Wine Guys

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By TOM MARQUARDT and PATRICK DARR

If you are looking for romance on Valentine’s Day, you aren’t going to find it in a newspaper or a book. Wikkipedia, in fact, defines romance as “the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person associated with love.” Did you feel any romance from that? Romance is an expression of the heart and not of the mind, so unless you can compose a sonnet that would make Romeo envious, we suggest you find another way to tug the heart strings.

The proper atmosphere can evoke romance better than any greeting card. For some, the convenience of a restaurant and an attentive wait staff is the right recipe for a romantic evening. For the more creative, however, romance begins the same place it ends – at home.

Imagine the surprise if your spouse or friend comes home to find an elaborate, well-orchestrated dinner. Picture the table with red candles, a photo of some endearing moment, fine china and stemware. The food can be as simple as pasta bolgonese – a comfort food that is properly suggestive – or grilled steak. In fact, simplicity gives the chef more quality time.

For those who enjoy alcoholic beverages, a glass of rosé champagne is a great introduction to the evening. Champagne or sparkling wine is a great apertif, but it can also complement lobster, salmon, scallops and other seafood. If you intend to shift to a different wine for dinner, buy a split of champagne because the bubbles quickly disappear by day’s end.

There are some great deals in French champagne this year. We recommend Nicolas Feuillatte for its value. If you want to splurge, we recommend Billecart-Salmon and a terrific Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial ($41).  From the West Coast, we like the sparkling wine from Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, and Iron Horse. A special deal is Gruet from New Mexico.

Prosecco is a reasonable alternative and most cost less than $15 a bottle. At that price you shouldn’t feel the need to finish the bottle. Try Ruffino or Mionetto. Another Italian sparkler new to us is the Ferrari Rose, a nice blend of pinot nero and chardonnay.

There is no wine more hedonistic than an aged Bordeaux. But not everyone has a wine cellar, so if you want instant hedonism, look for a top Australian shiraz, such as Clarendon or Molly Dooker. California zinfandel, such as those made by Grgich Hills, Orin Swift and Ferrari-Carano, also can be hedonistic. If you have the bucks to spend, look for wines from Paul Hobbs.

Literally, wine has an intoxicating influence on the libido, but only when it is consumed in moderation.

Make your Valentine’s Day special this year. Love shouldn’t be taken for granted.

WINE PICKS

Terra d’Oro Barbera 2010 ($19). From the hot Amador County region, this plump barbera exudes sweet cherry fruit and nice spices.

Freemark Abbey Chardonnay 2010 ($25). This moderately priced chardonnay is well worth a try. Lemon and lime notes pair with apple flavors to make an interesting, balanced chardonnay.

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($15). We remember being impressed by this value wine decades ago. It’s still a great drink for the price. Using grapes from Paso Robles, the Liberty School has generous plum and floral aromas with simple strawberry and spice flavors.

Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2011 ($25). This reasonably priced pinot noir has good balance with delicious cherry and vanilla flavors and a hint of allspice.

Copain Les Voisins Pinot Noir 2010 ($45). This delicious pinot noir from the Anderson Valley aims to please. Bright cherry flavors, soft and generous mouthfeel with balanced acidity.

Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Viognier 2011 ($30). Viognier’s primary value is its bouquet. The Stags’ Leap version has all of that – and more. The floral, spring blossom aromas give way to a vibrant stone-fruit palate and a nice mineral thread to make it interesting.

 

 

 

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