John JuergensVino for Your Valentine

"Nothing is so effective in keeping one young and full of lust as a discriminating palate thoroughly satisfied at least once a day." Angelo Pelligrini, "The Unprejudiced Palate"

If Valentine's Day and wine are not the perfect match, I don't know what is. Both have an inherent sense of romance, and together we can expect great synergism. Wine also comes with a bonus. It serves the basic function of gift giving and then there is the second phase of discovering the surprises and potential hidden in the bottle. It's sort of like a piñata without the stick and blindfold.

However, V-Day has always seemed to me to be kind of lopsided in its execution. Although this should be one of our better equal-opportunity vehicles for expressing our affections (depending, of course, on what sort of "opportunity" you have in mind), it seems that males traditionally have been expected to make most of the moves. I think there are ways women can assert themselves on this day without appearing too bold or aggressive. As you might expect, I think wine can be the answer.

A number of years ago I learned first hand that when you give a rose, the color is highly significant in that it signals the nature and intensity of your affection: White - platonic; Yellow - kissing cousins or ambivalent; Pink - you're getting warm; Red - Hubba, Hubba! You can do the same thing with a bottle of wine and probably get a lot more bang-for-buck, if you will pardon the expression. This year, instead of gambling a wad on a bunch of roses and fat-laden chocolate, why not invest in a single rose attached to a nice bottle of wine? This is an ideal way for you women to play a more active role in Valentine's Day if you aren't doing much more than the gooey greeting card thing and a peck on the cheek.

Now, what kind of wine to select? I would first try to figure out what kind of wine your intended target likes, but don't forget, you might get to share in this gift so make it something you both can enjoy, if you think this is a possibility. I suppose the blush wines like White Zinfandel seem to be the ideal candidates because of their pretty pink colors, but applying our color-affection scheme above, this could signal only moderate or transient affection, or only partial commitment. However, if this is the kind of wine and/or signal you really want to give, I think you need to dress it up a bit to make it really special. The same thing goes for white wines, but I don't think I would give a Sauvignon Blanc since it is such a utilitarian wine. A big, rich Chardonnay might work, but it needs to be something special. I'll give some ideas on how to give your wine a custom touch below.

If you want to go the Hubba, Hubba! route, I have just the wine for you. It seems that everybody loves Merlot these days and there is one in town I can recommend, even though I think it is still a little over-priced. Pick up a bottle of Rabbit Ridge Merlot for about $18. This is a huge wine packed with fruit flavors that actually tastes like a real Merlot, and it has that soft, velvety texture that makes Merlot so easy to drink. Attach a deep red rose with some fancy ribbon and you are in business! If you lack materials or creativity, I'll bet our wrapping wizards at Oxford Floral can put some pizzaz in your packaging.

I suppose you can send whatever message or mixed message you want with the wine and rose combination. For example, for a good friend, a white or yellow rose on a red wine would work well, and I suppose a red rose on a bottle of Chardonnay would look nice for someone who is more than a friend.

An alternative would be to go the Champagne or sparkling wine route, but, contrary to my general notions about sparkling wines, I think this approach on V-Day should be reserved for those really special relationships or those that you want to try to kick into high gear. For this approach you should go for the good stuff like one of the better California sparkling wines or real French Champagne. Some suggestions are Mumm Cuvee Napa, Mumm Cordon Rouge, Gloria Ferrer, Piper Sonoma, Tattinger, Roederer Estate, "J", Etiole, Moet & Chandon, or my favorite, Veuve Clicquot. There is a notch up if you want to go all out, but you will have to go to Memphis or Jackson to get it. A true French rosé Champagne makes an unmistakable statement.

Okay, let's say you've got the wine picked out, but you want to make it just a bit more special. Here's what you can do with a little creativity and some computer graphics to really wow the socks, or whatever, off your Valentine: Scrape off the existing label on the bottle and make your own personalized label. I've done this many times and it is not at all difficult with a little desktop publishing, and the reaction can be priceless.

This time of year there is a ton of Valentine oriented clip art you can down load off the internet and insert into your label. It's nice to follow the general format for regular wine labels and add personalized statements such as, "Hand crafted with loving care expressly for...[insert name of heart throb]." You can also make a second label to go on the back of the bottle that includes some kind of mushy poem lifted from a greeting card, or a particularly appropriate line from your favorite Celine Dion song. The more you tailor the label to fit the recipient, the more impressive it will be, and I guarantee that they will keep the empty bottle for a long time.

In this wonderfully uncertain era of what is socially acceptable behavior between women and men, a woman can give a guy with whom she has an uncertain social status a bottle of wine with a rose bud to test the water. Or, she can give it just to mess with him or to keep him a little off balance. Whatever your intentions on Valentine's Day, I think a bottle of wine and a little help from Cupid can really grease the skids. After all, we don't call it a "social lubricant" for nothing.

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