Valentine’s Day prompts more people to buy greeting cards than any other holiday except Christmas. But gone are the days when in the 1840s Esther Holland, called the “Mother of Valentines,” used lace and ribbons to handcraft the first mass-produced Valentine greetings in America. Today’s cheap greeting cards couldn’t hold a candle to those cards hand-crafted by Esther.
Exchanging elaborate greeting cards in the 19th century was nothing compared to what ancient Romans did. In what was thought to be a precursor to today’s celebration, Valentine’ Day was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture. According to the History Channel, priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility. The goat’s hide would be dipped in blood and then used to slap women. The women reportedly liked this. Later, the women would throw their names into an urn and the local bachelors would draw a name for pairing. Drinking was likely (and hopefully) involved.
We don’t recommend you do this at home. Instead, cook a nice meal, light the candles and trade goat’s blood for a bottle of wine. Trust us, she’ll like this better than being slapped with stinky goat hide.
We always found Valentine’s Day to be a special occasion for wine. And nothing says love better than pink Champagne. Rosé Champagne is very special and the bubbles excites the appetite — for food and love. If you want to knock it out of the ballpark, buy Champagne.
Despite what many think, a good Champagne is very versatile with food. It goes particularly well with salmon, oysters, red-sauced pasta, veal, lobster and more. It may not be the best match to steak, but we like to open a red wine if beef is on the table. You don’t have to drink all the wine — you could buy a split of champagne or recork one or both of the bottles.
Do not serve with goat.
Here are some recommendations:
• Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé ($35). A sturdy Champagne, this reasonably priced Champagne complements more complex foods, such as duck, veal and even beef. Herbal aromas and cherry flavors.
• Moet Chandon Imperial Rosé ($65). Delicate aromas with notes of cassis, plum and strawberries. Fresh acidity.
• Domaine Chandon Rosé ($25). Deep color from the pinot noir grapes, good depth and texture make this a good food match.
• Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé ($15). With a new look designed to appeal to women, this pink Spanish cava has a lot of appeal for its price. The blend is 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay. If it isn’t your pick for Valentine’s Day, it is still a great wine for women to serve when they get together. Nice package.
As an alternative — or addition — to sparkling wine, we highly recommend pinot noir for Valentine’s Day. Pinot noir has a silky, feminine personality that is perfect with salmon, duck, pasta and other entrees that have some red associated with the sauces or that match the texture of these foods. Here are a few recommendations:
• Cazar Pinot Noir 2012 ($20). This wine is made by Bill Hunter, the guy behind Sonoma County’s exceptions Chasseur wines. It’s more affordable and designed for everyday drinking. Fruit forward, medium body and sporting raspberry and plum flavors. You won’t find a better pinot noir for the price.
• Masut Vineyard and Winery Estate Pinot Noir 2012 ($40). Jake and Ben Fetzer don’t look old enough to drink wine, let alone make it. But as third-generation Fetzers, here they are with an excellent pinot noir that does the family proud. Made from grapes grown in cool Mendocino County, this unfiltered pinot noir shows off raspberry and black berry notes with spicy oak.
• Champ de Reves Pinot Noir 2011 ($35). Anderson Valley pinot noirs are the rage and for good reason. It has the right climate for pinot noir. This beauty has great acidity to help with food matches and opulent blueberry and blackberry notes. Hints of anise and truffles on the nose make for a very sexy wine.
• J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir 2012 ($50). About 6 percent of this wine is pinotage and another 4 percent is made from pinot meunier grapes. It is a stunning debut for the blend from the reputable house of J Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The blend provides a unique tasting experience: rustic flavors and great aromatics.
• Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column for Maryland newspapers for 20 years and have traveled to the West Coast and Europe to meet countless wine luminaries.