Will You Be My Wine for Valentine’s

Normally, I actually love fielding questions about wine, from “what is better, Cabernet or Pinot?” to “what’s the best cheap wine?” I normally welcome them all, as long as you are also willing to possibly be served a side dose of sarcasm. But, there is one question that comes up this time of year that I actually abhor: “What wine should I pair with chocolate for Valentine’s Day?”


My problem with the question is two-fold. First, I am not a big celebrator of Valentine’s Day. At all. In fact, I don’t think I have observed it in any way (other than a brief “Happy Valentine’s Day!”) since the third grade when I gave Deanna Miller a Valentine’s Day card and a Tootsie Roll pop, and she gave me, well, nothing. From that day forward, I decided that it was a dumb “holiday,” and I would therefore boycott it in perpetuity.

The second reason I dread the question? I don’t think wine and chocolate go together. At. All. Sure, there are some wines that might not be as bad as others when it comes to pairing with chocolate, but in my mind, it just doesn’t work, so we should stop trying to force that round wine bottle into that square chocolate box.

Instead of celebrating the “holiday” with a singular bottle of wine and a few globules of dark decadence, I suggest you make an evening of it and fete your flame with an entire meal and a couple wines.

Nothing starts off a celebration better than bubbles, and while champagne still dominates the category, there are numerous other alternatives. I  would also opt for a rosé sparkling wine, since, well, you can. All of the following wines would serve as perfect aperitifs or pair wonderfully with just about any appetizer from oysters to a Caesar salad to deviled eggs.

NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs Rosé: Retail under $20. Made with mostly Pinot Noir (90%), this is fruity and floral with impeccable balance and verve. It comes from the Carneros region of California and wonderfully represents the warm days and cool nights of the appellation. 93 Points.

2019 Nino Franco Faìve Rosé Brut: Long before Rosé Prosecco became a thing, Nino Franco was producing this blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) in the Veneto region of Italy. Bright, but short of boisterous, this wine bursts with red fruit and pear and just a hint of fresh rose petals. 91 Points.

NV Gosset Champagne Grand Rosé Brut: Retail $75. I had to throw a champagne on the list, and this is one of my favorites. From the sexy almost egg-shaped bottle to the luscious fruit driven elixir inside, this wine exudes “special occasion” without requiring a new mortgage. 95 Points. For the main course, you almost have to go red on Valentine’s Day. Maybe it is just me, but Pinot Grigio just does not scream (or even subtly whisper) “love” or “passion.” Sorry. No, on the night marketed, er made for lovers, you need to tap your inner redness. While it makes most sense to have these wines with heartier fare (particularly red meat), it is your date’s night, serve a meal with her (or him) in mind. Here are a few suggestions.

2019 Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi: Retail $36. From a classic producer and a legendary vineyard, this wine from Paso Robles is sure to delight. Quite dark in color but rather light in heft and approach, this is precisely in my Zinfandel wheelhouse: great fruit, fantastic acidity, lovely spice, and incredible depth and length. 93 Points.

2019 Sosie Cabernet Sauvignon Charlie Smith Vineyard: Retail $75. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. While most of the love for California Cabernet is directed about 20 miles east and across the Mayacamas Mountain range, the Moon Mountain District in Sonoma County is producing some fantastic Cabernets at a fraction of the cost of its Napa neighbors. This dark, almost brooding wine is fruity, yes, but also complex and intriguing: layers of fruit, spice, earth, tartness. 94 Points.

2019 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Cadettes: Retail $120. OK, this one might be a bit hard to find, but definitely worth searching out. From the oldest winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in Southern France, it is incredibly rich and decadent, but also refined and elegant, this was one of my top-rated wines of 2022. 98 Points. So there you have it, a few wines that would make for a memorable meal. And oh yeah, each of these wines might do quite well with chocolate, too (milk chocolate for the bubbles, dark chocolate for the reds), if you are determined to try to prove me wrong.