2 oz Pours: ❤️ Day Wines

There’s a lot of love in the air around here right now.

As you know, Valentine’s just passed, then a couple of days later Greg and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary!

We’ve always kept Valentine’s pretty chill. Even before our wedding anniversary landed right after it, we usually opted to celebrate it a day or two before or after to avoid crowded restaurants, or we’d order in on the actual day. We’re even more low key about it now.

Nonetheless, I still like to mark the day with something a little special. A cheese and charcuterie spread is one of my favorite ways to spend a Date Night In, and that’s exactly what we did. (Let’s be honest, I’ve shared more than one of these on this blog. Check out a few others at the end.) While Valentine’s Day has now passed, hopefully, this will serve as inspiration for some tasty Date Nights In of your own. Of course, that date doesn’t have to be with a partner. Make a date to hang out with buds or fam and spread the good vibes around!

Our cheese and charcuterie spread, clockwise from left: R & G Cheese Makers Eclipse ash-ripened goat cheese, a basic Manchego, Brooklyn Cured Uncured Sweet Soppressata, R & G Cheese Makers Goat's Milk Camembert, Journeyman Meat Co. Romano - Palmer Finnochiona Italian Salame with Fennel and Fennel Pollen.

Food is definitely my love language, and on this particular evening, I decided to express it by baking the bread. I’m a big fan of the No-Knead Bread recipe developed by Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery. You do need to start things a few days in advance, but it is so soooo easy and the results are really fantastic. A while back a friend gave me a sourdough starter, so now I make this sourdough version from the NYT Cooking. (That’s behind a paywall, so here is another version that isn’t, although I haven’t tried this recipe yet.) Of course, you can keep things easy and buy a loaf – treat yourself to a good one.

Bread ✔
Cheese ✔
Charcuterie ✔

Now for the wine. I’d recently been sent a media sample bottle of Paula Kornell Blanc de Noirs Napa Valley 2017 (SRP $50, 12.5% abv) and what better day to pop it open than on Valentine’s Day?! Paula Kornell launched her namesake brand in 2019, and the 2017 wines were the inaugural vintage!

This is a new label, but one with a lot of history behind it. Paula grew up with sparkling wine as the family business. Her father Hanns, was the third generation of a winemaking family in his native Germany. He was forced to leave his home after being released from a concentration camp during WWII, and eventually made his way to California. He and his wife, Marilouise, were eventually able to buy the historic Larkmead Estate and established Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars in Napa Valley in 1958.

Paula worked in father’s winery, and once the winery closed in 1992, she went onto work in varied and prestigious roles in the California wine world including as general manager of several wineries, as well as serving as chair of Napa Valley Wine Auction (now Auction Napa Valley), and president of the board of directors for Napa Valley Vintners. She started a wine consulting company in 2014 and her own ultimately the Paula Kornell wine label. I’d say all of this make this wine a good lead into Women’s History Month next month as well!

On the nose, I picked up notes of ripe lemons and gold apples. On the palate, the apples were a mix of gold and green, which were joined by baked pears, strawberries, and stone fruits accented by sweet spice notes. There were also light floral notes of honeysuckle and chamomile, and tiny savory hints of thyme and salted almonds.

This is a traditional method sparkling wine and is made up of 98% Pinot Noir, and 2% Chardonnay and aged for 20 months on the lees. The winery also recommends it paired with prosciutto, Époisses, figs, chicken liver pâté, anchovy pizza, or a goat cheese omelette.

By coincidence, shortly after Valentine's I had the chance to attend a reception for Paul Kornell, during which I also got to try their California Brut, as well as a special bottling. All were delicious. The California Brut is great value buy with an SRP of $22. I have sample bottle waiting for me, so we may be revisiting it soon.

* * * * *

I think it might be a requirement that one has chocolate on Valentine’s Day, and I was more than happy to comply. I baked up these Fudgy Nutella Brownies. They were off the hook!

You might notice that this is in a pie shape rather than in typical brownie bars. A couple of pans have gone missing around here, but I wasn’t about to let that keep us from good brownies, so into the pie dish the batter went. This picture also doesn't do justice to how good they were. They look dry in this pic, but they weren't in the least. These were also ribbons of chocolate hazelnut deliciousness running throughout.

Ruby port is an ideal pairing for dark chocolate desserts. The rule of thumb with dessert pairings is that you want the wine to be sweeter than the dessert, if not the wine will taste kind of sour. Keeping with this point, I personally find that they tend to work better with darker and denser chocolate desserts, rather than milk chocolate and/or less dense chocolate desserts. While these brownies were still pretty sweet, the bitter edge of the dark chocolate helped offset the sweetness and they worked solidly with the wine.

By comparison, we also tried this wine with chocolate pots de crème on another evening. While I tried to limit the sweetness in the custards and also used bittersweet chocolate, the cream lightened up chocolate, and they didn’t pair quite as well together with the Ruby Port as the brownies. Going in a completely different direction, this is also a great pairing with strong cheeses.

We enjoyed the Warre’s Warrior Finest Reserve Port NV (sample bottle, average price $18, 20% abv) with our brownies. The company that would eventually become Warre’s was founded in 1670. The Warrior label first shipped in the 1750’s and has been made ever since, making it the oldest continuously produced brand of Port.

On the nose, this wine shows notes of chocolate-dipped black cherries, dark plums, black licorice,  and a hint of smoke. The same notes continued on the palate, along with raspberry and blackberry candy and tiny a hint of pepper. 

We’re not going to get into all the different types of Port today, as there are quite a few, but very basically Ruby Ports are usually the entry-level Ports. Gateway Ports, if you will. They’re usually bottled with less than three years of age, but are ready to drink as soon as you open them. No need to age these guys further. They’re full of sweet, ripe berry flavors.

This is a Reserve Ruby Port, which means it was aged in cask for longer than the average Ruby – up to 5 years for bottling. (The tech sheet for this one did not specify how long this one was aged.) It’s also usually a blend of higher quality wines than a basic Ruby. There’s also no need age these guys any further either – they’re ready to drink!

No need to worry about finishing these in one sitting either. Ruby Ports (basic or reserve) will keep for 4 to 6 weeks after being opened.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the world of Port, here are a couple of good primer articles for further reading:

If you're interested in trying variations on the No-Knead Bread recipe, I recommend Jim Lahey's  book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method.  

As a little bonus, take inspo from the signature cocktail from the the Paula Kornell Reception.

As for our anniversary, we celebrated with a beautiful dinner at Iyasare in Berkely.

A post shared by Nicole Ruiz Hudson, DipWSET (@nibblinggypsy) on

Check out other wine and cheese date nights and posts here: 

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Thanks so much for leaving your comments and questions. I always love to hear from you!