On the one day of the year dedicated to sweethearts, what could be more appropriate than sipping sweet wines and cocktails? Just as Valentine's Day is an excuse to throw caution to the wind and binge on Whitman's chocolate assortments, it's also an opportunity to indulge in perverse pleasures like sweet beverages that you might forego at other times of the year. Here are a few naughty sips to get you and your sweetie started.
Sparkling wine is always appropriate at Valentine's Day celebrations, and Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé Minis ($14.99 for a four-pack) are a good way to kick-start a romance. These petit 187ml bottles are sold in a decorative pink carrier and filled with slightly sweet, sparkling Rosé—a blend of Moscato Bianco, Brachetto and Malvasia—perfect for sipping alongside chocolates, fruits, smoked salmon and mild cheeses. Or, pick up a bottle of the more traditional 750ml size ($12.99) and enjoy that.
You can also use Martini & Rossi Sparkling Rosé to create a Cupid's Cup. In a cocktail shaker over ice, shake together 1 part St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, 2 parts vodka, 3/4 part fresh lemon juice, 1/4 part simple syrup and 1 part muddled strawberries. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with Sparkling Rosé; garnish with a fresh strawberry.
If you'd prefer to crack open a bottle of higher-end pink bubbly, turn to Moët & Chandon. For a decadent splurge, get your mitts on a bottle of Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2006 ($90). It's an intense and powerful, yet refined, Rosé Champagne with stone fruit notes and plenty of depth. For a little less coin, Moët & Chandon Impérial Rosé NV ($55) is a fruit bomb brimming with strawberry and raspberry flavors and floral aromas—a good accompaniment to Valentine's Day desserts.
My very favorite Valentine's treat, however, is Italy's luscious Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto ($22.49). Rosa Regale is created in one of Italy's smallest production zones, the Brachetto d'Acqui Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, commonly referred to as DOCG. It is produced from 100 percent Brachetto grapes grown exclusively at the La Rosa Vineyard in the town of Acqui Terme, located in the Piedmont region of Italy. Appropriate especially for Valentine's Day, the black-and-red label features a single red rose, which represents the single vineyard La Rosa estate. The wine itself is akin to sex in a bottle: a seductive frizzante Rosé wine that's slightly sweet and rich, and which runs the gamut from partnering well with chocolates to foie gras.
Speaking of seduction, the seductive lychee, white pear and honeyed tones of Fifty Shades of Grey White Silk ($14.99)—an off-dry blend of Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc—is, well, a lot better than the book its name is based on. And, renowned wine writer James Suckling awarded 90 points to Fifty Shades of Grey Red Satin ($14.99), a deliciously rich blend of Syrah and Petite Syrah.
At the end of an evening—Valentine's Day or any other—Port is always fitting. And Cockburn's Special Reserve Port ($18.99) won't break the bank. Cockburn's, founded in 1815, celebrated its 200th birthday this past year, and its Ports are still produced in the upper Douro Valley of Portugal, in Cockburn's premier vineyard of Quinta dos Canais. Matured in oak casks for four to six years, Cockburn's Special Reserve Port has concentrated cherry, strawberry and plum aromas. On the tongue, rounded sweet red berry flavors dominate and lead to a fruity finish. A perfect way to wrap up Valentine's Day is with this Port and strong cheeses or a nutty chocolate dessert. Confession: I like Port with Reese's Pieces. CW