It’s interesting that the consumption of Champagne and sparkling wine spikes in the winter. New Year’s Eve is tops, followed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and, now on the horizon, Valentine’s Day.

It seems that the desire to meet with family and friends is a cause for reveling with the essential celebratory beverage. But Valentine’s Day is different. The celebration is more personal and affords a greater connection between partners.

While chocolates and roses are the perennial gift standbys for Valentine’s Day, the celebration is not complete without a great meal, and whether you're dining out or dining in, or compromising with takeout, don’t forget the wine. On this romantic occasion, it’s important to set the right mood, and one way to do that is with a nice glass or bottle of pink wine, especially Champagne.

Pink Champagne (rosé) is the rarest of the Champagne blends and often more costly. But its unique flavor and appearance can make the expense worthwhile. In addition, it will balance a number of meals and aid in digestion. A nice choice would be Lanson's Le Rosé ($54), which has a lovely balance and flavors with a nice clean finish.

If Champagne is beyond your budget, consider a pink sparkling wine, such as La Marca Prosecco Rosé ($16), which is very popular right now. Or perhaps a sparkler from California, like the Balletto Brut Rosé from the Russian River area ($42). It’s a very pleasant wine with an enticing salmon-pink color, clean effervescence and flavors of cherry and strawberry.

Our local restaurants and wine bars are also gearing up to make the occasion memorable:

  • Mattison’s will be featuring chef-crafted specials at all three of its locations on Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14, as well as creating special dinners with wine on Valentine’s Day at the finish tower at Nathan Benderson Park, followed by a movie. There will be seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The latter will be followed by fireworks. $120-$135 per person
  • Zebra Lounge and Wine Bar will be closed Sunday, but rosé wine from Whispering Angel, the world’s most popular rosé, will flow all month by the glass. $9.75
  • Michaels’s Wine Cellar will be hosting a Valentine’s Day edition of its Wine Cellar Social Club on Thursday, Feb. 11. Six wines will be paired with three courses of hors d’oeuvres. (The shop will also be having a sparkling wine sale.) $50 per person 
  • Grove in Lakewood Ranch will be featuring a Chateaubriand dinner for two with a bottle of prosecco. Takeout or delivery only. $90
  • Blasé Southern Style Dinner and cabaret show. The meal begins at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. $75

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.

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