WHAT: It’s not too early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day, the day when slackers hope one day of wine, flowers and chocolates will make up for 364 days of neglect.
I consider Valentine’s Day amateur day for lovers, just as I think of New Year’s Eve as amateur night for drinkers, Christmas as amateur day for gift givers and wishy-washy Christians and Thanksgiving Day as amateur day for people who don’t realize how lucky they are.
I think you should practice all those things all year long, just as you don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to show you parents you love them.
But it never hurts to show affection on Valentine’s Day, and what better way to do it than with wine. Menage a Trois, the wine that started with a clever name and a hint of naughty romance, has many suggestions to help.
In fact, for Feb. 14, they have 14 ways to enjoy Menage a Trois. I tried the Chardonnay, and thought it excellent for romance. I generally prefer red wine, but most women would rather have a white wine, so guys, if you’re trying to impress a lady, bring the Chardonnay.
This is a crisp Chardonnay with powerful aromas of lemon, lime and pear. Tropical fruit flavors dominate the taste. It is a crisp, full-bodied wine with a touch of creaminess that leaves a pleasant aftertaste.
The original Menage a Trois was a blend of three red grapes: Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The double entendre name got the attention, but when people picked it up they were surprised at the quality of the wine at such a low price. It is the best selling wine in the United States. Suggested retail price for all of their wines is $10-15, and you often can find sales.
The line has expanded beyond red, white and rose blends to include many single varietals. To keep the name true, the winery blends grapes from three areas instead of using three different varietals.
The Chardonnay, for instance, breaks down to 60 percent from Monterey County, 31 percent from Santa Barbara County and 9 percent from Mendocino County.
Each area brings a different characteristic to the wine, leading to a delightful, complex finished product.
The wine was fermented with a special French yeast and induced a partial malolactic fermentation to enhance the creaminess of the wine. The blend then spent some time in French and American oak to make it even more complex.
The result is a wonderful wine at a very nice price.
WINERY: Menage a Trois is made by the Folie a Deux Winery in Napa Valley, which is owned by Trinchero Family Estates.
The name for the winery comes from a psychiatric term that means a fantasy or delusion shared by two people. That seemed appropriate since the winery was founded by two psychiatrists in 1981.
After achieving success they sold the winery to the Trinchero family in 2004.
The Trincheros trace their company back to 1947 when brothers John and Mario Trinchero moved to St. Helena and bought the Sutter Home Winery. Their first vintage was 1948.
Other family members joined and the company grew. Sutter Home can take credit for developing the White Zinfandel variety in 1975. The popularity of that wine grew quickly, and the winery grew with it.
Today Trinchero Family Estates represents more than 27 brands in the United States and Australia.
Here are the 14 choices you have with Menage a Trois: Red blend, White blend, Rose blend, Midnight blend, Prosecco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
If that’s not enough Menage a Trois for you, there’s always three kinds of vodka: Straight, Triple Berry and Triple Citrus. Each sells for about $25.
GOES WITH: I tried the romantic effects of Menage a Trois on my wife, Teri, and it seemed to work pretty well. We had just returned from a quick trip to New Orleans, which has all kinds of romantic charm. I wanted to continue the atmosphere of the trip so I made Shrimp Creole, using a mix of spices we bought in the French Market.
The package from Louisiana Fish Fry Products was great, and easy to use. I mixed up the spices with water, added a few extra chopped vegetables and it cooked up in about 20 minutes. We served it over rice and had a feast. I added a little extra hot sauce to my bowl. I can’t wait to try their mixes for gumbo, etouffee and barbecued shrimp.
The Chardonnay was a perfect match. The flavor was big and bold enough to stand up to the spices, and the citrus flavors were perfect with the shrimp. Teri liked the flavor of the wine even more than I did.
The wine is a good aperitif to sip before dinner, or you can pair it with many fish and shellfish dishes, grilled chicken, pasta with alfredo sauce, or light cheeses. Chill it in the refrigerator and then let it warm up for 10 minutes or so before serving.