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February 8-14, 2006

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Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Slings and Arrows

By Heather Irwin


Valentine's Day is a make-or-break occasion that either solidifies a relationship as worthwhile or, well, sends it careening into a nosedive of regret and disdain. I am totally serious about this. And a cheap box of chocolates isn't going to save you. The right wine, however, sparkling or otherwise, says that you've put some thought into whatever plans you've made. (You have made plans, right?) It's the crowning touch that, along with a really great meal and some romantic discussion of your fantastic future together, undoes all the really crappy things you've done up to this point in the relationship. Again, I am totally serious here. And, yes, I'm talking to you.

So, here's the plan:

Just Dating: Skip the bubbly and do something a little less committal, like a nice dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer. It works great with spicy takeout food, like pad thai or Chinese, which is a perfectly nice Valentine's plan. Just go easy on the garlic. Sideshow "Queen Roma" Riesling ($6.99); Navarro 2004 Gewürztraminer ($18); Beringer Napa Valley 2003 Dry Riesling ($16).

Popping the Question: It's the big day, and it deserves a big wine. Sparkling is nice, but really, it's so overdone. How about a nice jammy Cabernet with dark chocolate (and put the ring in the candy box, not in the wine glass, please) or a more sophisticated Pinot Noir? Terra Valentine 2001 Marriage ($75); 2002 Reynolds Family Winery Persistence Napa Valley ($50); Flowers 2003 Andreen-Gale Cuvée Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($49); 2002 Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($17).

Committed, Needing Zip: Kids, minivan, sweatpants--yeah, you need a little spice. After the kids are down, make a quiet romantic dinner at home and let yourselves remember why you got together in the first place. Carol Shelton Monga Zin Lopez Vineyard Cucamonga Valley Zinfandel ($24); 2003 Viader Dare Tempranillo ($45); Bonny Doon Framboise ($11; just to pour on each other and, well . . . whatever).

Hopelessly Romantic: Sparkling wine, chocolates, rose petals, strawberries--you've been bit hard, and I applaud the effort. Mix it up a little with interesting sparklers that don't fit the norm. Sophia Blanc de Blancs 2004 ($19); Richard Grant Wine Wrotham Pinot 2000 Reserve Blanc de Noir ($60); Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Rosé ($49.99); Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee ($30).

Breaking Up and Throwing Darts at the Ex: Yeah, I hear you. Valentine's can be brutal some years. Armida Winery Poizin ($65) and Smoking Loon Syrah ($10). Together.


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