Food & Drink

Bold, sweet wines work well with Valentine chocolates

Valentine’s Day is Saturday, Feb. 14, and my guess is that many of you are still mulling a list of possibilities of what do to with your special someone. For those of us lacking creativity, the tried-and-true ways to celebrate the day usually seem to work best.

Dinner out with a bottle of something sparkling? A solid choice.

Flowers delivered to home or workplace? Always a nice touch.

Stay at home with a movie, some chocolate truffles and an exquisite bottle of red wine? Not so fast!

Somehow, some way, the coupling of red wine and chocolate has worked its way into the minds of love-struck sweethearts as the quintessential Valentine’s Day combination. Let me warn you that, more often than not, the pairing can be perfectly awful.

The culprit is usually the chocolate, which sets the bar so high with its cocoa, sugar and fat that it can render many red wines tasteless. The solution is to beat the chocolate at its own game by choosing a wine that’s just as bold or sweet.

A big, full-bodied cabernet sauvignon or a spicy, smoky syrah or zinfandel might do the trick; but I’ve found even better choices to be fortified sweet reds, Sherries, or a tawny Port or port-style wine.

Here a few wines that should work well with chocolate, or for sipping on their own:

Maryhill Winery 2008 Vintage Port (about $18 for 580 ml) – A blend of traditional Port grapes – tinto cão, tempranillo, sousão, and touriga nacional – this wine was aged 32 months in oak barrels at the Goldendale winery. Rum raisin aromas and flavors are accompanied by extra-ripe cherry, along with a hint of caramel and butterscotch. A somewhat sweet finish nicely balances the Brobdingnagian 19.3 percent alcohol content.

Dynasty Cellars 2013 Amabile Late Harvest Zinfandel (about $18 for 375 ml) – This fortified zinfandel from the Bellingham winery has a stunning chocolate cherry bouquet that carries over to the palate with a subtle finishing flourish of white pepper. There’s also plenty of sweetness to balance out the underlying tannins. Amabile, by the way, translates to “sweet” or “lovable” in Italian.

BarSol Perfecto Amor (about $19) – This unique and amazing amber-colored aperitif is a combination of pisco (a Peruvian brandy) and three white varietals. Intoxicating aromas of baked raisin bread and maple nut lead to flavors of butterscotch and dried fruits on the palate. The finish is soft, elegant and lingering with touches of toasted almond. Superb!

Gonzalez Byass “Nectar” Sherry (about $25) – Sourced from Spain and made from the Pedro Ximenez grape, I’m tempted to describe this wine as a liquid Fig Newton for adults. But it’s much more than that, with ultra-dark plum, date, and dried apricot flavors, and a nice nuttiness on the super-sweet, incredibly lengthy finish. This wine will stand up to virtually any dessert, as well as an after-dinner cigar.

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