“Lips, however rosy, must be fed.” — A.B. Cheales
I like this quote quite a bit because every year both men and women from Gold Canyon to Ahwatukee Foothills agonize over the perfect Valentine’s Day meal.
Don’t sweat it; dinner is about spending time together, unwinding and perhaps sharing a bottle of wine.
And like a reflex, we’re immediately drawn to champagne. Sure, few wines speak to romance like the French sparkler, and the nutty, fruity wine should be part of any rendezvous. But sipping wine on Valentine’s Day means much more than a glass of bubbly and a few chocolate truffles; it can be a central component to your celebration of love.
My feeling is that you and your Valentine can start with a glass of bubbly — a sparkling domestic, the French stuff, or even Spanish cava or Italian Prosecco — but then you will want to move to the main course and different wines.
Several wines seem to capture the essence of Valentine’s Day better than others. Pinot noir is red hot right now and is easy to drink and sexy. I also like white and red Burgundies and dark brooding Amarone from Italy. Amarone is a rich, highly concentrated wine made of slightly dried red grapes from the Valpolicella region. What results is a seductively dark, opulent wine with nice cherry and chocolate impressions that speaks to your romantic side. Plus, the word Amarone is just sexy.
Other Italian classics like Barolo, Lambrusco and Dolcetto from the northern region and Brunello and Chianti from the central portion of the country also are winners for romance.
They’re exotic by name, taste good and work well with food. Even if you’re going to Olive Garden, stick with Italian wines to set the mood.
Remember that wine is part of the culinary experience, and any decisions you make about wine should center around dinner — at home or in a restaurant.
You wouldn’t want to order a dark red wine with seafood, or a light white with a steak, so keep that in mind. See what she’s ordering, consider your meal and pull the trigger. Don’t over think it. Or better still, show your vulnerable side and ask your server for assistance with a pairing. You could earn some extra points with your date. Better restaurants like Flemings, Roy’s, even the Cheesecake Factory, have extensive by-the-glass menus.
And if you don’t already have a dinner reservation, good luck, you may be forced to dine at home. Again, no need to panic. When you shop for dinner, consider a few of these Valentine’s Day classics from the vino aisle. Keep it simple, keep it fun and make a toast to togetherness.
• Pacific Oasis 2005 Pinot Noir. In a sea of new pinots on the market, I love this bottle from the Santa Barbara area. Made in a Burgundy style, the wine features a silken, velvety texture wrapped around juicy raspberry-cherry foundation. A tempting mistress, indeed. $25.
• Champagne Pommery Brut Royale Non-Vintage. You will always find a bottle of this in my cooler waiting for the right moment to celebrate. The house style of Pommery is always pure, smooth and classy — just like your date. Start the evening right. She deserves it. $38.
• Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2005. One of the most recognizable wine names in the world and still one of the most consistent. The gamay grapes from this part of Burgundy make wines that are easy to drink and fun. Both of you will appreciate them. Well balanced for nearly any food. $10
• Mouton Cadet Blanc 2005. OK, I’m going to Bordeaux for this white, but feel it speaks to the tone we’re looking for on Valentine’s Day. A healthy dose of semillon (50 percent) rounds out and adds refinement to the sauvignon blanc-based wines of the region. Seductive mango and apricot impressions swim through a citrus base. This makes it great for cheeses and seafood dishes. $10.
Sample a few wines made in Arizona and raise money for a good cause 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Illumination Celebration at Windgate Ranch in Scottsdale. Kokopelli Winery’s Dennis Michellina pairs wines with appetizers, while local musicians Margo and Michael Reed provide live jazz. Admission to the event is a $25 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale. www.bgcs.org. (480) 596-7310.