Seductive. Smooth. Sparkling. Here's how to find the perfect pairing for your Valentine's dinner, no matter whom you're celebrating with.
Early stages of romance: Spontaneous gifts, romantic gestures, and sweet surprises make dating exhilarating. Pinot Noir is the ultimate romantic wine, seducing the senses with its layered aromas and flavors. Spring for a good-quality bottle from Oregon to get the full effect, like the 2006 Erath Estate Selection ($30) or the 2006 Chehalem "Three Vineyards" ($27).
Newlywed: The first few years of marriage are one long romance, and a trio of Champagne, chocolate and roses is still a classic. Play on the newlywed theme with the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee from California ($33) or the Deutz Amour Blanc de Blancs 1999 Champagne ($199).
Seasoned marriage: Time to put the spice back with a smooth, sultry, New World-style red wine like Shiraz or Merlot. Try the 2004 Rutherford Hill Merlot ($25) from Napa Valley, a seductively silky wine heady with excitement.
Just the girls: As one of the oldest wine regions in the world, Italy produces fabulous wines that have stood the test of time–just like your girlfriends. Try the 2007 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($26) and the 2006 Chianti Classico ($26) with a big pot of spaghetti.
Couples get-together: Pink bubbly gives off a tinge of romance, but isn't overt in a group setting. Try the 2001 Chandon Etoile Rose ($34), which has a pretty salmon color and a rich, fruity taste.
Group of friends: Greeks considered philia, or friendship, the highest emotion possible. Keep the mood convivial with a good-quality, widely-appealing white and red each, like Trimbach 2006 Riesling ($16) and Francis Coppola 2006 Zinfandel ($15).
Family: Toast your family's comfortable companionship, loyalty, and love with an inexpensive Cava for adults (try the organic Tarantas for $13) and Knudsen Organic Sparkling Pear or Apple Juice ($3) for the kids, served with frosted heart-shaped sugar cookies.
Flying solo: Celebrate being alone, but not lonely, with a glass of your own favorite wine–no compromising required! Stuck for ideas? Try snuggling up with a good book, a roaring fire, and a glass of Port, a sweet, heady red wine that inspires warm and fuzzy feelings.
Wining and Dining Check out the recipes and menus that are just waiting to be paired with the right wine.
Gretchen Roberts, founder and editor of Vinobite.com, is at the upper end of the Millennial generation, old enough to have a decade of wine-drinking under her belt but young enough to know that wine is about three important things: finding a great bottle at a good value, vicariously exploring the world, and having fun with friends. Roberts writes about wine for Wine Enthusiast, MyRecipes.com, Cooking Light, and Slashfood.com.