If your inner Cupid is running a little late this year, have no fear. You can still impress your sweetheart with a creative, romantic gift. Wine expert Leslie Sbrocco's wine picks range from bargains to luxury options that can be paired with thoughtful gift items.
Come meet Leslie this weekend at The Boston Wine Expo, February 10 and 11. This is the 16th Annual event and the largest consumer tasting in the country. Visit Wine-expos.com for more information.
In my latest book, The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide, which serves up recommendations for more than 1,000 wines organized by mood, food and season, I outline top Valentine's Day picks in my holiday wines chapter. The following bottles all showcase top quality wine with eye-catching packaging.
Luxury Picks — More Than $20
- Terra Valentine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($35; www.terravalentine.com)
A rich, luscious Napa Cab named for the owner's grandfather.
- Seduction, Red Blend, Napa Valley, California ($35; www.seductionwine.com)
A smooth blend of red varieties from Napa's O'Brien Cellars.
- Angels Share, Shiraz, Australia ($34; www.paternowines.com)
Supple Shiraz from Down Under. Perfect with lamb.
- Angle's Peak, California ($50; www.paternowines.com)
A blend of mostly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
Bargain — Less Than $20
- Montes "Cherub" Syrah Rose, Chile ($17; www.monteswines.com)
A syrah-based dry pink wine from a Chilean superstar, Montes.
- Oops, Carmenere, Chile ($10; www.oopswine.com)
A cheeky little red made from Chile's signature variety, Carmenere.
- Little Black Dress Merlot, California ($9.99; www.lbdwines.com)
An affordable fruity and soft Merlot.
- Two Angles Sauvignon Blanc, California $14.99; www.quintessentialwines.com)
Crisp, fresh and sassy, this is a white for seafood.
We all love to give and receive clever gifts, so I have coupled a few items with some delicious wines. The first is geared toward the special women in your life from wife to mom, friend or sister. What could be better than wine and jewels? Select a favorite bottle and drape it with a bracelet or necklace.
- Gold, Australia ($20; www.vintagepoint.com)
A blend of chardonnay and Viognier from Australia, this eclectic new wine sports real gold flecks inside (edible, of course!). Topped with Murano Italian glass heart earrings and bracelet; $80, www.redenvelope.com
- For the man in your life, put the wine inside a beautiful leather wine carrier. Sonoma Leather Wine Carrier; $95, www.redenvelope.com
- A favorite gift item to induce romance is lingerie. Think about offering a bottle of this wine alongside that teddy. Naked Gewurztraminer, Washington ($11; www.snoqualmie.com). Made with organically grown grapes, this lush white is romance in a glass.
Break Out the Bubbly
I have a chapter in my book called Bath Tub Wines. And, what better way to relax in a bubble bath than with bubbly?
- Pommery "Pops" (Pink and Blue Single Serve Versions www.pommery.com)
Pommery POP Champagne pack, 187ml, $10.99/bottle or $44/4-pack
Pommery Pink POP Rose Champagne pack; 187ml, $12.99/bottle or $52/4-pack
These single-serve versions of Pommery's famous champagne are ideal for tub sipping. Simply insert a straw and drink.
- Target Wine Cube Minis Shiraz/Cabernet or Merlot ($10 per four pack)
What look like juice boxes for adults, these mini-me boxed wines are perfect for bathtime.
Both wines are paired with the "Couple's bath caddy" ($68; www.redenvelope.com).
Food and Wine
Whether you're simply enjoying snacks (nuts, cheeses, etc.) or going full force with caviar and dinner, these wines will pair perfectly. Sparkling wine — from Spanish Cava to Italian fizz — are the drinks of love. The following sparklers are ideal with salty, spicy fare.
- Codorniu Raventos Reserva Brut Cava, Spain ($13.99; www.codorniu.com)
A fantastic value for a bubbly from Spain. Rich and lush yet affordable.
- Petalo El Vino del Amore Moscazo, Italy ($14.99; www.palmbayimports.com)
The name means "wine of love" and this lightly sweet sparkler is just that.
- Chandon "Etoile" Brut, California ($50; www.chandon.com)
A superb bubbly from one of California's best producers. Topped with a sleek crown cap.
