon given the gravely alluvial soils and the moderating effects the famous Bay fog has on preserving the fresh fruit character in the grapes.

The 2015 Southern Hills Cabernet is a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), with four other grapes (8% Petit Verdot, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Malbec and 2% Tempranillo), that give it the extra complexity and texture more typically found in wines way above this one’s price! A very impressive San Fran Bay wine, which shows great complexity on the nose and palate. Bursting with ripeness and balanced with great freshness, there’s currant, dark plum, baking spices, pipe tobacco, cedar, with a hint of eucalyptus on the nose. The well structured palate shows blackberry, black currant, and vanilla, with a great balance of fruit, freshness, and texture from fine subtle tannins. This may be one of the best California Cabs you can buy for under $20. Highly recommend. Tasted January 2018. 91+ points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca

Julián Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva – Spain – $15.95 ($2 off)


The Gran Feudo Reserva is a delicious blend of 65% Tempranillo, 20% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from the unsung hero Spanish wine region of Navarra which shares a border with France. Spanish wines are renowned for delivering great value and the Navarra-based Gran Feudo is an exceptional example of that. Priced well under $20, it delivers loads of dark fruit, plum, dried cherry, balsamic notes, leather, and incense. Medium bodied with soft tannins, the palate shows layers of dark fruit, sweet grilled figs, and a hint of scorched earth. Enjoy with traditional calderete (stew), such as braised lamb with tomatoes and peppers, braised beef dishes, or any firm cheeses. Enjoy 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018. 89 points. Matt Steeves – www.quercusvino.ca

Ruffino Modus (Super Tuscan) – Tuscany – Italy – $29.95

Each vintage Modus further solidifies its place in the fine wine world continuing to earn the reputation of a sought after Super Tuscan which is impressive given it’s only a fraction of the cost of its storied peers. A blend of 50% Sangiovese, with 25% of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that shows juicy layers of dark fruits, plum, spice, leather, and cigar box. Great depth of flavour, texture, and structure make it ideally suited for enjoying now with rich Osso Buco or hanger steak with bagna cauda pan sauce; it’s also an ideal candidate to cellar for up to a decade to enjoy its evolution. Ruffino’s Modus is a terrific value priced Super Tuscan that I’d highly recommend buying by the case. 93 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca


Now, I’ve got a  wine from the City of Love, Verona!  Verona is famous for the the love story of Romeo and Juliet, and the famous balcony and ‘Juliet wall’ that hosts a million love notes, but it’s also famous for gorgeous Valpolicella wines, and this one is a real value priced gem.  Pictured below are photos of Verona’s ‘Juliet’s wall’ in the city centre of beautiful Verona, Italy.


Pasqua Romeo and Juliet Ripasso – Verona, Italy – $18.95

The Pasqua Ripasso is a value priced Ripasso which gives an indication of the rich fruit character you can expect in its big brother, Amarone.  At less than $19, Pasqua’s Ripasso delivers the rich fruity character of an Amarone, with cherry pie, vanilla, and spice in spades.  Great for enjoying fireside or with any flavorful hearty dish.  Enjoy 2018-2022.


Ruffino Prosecco – Italy – $16.70

A very approachable (and value priced) Prosecco exhibiting beautiful orchard fruit and a pleasant note of fresh baked bread. Refreshing fine bubbles make this wine great on its own, yet pairs wonderfully with your favourite appetizers. This would make a great house-bubbly to keep on-hand (and chilled) for those impromptu celebrations or just to enjoy on a Friday evening. 89 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca


Now, moving to Niagara, where they’re renowned for more than their waterfalls.  Yes, Niagara Falls is unofficially know as the eighth natural wonder of the world, but for me, especially this time of year, it’s their ultra premium Icewine (and terrific cool-climate Pinot Noir like the Arterra we tasted above) that get me excited, which is why I chose to include one of each in my top Valentine’s date night wine picks.

Inniskillin Riesling Icewine – Ontario – $79.95

Canada is renowned for its prized Icewine production, and Inniskillin is Canada’s original estate winery that’s become world-famous for their ultra premium Icewines. The 2014 Riesling Icewine is exceptionally rich and decadent. Equally refreshing, it’s perfectly suited for enjoyment with spicy Asian cuisine as the rich sugary texture provides the ultimate relief to the spiciest dishes. Equally incredible with the richest desserts, Icewine is so versatile it’s perfectly suited for enjoying with just about any meal you can imagine. Enjoy over the next couple decades, served chilled with good company. Tasted January 2016. 95 points. Matt Steeves – http://www.quercusvino.ca


Now, if for one reason or another you and your Valentine can’t celebrate this Valentine’s Day, then no worries, perhaps you can make it up to each other with an extra special wine-focused Valentine’s gift for that special wine lover in your life… consider hopping on a flight to Vancouver at the end of February for the best wine fair in Canada, and one of the best in North America – the Vancouver International Wine Festival.


If you haven’t attended the Vancouver Wine Festival then I highly recommend adding it to your wine tourism plans as it’s a terrific off-season event that hosts many of the best wine personalities, and wineries, in the world in one state of the art location in downtown Vancouver.

I’ll be attending the 2018 Vancouver International Wine Fest and tasting more of Canada’s top wines, along with hundreds of terrific international wines.  2018 will see Spain and Portugal highlighting their many wine styles which many love for a variety of reasons with high quality and very affordable prices being top of mind for savvy consumers.


Perhaps I’ll see you in Vancouver later this month!

For the time being, here’s wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s Day which I hope is filled with love, great food, and fine wines, like what we’ve shown here today on CTV Morning Live!


Matt Steeves

Matt Steeves –  Sommelier, Wine Writer, and Director with the National Capital Sommelier Guild (www.sommelierguild.com)  Follow Matt on Twitter @QuercusVino  and check out  www.mattswinepicks.com for his top wine and spirits picks.