For guidance, I turn to that eminent poet and philosopher, Ogden Nash, who wrote, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”
If you are a typical red-blooded man, you probably still haven’t decided what to do for Valentine’s Day. Pay attention. I can help.
Whether you are having dinner at home or at a restaurant, find a good bottle of wine. Chocolate, roses and the good dinner are helpful, but the wine is essential. (Ladies, I know most of you have made your plans already, but you can always use these wine recommendations later for other occasions.)
There are many good wines for romance, but don’t just plop the wine in front of your true love. Make sure you know the story behind it, or at least some reason why you think it is romantic. I have some suggestions, but you aren’t limited by these. Use your imagination, or pick a wine that means something to you, such as one you had on your first date, or the day your first child was born.
• You can never go wrong with bubbly. Champagne and sparkling wine is always romantic, whether you are eating foie gras or tacos. There’s just something about the effervescence that gets people excited. Some of the sparklers I love are Rosé wines, partly because the colors are so beautiful, but also because they taste so good. Frank Family Rouge ($45) is one of my favorites. It’s not just a Rosé, it’s a sparkling red, made from mostly Pinot Noir grapes with some Chardonnay. You won’t find it in a wine shop, but you might find it in a restaurant.
• Another great one is Berlucchi Franciacorta Rosé ($35). It is an intense salmon pink, with elegant notes of wild berries with touches of yeast and fresh-baked bread.
• I also like Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir ($25) and Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux ($20), two interesting wines from Asheville, N.C. The Blanc de Noir is a gorgeous rosé and the Pas de Deux is a slightly off-dry treat. Both use California grapes and produce the wine in the traditional Champagne method, with a second fermentation in the bottle.
• I recently discovered Rosa Regale ($20), a beautiful semi-dry, rosy red sparkler from Banfi Vintners in Italy. It was popular two centuries ago, and Banfi has reintroduced it to wide acclaim. It comes from the Brachetto d’Acqui region, one of the smallest in Italy. Made from Brachetto grapes, it has a rose petal aroma and strawberry and raspberry flavors.
• Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($14) is another great entry from Italy. Grown in the Veneto region near Venice, the grapes produce a pleasant wine with aromas of peach and apples and a fresh, lively mouthfeel. With 11 percent alcohol, this Prosecco lets you drink a bit more without getting tipsy.
• A lovely Spanish Cava is Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé ($15) from Codorniu, which has a new, sexy package, with the same great wine inside. It is perfect for everyday celebrations.
• Cremant d’Alsace always is a good choice for an inexpensive sparkling wine, and one of my new favorites is Helfrich ($20), from one of the northernmost regions of France. It spends 24 months aging on the lees during the secondary fermentation, which gives it a layered, complex flavor.
• There are many other choices besides sparkling wines. One of the newest is Spin the Bottle Cellars ($12) which has a 3D label that makes it look like the bottle on the label is moving as you look at it from different angles. Now you can spin the bottle at Valentine parties with a real wine bottle. They offer three varieties, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Red Blend (Syrah, Cab, Zin, Merlot). It’s quite a bargain for very good wine.
• Mulderbosch offers a nice Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé ($12) from South Africa with a sexy pink color and a nice balance between fruit and acidity.
• The Esporao Red Reserve ($25) offers a deep red from Portugal. It is an intense wine with a spicy aroma and flavors of ripe red berries. It is perfect with chocolate-covered strawberries.
• CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2008 ($70) is an incredible Tuscan wine from Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. It is 100 percent Sangiovese with a ruby red color, floral aromas and a mellow taste.
• Damilano’s Barolo Cannubi ($85) from Italy is a showy wine that you might get if you really want to impress someone. It is a glowing garnet in the glass with cherry and plum aromas. The taste is pleasantly dry, with soft tannins and an elegant finish. Made from Nebbiolo grapes, Barolo is considered one of Italy’s greatest wines.
• If you’re a bit of a bad boy, you could go with Troublemaker ($20), the Rhone-style GSM blend from Paso Robles. It starts with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre then throws in Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. It’s a fun wine to drink, and you’ve got to love the name.
• If you want to finish dinner in a big way, open a bottle of Port. There is nothing like a fine Port to warm someone’s heart. The latest Vintage Port from Sandeman’s, 2011, ($80) would fill the bill nicely. Rich, elegant and velvety, it has beautiful aromas of blueberry, cassis and spices. On the palate it is nicely balanced, with red berries and cedar notes. The finish is long and elegant. Or you could just try the Sandeman’s Founders Reserve for about $20.