Harry and David (www.harryanddavid.com). Epicurean Feast, $74.95; Gourmet Snacks in the Round, $59.95.
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar (six tins with spoons); www.tsarnicoulai.com; $27-$69
Six kinds featured include:
Select CA Estate Osetra
Infused with natural ingredients:
Beet & Saffron
Gold Pear Trout
Sauvignon Blanc is a great complement to shell fish, especially oysters (the ultimate aphrodisiac). Versions from New Zealand's Marlborough region rank among my top picks in the world.
- Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand ($21.95; www.craggyrange.com)
One of my favorite producers, their lush yet vibrant "Savvy" (as the Kiwis say) is a true classic.
- Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($22; www.whitehavenwines.com)
Steely, fresh and lemony, a lovely white.
- Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand ($16; www.kimcrawfordwines.co.nz)
With a touch of fresh herbal aromas, this is a must-have white.
Hog Island; www.hogislandoysters.com
If you're planning on pouring bubbly throughout a meal, try drinking pink. Pink sparkling wine is not only beautiful to look at, it's made most often with Pinot Noir so it's an ideal dinner option with salmon to steak. Don't be afraid these are sweet wines, either. They're dry and delicious.
- Laurent Perrier Rose, champagne, France ($80; www.laurentperrierus.com)
A gorgeous package and stunner of a champagne. Simply decadent.
- Aria Cava Pinot Noir, Spain ($17-$20; www.seguraviudas.com)
Terrific value for Pinot Noir-based bubbly.
- "Pink" Sparkling Wine, Australia ($12; www.yellowglen.com)
A well-priced winner from Australia that will keep you pretty in pink.
- Juve y Champs Rose Cava, Spain ($17; www.winebow.com)
Delicate aromas and lush flavors make this Spanish pink bubbly seem like champagne.
For those who don't want bubbles, drink a still Pinot Noir. It's an extremely elegant and romantic wine. These beauties will keep you coming back for more.
- Adelsheim Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon ($40; www.adelsheim.com) A classic producer making stylish Pinots in Oregon.
- Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma, California ($39; www.kutchwines.com)
New producer with a great future for Pinot. Get it while it's hot.
When it comes to desserts and dessert wines, the key is to serve a wine that is as sweet, or sweeter, than the dessert. Another secret is to match the color of the wine with the food. Golden-colored sweet wines pair well with light-color deserts, while ruby or dark purple wines are ideal with chocolate strawberries, cake or brownies.
- Rosa Regale Braccheto d'Aqui, Italy ($23; www.banfi.com)
Lightly sweet, red sparkler ideal for strawberries.
- Fox Creek "Vixen" Sparkling Shiraz, Australia ($18.99; www.Vineyardbrands.com)
Deep purple sparkler that screams for chocolate!
- Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Aged Tawny Porto, Portugal ($29; www.taylor.pt)
Carmel and apricot aromas tempt you in this lightly sweet Port.
- Taylor Fladgate Vintage Porto 2003, Portugal ($100-$129; www.taylor.pt)
For the true Port lover, this is as decadent as it gets. Yum.
- Chateau Sudauirat, Sauternes, France ($75-80; www.chateausuduiraut.fr)
World famous dessert wine from France. Try with poached pear.
- Royal Tokaji Company, "Essencia" Hungary ($530 per 500ml; www.wilsondaniels.com/www.wine.com with crystal spoons)
Like drinking liquid gold! This is what I call a belly button sipper. Rare and amazing.
- Royal Tokaji Company, "Red Label" Hungary ($32 per 500ml; www.wine.com)
If you don't want to spend the money on the Essencia, try drinking this honeyed elixir. A sweet wine for your sweetie.
- Berry Factory: Tuxedos in Style $70; Red Velvet Heart Box $75; Chocolate dipped wine bottle $37 (877-7-DIPPED; http://www.berryfactory.com
- Harry and David (www.harryanddavid.com)
Chocolate Tower $26.95
Grand Chocolate Collection $29.95
- Riedel Crystal Glasses; www.riedel.com; $9.90-$30 per glass