Ryan Chartrand

“Is it February again already?” I thought to myself, typing on Google talk. Dink, the response came and I realized that Valentine’s Day was drawing closer. Later that day, I took my weekly trip to the store to find the presence of conversation heart candy, greeting cards and tacky stuffed animals annoyingly rampant. I perused the cards and found several “anti-Valentine’s Day” cards. What is the deal with those cards? I cruised by the wine aisle and, to my surprise, saw some great local wines on sale.

I got pretty excited for a moment and realized that for Valentine’s Day, the good wine comes off the shelf. It comes off the shelf because no one is going to say, “I cared about you enough to buy you Charles Shaw. Want to go make out?”

Heaven knows how much men pay for roses when V-day rolls around and any subsequent romantic necessity is no exception. So how do you make the wine experience memorable? Two words: prep work.

My first suggestion is to visit your favorite local winery. I advise staying clear of the wine aisle because labels with blondes in cowboy hats, Marilyn Monroe and Harley Davidson bikes generally don’t taste as cool as they look.

For Valentine’s Day, I suggest pairing wines to make for a more elegant experience. If I learned anything from watching “Pretty Woman,” it’s that strawberries bring out the flavor of champagne, and that hookers can be anything they put their mind to.

But for now, let’s primarily focus on the strawberry and champagne thing. Another good pairing is a bittersweet or dark chocolate paired with a deep dark rich Zinfandel. A full-bodied Pinot Noir can do the trick as well. If you do go the winery route, you may also want to purchase stemware specifically for red wines in the tasting room. The large bulbous glasses can bring out a lot of good fragrances that sometimes hide in more modest-sized glasses.

Dessert wines are another good way to go. With a white muscat, I suggest trying some white chocolate. With a darker port, I suggest pairing it with milk chocolate. There are also flavored dessert wines, such as Bonny Doon’s legendary Framboise ($12, Cost Plus). With this raspberry-infused dessert wine, I suggest, well, raspberries. It’s pretty fundamental. Take the characteristics of the wine and pair it with some food or dessert that has similar characteristics,

What if you’re flying solo for Valentine’s Day? No problem. I suggest you and a favorite wine consider seriously dating. One of my favorites to take home for the night is a heart-healthy red. I especially like the Sanford 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills ($23.99, Trader Joe’s), which has a beautiful bouquet of vibrant cherry, luscious raspberry and a slight peppery subtlety.

The Bonny Doon Cardinal Zin is a close second, ($16.99, Trader Joe’s) with a jammy, sweet flavor and a real pungent kick of fruit and tannins in the finish. Both wines have killer legs and are dead sexy.

It’s best for most reds if you pour them about 20 minutes before you enjoy them. This lets them “breathe” and gives you the best the wine has to offer. Since it is occasion appropriate, I should mention that drinking wine is good for your heart!

Research studies have shown that wines (especially red ones) have polyphenolic chemicals that improve the health of your heart. So treat your heart or sweetheart to something good this holiday and bring out the nice stuff!

Lauren Jeter is a 2005 wine and viticulture graduate and is pursuing a master’s degree in agribusiness.

Feel free to submit any recommendations, marriage proposals, favorite wines or recipes to laurenjeter@gmail.com.

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