Tag Archives: Cooking

Valentine Wines & Pairings: Spiriti d’Amore

I have a confession. I am a Valentine’s Day nut!

During this “Hallmark holiday” you will see me adorned in pinks, purples and reds trying to spread my love of wine, beer, and spirits throughout the aisles of Nino’s. As many of you already know, I will use any excuse to drink bubbly wine, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. Rosés from Mumm Napa, Louis Barthelemy, and Mawby are among my favorites. However, I am not going to bore you with another Bubble-headed article. Whether you’re looking to pair up surf and turf, Chinese take out, or just having a nightcap, here are my picks for a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal…


While I was chatting with the Seafood guys here, it became clear that folks like to cook up a lot of shellfish for the holiday. For crustaceans like lobster and crab legs I recommend a medium bodied white.

La Cana Albariño 2009, Rias Baixas, Spain $15.99 –

Albariño is a Chameleon in the wine world. While at dinner with my family, my Mother-in-Law exclaimed it tasted like Chardonnay, my Mother said Riesling, and my Hubby said Sauvignon Blanc! I just said it tasted delicious with my Pop’s seafood linguini! Fruity pineapple, bright citrus, and a dry cleansing finish.

Jean Reverdy La Reine Blanche Sancerre 2009, Loire, France $24.99 –

Floral and elegant, Jean Reverdy Sancerre has a touch of minerality that lends to a complex midpalate. White flowers, ripe melon, and white peaches round out the flavors.

Domaine De L’Aurière Muscadet Survre et Maine 2009, Loire, France 10.99 –

The minerality in Muscadet makes it a perfect pairing for oysters. A bit rounder with more melon flavors than most Muscadets, this is a good introduction to the grape Melon de Bourgogne.


Whether you brave the cold for your beloved and grill some Delmonico’s, or pan sear some filet mignon, our butcher shop has the best prime cuts in town. Try out some Zip Sauce to really add a loving touch!

Garacha De Fuego 2009, Calatayud, Spain $8.99 –

Set the night on fire with this spicy Garnacha from Spain! Bold flavors of cooked plums and ripe black cherries make it the perfect complement to Lamb Chops or Filet Mignon.

Summers Andriana’s Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California $22.99 –

This Nino’s Favorite just received 90 points from Robert Parker who said the bouquet exhibits sweet black cherries, plums, earth and spice. I would have to agree. I found that even after aeration the tannins were firm, making this wine a good gift for the wine geek in your life, since they can lay it down for a few years.

Caliterra Tributo Carmenère 2008 Colchagua, Chile $16.99 –

Established in 1996, Caliterra started as a partnership between the Robert Mondavi Family and Vina Errazuriz. Their intent was to showcase the intense fruit and complexity that wines from this region could yield. This Carmenère is a terrific example of just that. It has hints of blueberry, white pepper, and spice box with a creamy mouth-feel and silky tannins.

Hooray Beer!

There are times when I find beer fits the bill better than wine. Right now we have a couple of Craft beers that are good as gifts, or for enjoying on a special evening.

Bell’s Hopslam $17.99 6pk –

Sweet and floral, this takes the term Hoppy to the next level. Brewed with 6 different Hop varieties, Hopslam is well balanced with honey, apricot and grapefruit flavors. Try this with beer battered cod, pork chops, or pan-seared scallops. Perfect for the Hophead in your life!

Atwater Cherry Stout $9.49 6pk –

Made with cherry concentrate from Michigan Montmorency Cherries, this rich and dark stout is a great complement for a steak or for dessert!


Our Bakery is filled to the brim with heart shaped cookies, cakes and treats! Here are my picks for drinks to go with dessert or stand alone as a night topper!

Piece of Cake Liqueurs $19.99 – Support the economy by buying Michigan made Piece of Cake Spirits! These liqueurs come in Chocolate, Pineapple Upside-down, and Strawberry Shortcake. Though the Chocolate has been the most popular, my favorite is the Strawberry.

Sweet Bliss Red, White, and Rose, Washington $9.99 –

For those of you with a sweet tooth these new wines from Washington fit the bill! With fun labels that describe what the wines taste like; chocolate covered cherries for the red, caramel apple for the white and strawberries and crème for the rose, these wines are terrific as a sip-able dessert!

anCnoc 12 year Scotch $39.46 –

I am in love. Yes, with my husband, Rob, but also with this 12 year old scotch. This is a Highland (Speyside to be specific) Single Malt that’s nose is intoxicating with honeyed citrus. On the pallet there are notes of orange blossom, honey, and slight smoke making this a charming and drinkable scotch. A great gift!

I hope this article helps you find the perfect gift or accompaniment to a romantic dinner at home this Valentine’s Day!


– Jennifer Laurie

What Wines Are Good To Cook With?

One of my most frequently asked questions is “What wines are good to cook with?”

In my professional opinion, no, you should not cook with wines found down the grocery isle labeled “cooking wine.”  These wines are saturated with salt and preservatives. I believe that if I want to add salt to my dish, it should be my decision, not the wine producers.  However, I don’t stick my nose up at value wines that I might not drink.  The rule of thumb is to never cook with a wine you would not drink.  I only half believe this.  I would never drink “cooking wine,” since as it says in bold letters on the bottle it is “NOT FOR SALE OR USE AS A BEVERAGE.” However, nowadays there are so many great values on the market that you can normally find a good quality, drinkable wine for right around $5.  Will you see me filling a 4 pack of Crane Lake $3.99 wines to take home and enjoy? Probably not. Would I cook with them? Sure.

Here is a list of my favorite wines to cook with – all under $10.

When making a meal that has a citrus zip to it, like Mussels, Lemon Chicken with artichoke, or a light summer pasta, I like to use Xplorador Sauvignon Blanc at $6.99. Chilean Sauvignon Blancs have a racy acidity that packs a citrusy punch.  I also like Terra Andina and Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc, both are $7.99

For Roast Chicken or Pork dishes, I like to use a medium bodied Chardonnay or white blend like 1492’s Chardonnay, Viogner, Chenin Blanc Blend. available for $5.99.  La Vieille Ferme White Cotes Du Luberon ($7.99) and Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay ($7.99) work well too.

Cooking Beef Bourguignon? I like to use a good quality French Pinot Noir such as Pinot Evil’s. I have also used and recommend, 1492’s red Blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, and Bonarda ($5.99) as well as the Cotes Du Rhone Cellier Des Chartreux ($7.99.)

Other big bold reds I would recommend would be Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99) for its concentrated black fruit flavors, and Wyndam Estates Bin 555 Shiraz ($8.99) for its supple fruity quality.

So, next time you’re in, please let me know if you have tried any of these in your favorite dishes or what your favorite wines to cook with are!


Jennifer Laurie