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Wine or Roses for Valentine's Day

For those who think a Chardonnay is too complex, consider a nice Sauvignon Blanc. A lighter wine, typically finished in stainless barrels to give it slightly more acidic tendencies, the Sauvignon Blanc (sometimes marketed as Fume Blanc) is usually full of lemongrass-like flavors. Many Sauvignon Blancs will have a somewhat fruity bouquet but will drink relatively dry.

Duckhorn Vineyards provides a solid and safe entry in the Sauvignon Blanc category, as does the traditional Mondavi label. In addition, Mantazas Creek, a Sonoma vineyard, which has been reviewed in this column before, is also a nice option here. All of these wines are affordable -- between $20 to $40 a bottle at your local wine merchant.

Red Is the Color of the Day

While white wines make nice gifts, red is a great choice for Valentine's Day. And a traditional Cabernet Sauvignon or meritage -- a unique blend of red varietals -- will do the trick just about every time.

I have written extensively on many of my favorite Cabernets so I will be brief here. I absolutely love receiving a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet, either the Napa Valley or Alexander Valley offerings. The Napa offering is the bolder and "bigger" of the two, with nice tannins and bold flavor both as it is introduced to the palate and as it finishes. There aren't many things more appealing for Valentine's Day than a bottle of Silver Oak and an offering of fine chocolates. For those looking for a slightly softer, less complex Cabernet, the Alexander Valley offering is perfect. Expect to spend $50 to $90 on a bottle of Silver Oak; the Napa offerings from 1997-99 are at the top end of that range.

A name I haven't mentioned before that would make a very nice treat is one of the offerings from Heitz Cellars. Another Napa winery, Heitz makes a handful of different Cabernets that fit in the "big and complex" categories. Tannic and full of fruit, these wines, especially the Martha's Vineyard offerings from the late 1990s, are great drinking wines today. Heitz wines will run anywhere from $35 to $100, depending on vintage and vineyard.

And, before you ask, here's my take on bubbly as a gift: It's nice, it's meaningful and it is sure to make your mate smile, but it is also overdone. While I am a champagne lover, unique and special wines just make more sense to me as a gift. But, again, it's all about preference.

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