Liquid Assets

Valentine wine

Chocolate and wine might sound odd at first, but there is a long tradition of using the former to describe the latter among wine lovers. What's needed is a big, fruit-forward wine. The reason is simple: Chocolate's sweetness takes away a wine's fruit. So the big bruisers like California Zinfandels, Washington Cabernets, and Australian Shirazes are the best possibilities in the dry-wine category. A few good examples are Rosenblum Vintners Cuvee Zinfandel ($9), Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), and Marquis Philips Shiraz ($13).

In the sweet-wine class, the sugars have to have enough oomph to keep up with chocolates, but the wine also has to have enough acid structure to cleanse your palate. One delicious option is Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d'Acqui ($15), a sweet red sparkling wine with a beguiling aroma and sweet flavors, but also enough acid to stand up to a sinful chocolate. Also, those bubbles do more than tickle your nose, they also help the acids get your tongue ready for its next hit of sweet. For those of you searching for something with more refined taste, Moët & Chandon's Nectar Impérial ($33) has a delicate sweetness with pear and vanilla aromas that would go nicely with a light chocolate mousse.

We'll be having two drinks with chocolates chez Marshall for Valentine's Day. The 1997 Croft Late Bottled Vintage Port ($17) is a spectacular bottle of wine that is drastically underpriced for what you get and is filled with luscious flavors. Bonny Doon's Framboise ($12) is a dynamite half-bottle of intensely aromatic raspberry liqueur also available Êas a gift box ($28 at Grape Vine Market only) with a bar of chocolate, a candle, and a "discrete bottle of unscented massage oil."

Finally, for those of you who have been jilted around the day of love, Bonny Doon has put together a gift box (also $28 and, again, Êonly available at Grape Vine Market) called the "Loves Me Not" kit. The kit includes "a bar of cleansing soap suitable for washing away any last trace of the lying, insensitive, philandering bastard/harlot; a bar of bittersweet chocolate; a love letter eraser; and a genuine voodoo doll." The wine, 2002 Heart of Darkness ($18), is duly tannic and powerful enough to evoke short-term memory loss.

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