Valentine’s Day of 2012 was special to me for many reasons. I can’t explain it but, there was simply a convergence of unrelated events that made the day especially satisfying to me. I bought my wife a Valentine’s Day card and a box of her favorite chocolates. Her gift in return was the preparation of special dinner for us. The dinner involved cheese fondue, a loaf of bread, scallops wrapped in bacon, a leafy green salad and a bottle of Yellow Tail Rose. The juxtaposition of other events included the Centennial Celebration of Arizona Statehood and a chilly, snowy day in the Tucson Desert. During the weeks preceding this odd ball weather day, we had suffered mightily from temperature extremes from 70 to 75 degrees F.
Swiss Cheese Fondue
The Fondue was from Switzerland and was made of Swiss cheese, wine and special seasonings. Herdsman in the Valais and Gruyere alpine regions of Switzerland enjoyed dipping chucks of bread into melted cheese dating back to the 18th Century. I am sure they did not have a small fondue pot with an electric heating unit resulting in precise control of the cheese temperature. Our bread was a loaf of French bread cut into cubes and lightly toasted in the under the oven’s broiler.
The scallops were wrapped in a single strip of bacon and skewered with wooden oversized “tooth picks”. They were carefully placed on a baking sheet and also put under broiler heat in the oven for a few minutes. When the timer went off, my wife carefully turned them and placed them back in the over for a few more minutes. The result was a morsel that simply put, “melted in your mouth”.
The accompanying green salad, imported from Mexico, was simple leaf lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced celery and green peppers. Of course, I liberally applied my favorite blue cheese dressing. The salad was a perfect accent to the taste buds already primed by the fondue and scallops.
Finally, my wife had picked up a bottle of rose wine. I know some would say a chilled white wine, such as a Riesling, would have been better with the fondue, but my wife and I especially like rose wines. Upon examining the bottle, I discovered that this wine, Yellow Tail Rose, was actually bottled at the Casella Winery in Yenda, Australia. Of course, my curiosity about the Casella Winery was stimulated, because this delightful rose with a nice bouquet that wasn’t too sweet was not American or French in origin.
The Casella Family has been making wine since 1820 in Italy, but immigrated to Australia in the 1950s to start a new wine growing enterprise. The Casella Winery is now one of the largest in Australia with over 300 employees. The main varieties that they bottle are Cabinet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Shiraz-Grenache, Pinot Noir, Rose, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The Yellow Tail brand name is becoming known world-wide.
Valentine’s Day also was the Centennial Celebration of Arizona Statehood. Several activities are planned for the celebration throughout the year. Tucson’s Fiesta del Los Vaqueros Parade, non-motorized horse and buggy event, this year will feature this 100 year event. The streets will be crowded with on lookers enjoying what is predicted to be a nice, sunny day in the Old Pueblo.
I can remember a few years Tucson had a measurable snow fall. The years that I can remember are 1958, 1971, 1987 and 1998, but my memory doesn’t always serve me well. At least, I can say that snow in Tucson is a rare event. The biggest snow I remember was a December day in 1971 when we got 6.8 inches in one day.
My Valentine’s Day was special. Arizona celebrated 100 years of statehood, it snowed in Tucson, and I with my lovely wife of 35 years had a great dinner, of French bread, cheese fondue from Switzerland, rose wine from Australia, scallops wrapped in bacon from California and a green salad with primary ingredients coming from Mexico. It was truly a great holiday that incorporated rare weather, a government birthday and international cuisine. Does it get any better than that?
Author: Ronald Senn, Vice-president, Ideal Wine Coolers