White Can Be RightTo choose the right wine for a romantic gift you need to know something about the tastes of your mate. For those who favor white wine, consider a nice Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay is a more complex wine with hints of butter and oak. Great Chardonnays are very drinkable but also seem a bit heavy for more social wine drinkers. That said, Chardonnays are a great pick for the more seasoned white wine lover. My tastes take me right to the top of the list and the Far Niente Chardonnay. Probably $45 to $60 at your local wine store, Napa's Far Niente crafts a very smooth yet complex Chardonnay. From the initial taste to the finish on the palate, the buttery nature of this exceptional Chardonnay is very noticeable but not overwhelming. The great characteristic of the Far Niente Chardonnay is its subtleties. While the buttery overtones are clear, they are not intrusive. And, the hint of oak is distinct but not overwhelming like so many of today's less complex Chardonnays. In addition, you get a great label and bottle that tells a story. One of the hallmarks of my wine gifting is including a brief description of the vineyard from which it came. Now, I'm not suggesting touting the Wine Spectator or Parker score of a particular wine (that's a bit snobbish for me) but, rather, a bit of history of the winery or the winemaking process of the gift. Most of the time, it's as easy as finding a winery's Web site.
Red Is the Color of the DayWhile 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.