No flowers, thanks: I’ll take wine for Valentine’s Day

Flowers are among the luxuries that have been hit this year by inflation, news reports say. So for this Valentine’s Day, why not convey your affection with a great bottle of wine? Analysts predict that wine, too, will be going up in price before long, but most of the bottles I’m recommending have price tags that have been relatively stable.

If you’re planning a romantic meal, there’s something here for every course. Or just pick one bottle to linger over.

Champagne is the first wine I think of for Valentine’s Day. The non-vintage Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne ($50, but often available for less) is rich enough to accompany a meal. It’s toasty, with racy flavors of apple and brioche, and a fine texture. The Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut is another excellent choice that’s less expensive and widely available.

It’s Dungeness crab season here in California, which means chardonnay is on the table. Whether you’re cracking a whole crab (a little messy for a romantic meal, but it’s delicious!) or eating your crab in a more composed dish, you won’t go wrong with the rich yet racy 2018 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay ($55) from the Napa Valley, with its citrusy fruit, creamy overtones and persistent finish. The wine has plenty of weight, but it’s not at all heavy.

For a less-expensive option, try the 2019 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay ($26). Calera is best known for its single-vineyard wines from the Mt. Harlan appellation, but this charming blend from several vineyards offers Meyer lemon and grapefruit flavors, accented by a kiss of oak. It’s a leaner style than the Newton.

Maybe you’re planning to serve a nice steak. That requires a hearty red like cabernet sauvignon or a cab-based blend. The 2018 Dry Creek “The Mariner” ($50) from Dry Creek Valley is a Bordeaux-style blend dominated by cabernet sauvignon. It’s dark, lively and structured, with black cherry, spice, good freshness and firm tannins. It’s a big wine, but it’s light on its feet.

Of course, Valentine’s Day requires something sweet. Often, that’s chocolate, which can be hard to pair with wine (no matter what the wineries tell you). But a nutty tawny Port is an excellent choice. The Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port ($39), for example, offers flavors of toffee, orange and orange peel. Port can have an alcoholic bite, but this one is smooth, and its freshness keeps it from being cloying. Another bonus: An open bottle will keep well for several weeks in the fridge. (Let it warm up some before you drink it.)


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