Oh, the pressure!

The special present. The special flowers. The special dinner. bonnydoon_hearthasitsriesling.jpg
Special, special, special. Get it right, Bub. Or Bubbette.

Perhaps I might ease a bit of the pressure by recommending some wines to accompany that special, intense, romantic candle-lit dinner, wines that have, as it were, Valentine’s written all over them.

First, Bonny Doon’s The Heart Has Its Rieslings 2005, designated an “American Riesling” whose grapes hail from Eastern Washington, though the winery is in Santa Cruz, California. This offers a beguiling bouquet of rubber eraser and bubble gum — classic characteristics of the grape, I promise — lychee, peach and pear; it displays gratifying balance between sweetness of slightly over-ripe and spicy stone fruits with the bracing nature of lime and grapefruit and a stong limestone element. Charming and rated Very Good. Suitable as an aperitif or with spicy (but not fiery) Southeast Asian cuisine. About $14-$18.

Then, from Alsace, there’s Hugel’s Cuvee Les Amours Pinot Blanc 2004, a lovely wine, soft yet crisp, delivering tasty pear and melon scents and flavors touched with almond and almond blossom, and permeated by heaps of limestone and chalk for a dry and slightly austere finish. Try with fresh oysters or mussels or grilled trout. Very Good+. About $15.

We don’t see many rose wines from Bordeaux, but the style is allowed in the general Bordeaux appellation. The Oriel rose_01.jpg “Femme Fatale” 2004, made from 100 percent merlot grapes, is a dark melon-cherry color. It bursts with scents of fresh and macerated strawberries, raspberries and currants, to which, in the mouth, are added touches of spiced tea and orange rind. The wine sports a seductive satiny texture and a surprisingly substantial structure; it’s thoroughly dry and reveals on the finish touches of dried herbs and stones. I wouldn’t typically recommend a rose wine that’s more than two years old, but this will bring a great deal of pleasure through the end of summer 2007. Quite attractive and rated Very Good+. Try with roasted chicken, pate with crusty bread, an omelet whipped up at the last minute. About $20.

Of course we could not omit a wine with such an obviously Valentine-themed name as Saint-Amour. The area is the northernmost of the Cru Beaujolais wines, of which there are ten allowed to put the name of the village or commune on the label. The Saint-Amour 2005, from the ubiquitous Georges Duboeuf, is a striking deep ruby-purple color; it offers lovely scents and flavors of strawberries and blackberries with undertones of spiced stone fruits. It’s quite dry and brut98.jpg minerally and is packed with a surprising amount of chewy tannins. Try with roasted chicken or veal. Very Good+. About $10-$14.

I could recommend dozens of champagnes with which to woo and wow, but I think what’s called for on this romantic occasion is something not obvious or heavy, something that doesn’t shout “Blockbuster!” but plies its winsome way more subtly. This would be Pol Roger’s Brut Vintage 1998, made from 60 percent pinot noir grapes and 40 percent chardonnay and a marvel of delectable elegance and balletic fervor. The color is an entrancing mild gold with silver overtones; the bubbles surge upward in the glass in a constant fountain. This champagne offers seamless integration of citrus and limestone, toasted hazelnuts and baking spice, a crisp, lively nature with a texture that approaches lushness, all this devolving to a finish of notable austerity. Excellent. About $83. Surely he or she is worth it.

Well, o.k., that’s pretty steep. Here’s a less expensive alternative, the Schramsberg Blanc de Noir 2003, a pinot noir (85 percent) and chardonnay (15 percent) blend and a glamorous California blond of a sparkling wine, elegant and spare, crisp and satiny, generously spicy and citrusy but with a formidable strain of limestone on the finish. Excellent and about $35.