What Pairs with Love? Sparkling Wine, of Course!

I’m not a fan of flowers or jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Not that I don’t appreciate getting something sparkly (Peppermint always has adorable accessories featured on their Instagram feed… hint hint, Keith), but there are so many amazing experiences out there that some I’d rather invest the money in doing something interesting and different to celebrate love.

We decided to take an afternoon trip to Red Tail Ridge Winery in to try out their chocolate and sparkling wine flight. Pairings are fun because they change the way that you experience the wine. A good pairing will maintain the flavors of the food and drink without diminishing one or the other. A fantastic pairing will bring out the best flavors in both the wine and food, transforming them into something amazing (just like a great relationship, where the two partners become better together than they ever were apart! Aw, I’m feeling all romantic and gooey now).

Red Tail Ridge is located on the west side of Seneca lake, and is an easy drive from Rochester. The vineyard focuses not only on producing amazing wines, but also on sustainable and green practices (they are New York State’s first LEED®- Gold Certified Winery). Created by husband and wife team Mike Schnelle (viticulturist) and Nancy Irelan (winemaker), RTR is known for its incredible and diverse selection of dry white and red wines, including some rare varietals like Teroldego and Dornfelder.


For Valentine’s Day, they had a fabulous Sparkling Rosé flight paired with Lindt and Rue Claire chocolate.

2007 Sparkling Rosé paired with milk chocolate with toasted hazelnuts and sea salt. The wine had a strong nose of roasted nuts and the burnt sugars of crème brûlée (yum), with an orange and sherry like taste when sipped. The bubbles balanced out the rich flavors and medium body of the wine. When paired with the chocolate, this rich sparkling totally transformed- the nuttiness and aged taste decreased, and the bright orange and acid became more prevalent.

2009 Sparkling Rosé paired with dark chocolate with mango tarragon, cranberry, honey and a hint of chili. So this is where I need to make a confession. I don’t actually like chocolate… particularly dark chocolate. I’m bitter sensitive, so it tastes really bad to me even though Keith absolutely adored this chocolate and pairing. What I can say, is that the sparkling wine had a nose of toasty brioche bread and cranberries, with an added touch of apricot when sipped. There was a great lingering taste of tart berries and acidity that made you want another sip. No seriously, I’d really like another sip!

2013 Sparkling Rosé paired with strawberry, raspberry and orange cranberry white chocolate. The wine had a nice strawberry and raspberry nose, with a bit of citrus fruit and acidity on the palate. With the chocolate, the acidity really jumped up and the bright berries came to the forefront. This was great, because white chocolate can really coat the inside of your mouth- the sparkling cuts right through that and leaves you ready for another bite.

Even though the wines are made with similar grapes and are from the same winery, they are extremely different. Add to that the age of the different sparkling wines, and there is no way to really compare which was the best. I was totally surprised by the nut characteristics of the 2007, the 2009 had an herbal and cranberry quality that reminded me of the holiday season, and the bright berry flavors of the 2013 was really fun. I guess I’ll just have to get them all. #WineProblems.

My favorite pairing? Probably the first one- the qualities of the 2007 changed so dramatically with the chocolate. It was like getting to try two different wines. Also, I was impressed with how fresh and acidic the 2007 was given its age. Keith’s pick? Not surprisingly, he went for the dark chocolate and 2009 because it had a spicy kick that was complemented by the tart cranberry notes of the wine.

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