It's February, and those of you in relationships are going to be under pressure to come up with a romantic plan on Valentine's Day. Many will opt for fine dining, while others will choose a cozy meal at home. Either way, you'll end up at someone's house. Here are three delicious ways to toast your paramour.
Champagne is an obvious choice, but let's skip it in favor of the Soter Beacon Hill Brut Rosé ($56, Bacchus Importers Ltd.). Oregon seems an odd place to find good sparklers, but this example will make a believer out of anyone. Perky, bright notes of currant, raspberry, and pomegranate get support from a plush, rich texture and a twinkling mousse (foam). This is cool stuff, whether it is used to kick off a night on the town or to slip into something more comfortable.
Valentine's Day is all about sweetness, so it's appropriate to have on hand a wine like Bodegas Toro Albalá Pedro Ximénez Gran Reserva 1982 ($23, Country Vintner). Astonishingly, this wine manages 17 degrees of alcohol without having been fortified. The result is so smooth, with raisin tones, caramel, and something akin to buttered rum, all swirling around in this coffee-colored elixir. Too rich to serve with dessert, it is happier with robust cheeses or simply enjoyed on its own, in front of a roaring fire.
Your wine columnist is also making plans for the 14th, and I know I'd better have a robust Southern Rhône wine at the ready for Mrs. F. I considered the much-ballyhooed 2007 vintage, but as of this writing, it's better for the cellar. A good year is 2006. It's far more relaxed and ready to drink now. Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras 2006 ($40, Prestige Beverage Group) delivers the right combination of generous cherry fruit, savory roasted herb undertones, and a dash of kinky garrigue (flavors of the scrubland around southern France's seacoast). As a bonus, it is an effective mate for dark chocolate, making it a classic way to wrap up Valentine's Day.