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Only Pinot Noir will do on Valentine’s Day

When you think about what to drink with your wife and/or husband or other loved one on Valentine’s Day, there really is only one choice: Pinot Noir. Your only decision is deciding what expression of that sensual grape you are going to choose.

Rosé Champagnes are pretty wines associated with romance and celebration. Veuve Clicquot invented rosé Champagne in 1777. Most recently rosé Champagnes have become quite fashionable and the prices have escalated accordingly. You end up paying dearly for that pretty pink color. Vintage rosé Champagnes are priced significantly above non vintage ones. However, when seduction is the intended aim, price may not be a significant consideration. The advantage of rosé Champagne is that it can be drank before the meal and throughout the meal. It’s added structure compared to other Champagnes allow it to be comfortably paired with fish, pork, chicken, even beef. Rosé Champagne is usually produced by the saignée method, that is, macerating the juice of the Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes with their skins. Less often, red wine is added to a base wine. Some recommended producers include Billecart-Salmon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Delamotte, Nicolas Feullatte, Laurent-Perrier, and Perrier Jouet. There are a number of fine California sparkling rosés as well including J, Etiole, Schramsberg, Mumm, and Gloria Ferrer. This month, Merry Edwards released a 2000 Russian River Valley Cuvée Meredith Sparkling Wine (200 cases, $75). This was produced from the first harvest of Pinot Noir at Meredith Estate. The wine was aged en triage for five years and the bottles were shaken every six months. Disgorging took place in July of 2006. This is the first sparkling wine from Merry Edwards offered to the public. It is available through the winery’s mailing list (www.merryedwards.com). Brut rosés are also worth consideration. They contain a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier in varying amounts. One of my favorites is the 2001 Soter Wineyards Beacon Hill Brut Rose (748 cases, $45) from the Willamette Valley which is 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir.

Rosé still wines have become quite en vogue. Rosé is the French word for pink and pink still wines masquerade under names such as summer wine, blush wine and vin gris. Despite their strong affinity for food, wine connoisseurs have snubbed them, largely as a result of the slightly sweet blush wine, white Zinfandel. Actually white zinfandel is not produced in the fashion of a true rosé. It is a result of bleeding a red Zinfandel by taking away a quantity of liquid so that the resulting Zinfandel wine is more concentrated. The lighter remainder is sold as white Zinfandel. True rosé is produced by allowing grape juice to remain in contact with skins of dark grapes (any red varietal can be used) only long enough to achieve the desired degree of pinkness, and then fermented to dryness. There are many producers of premium Pinot Noir in California and Oregon that now produce a rosé of Pinot Noir. I recently tasted through a number of Pinot Noir rosés. I have deleted detailed tasting notes for brevity. The wines are generally best when chilled and offer fresh, clean flavors of strawberries, watermelon, cherries, citrus, herbs, and spice. They should be drunk within two years of release. My favorite was the 2005 Lynmar Russian River Valley Vin Gris ($24, now available for $18). Other excellent examples include 2006 ThinkPink (Red Car Wine Co, $20), 2005 Etude Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir (2800 cases, $20), 2005 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris ($14), and 2005 Eric Kent Rosé ($19). From Oregon, consider Beaux Frerres (Belle Soeurs), Soter Vineyards, Territorial, Van Duzer, and Winter’s Hill.

For serious lovers on Valentine’s day, regular Pinot Noir is the drink of choice. Canadian writer Konrad Ejbich claims to look for places where he ”can drink it with one hand under the table” and describes it as “heaven in a glass ... the color of ruby lips". It smells like great sex and tastes like the ripest strawberries, raspberries and black cherries all at once.” The pheromones of the Pinot Noir grape are very closely related to male pheromones. All of the aromas in the Pinot Noir grape like spice, musk, earth, and barnyard are associated with the principal male smell, andosterone. Truffles, vanilla, and oaky smells of Pinot Noir aged in oak barrels are also androsterone-like. These smells can unlock powerful memories and open the door to lust and desire. With both the olfactory system and our emotional center located in the frontal lobes, is it any wonder that a great Pinot Noir gets you a sure thing? If it wasn’t for all those pheromones and Pinot Noir, we might still be apes.

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