A wine lover's guide to Valentine's Day.

Since this is the "Love and Sex" issue, let's start with the basics: Cupid is the Roman god of love and Bacchus is the Roman god of wine. OK, now that we've laid the foundation, we can go right to the heart of what Valentine's day is all about-


. And what says romance better than an intimate dinner with a very special bottle of wine? Here are a few ideas to get you in the mood for the perfect evening.


Now, this isn't going to be one of those cutesy parties where place cards are heart-shaped cutouts and Mylar balloons are hanging from every nook and cranny. This is going to be an elegant, classy party with warm music, lively conversation and, of


course, delicious food. The small, boiled red potato and basil pesto appetizer cries out for a dry white wine, and you can't go wrong with Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay, vintage 2002 ($21.99), from the Robert Young Vineyard. With a nose that speaks of oak, pears, apples and pineapple, this exceptional wine delights the palate with the sensational flavors of pineapple, honeysuckle and pears and a just a hint of smoke and oak. And, as an added bonus, it also goes very well with the Caprese salad first course. The nose-twitching aroma of the bubbly, hot lasagna oozing with four cheeses and lots of rich, red, tomatoey sauce is sure to put you in the mood for a dry but slightly fruity wine such as Sebastiani Merlot, vintage 2002, from the California Sonoma Valley ($11.99). The black plums, licorice and cherries that hit your nose when you first open the bottle translate into a delicious, smooth, full-bodied mouthful that's rich with black plums and cassis. The smallest hint of licorice on the finish goes exceedingly well with any red, spicy sauce and is sure to be a hit with this entrée. Finally, the dessert of Bosc pears poached in brown butter with vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar is perfectly paired with a


tawny port such as Chateau Reynella McLaren Vale Old Cave ($12.99) from Australia. This fine dessert wine has a delicious palate of orange rind and maple syrup and would actually be a good addition to the pear recipe.


On Valentine's Day, the e-date becomes more of a challenge than most dates, but it can be done, and done well, with the proper planning. Agreeing to have your Valentine's dinner together online at exactly 8 pm, an exotic dinner of Indian takeout is settled on (somehow eating out of the carton is very seductive), and it goes without saying that the e-daters will open the exact same bottle of wine. Sipping


on a bottle of wine that is above the average in taste and price, while savoring every bite (or is that byte?) of vegetable biryani or tandoori chicken, while chatting online…who knows what that could lead to. Now, for this date, the perfect bottle of wine would be something spicy and peppery that would stand up to the spicy and peppery flavors of food from India. We recommend Folie à Deux Zinfandel, vintage 2000, from the Bowman Vineyard, California. At the slightly steep price of $21.99, this couple still saves a bundle since they're only eating takeout and they're paying their own way. The nose on this wine is rife with vanilla, raspberries, raisins and cinnamon, and the full-bodied flavors of mixed berries, vanilla, thyme and spearmint, with a hint of black pepper, make this a wine and food pairing to be enjoyed over and over again.



Ah, the pleasures of being waited on and leaving the dirty dishes to someone else. Having Valentine's dinner at one of Santa Fe's many fine restaurants has much to recommend it, including the ability of the romancers to each order something suited just to them. The wine, however, must be one that both agree on (hopefully, at least they can both agree on either a red or a white). If a white is agreed on, we suggest a white Burgundy such as a French Pouilly-Fuissé or a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. Both are heavy enough to stand up to just about anything, be it seafood, steer or fowl. If a red is settled on, a cabernet franc from Chile, a Shiraz from Australia or, for the real spenders, a big, sexy Italian


Barolo. All of these types of wines are wonderful companions for heavy dinners and readily available in most upscale eateries. Now you're probably saying, "Wait a minute, you haven't suggested a particular brand or name," and you are right. Part of the fun of eating out is trying a new wine that you've never had before. If the romance is there, any wine you order will be fondly remembered as outstanding for a long time to come.


The perfect romantic evening may be as simple as a fire in the fireplace, Johnny Hartman on the stereo and a large pizza with a really special bottle of wine, maybe one that's been waiting for just this night. Our suggestion for a wine that goes especially well with pizza (we ought to know since we have pizza at least three times a week) is Palazzo della Torre Allegrini, vintage 2001 ($17.99). This very dry, tannic delight from Italy (can anything Italian not be sexy and romantic?) has an earthy yet refined nose that speaks of cinnamon and plums. The flavors of black plums and leather with a long cinnamon finish make drinking this nectar a pure delight.


And, by the way, leftover wine and pizza makes a great bedtime snack for two.


For some people, dinner just gets in the way. The perfect Valentine's dinner for them is no dinner at all. An evening in the hot tub with a box of Godiva chocolates demands a bottle of red wine, and we can think of no better wine to have with your chocolates than Block 45 Petite Sirah, vintage 2004 ($7.99). The incredible aroma of black plums and cassis is a good indication that the flavors of the chocolate will pair perfectly with this outstanding wine. The smooth, well-balanced palate is full of plums, currants and blueberries. The lovely sensation of this wine and the melted chocolate mingling playfully on your tongue will make you wish you had brought along another bottle so you wouldn't have to leave the luxurious sensation of the bubbly hot water when the first bottle, sadly, runs out.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine's Day, if you include romance and a bottle of wine, Cupid and Bacchus will no doubt be pleased and reward your efforts.