Unless you know your Valentine really, really well, this may be the year to give up buying that little blouse it turns out she hates or the shirt with the floppy collar that makes him crazy.
Everybody loves to receive a special bottle, either a favorite or one that brings back a memory of a trip you took together or a special meal you shared.
This year, why not get a little more adventurous and present a wine—or spirit—that pushes beyond the tried and true? Here are some notable choices for that certain someone on St. Valentine’s Day.
Note: to find which nearby shops have the wines, plug the name into www.winesearcher.com.
For that someone who goes giddy at the sound of Champagne corks popping
NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé (Champagne)
Ever elegant, Billecart Salmon’s nonvintage rosé is a pale rose tinged with copper, with masses of fine bubbles, and a fragrance of strawberries and cherries. One sip and it impresses with its finesse and finish. A best buy for a Champagne of this class. Beautiful label, too. About $75.
Alternative bottle: the superb 2002 Dom Pérignon Rosé, from $300 to $400.
NV Champagne A. Margaine Premier Cru Rosé à Villers-Marmery (Champagne)
Such a gorgeous coppery rose color with a beautiful mousse and scent of rose petals and wild strawberries, A. Margaine premier cru rosé is about three-quarters Chardonnay, one-quarter Pinot Noir. I love its touches of citrus and delicate smoke and especially the long lingering finish. From $47 to $57.
Alternative bottle: Paul Bara Brut Rosé Grand Cru, about $50.
For that someone into hearts, everywhere and all the time
2010 Calon-Ségur St. Estephe (Bordeaux)
Not only does Calon-Ségur wear a heart on its label, it’s one of the great Bordeaux. At $120 to $135, it’s a definite splurge, but a wine that will thrill serious wine lovers with its full body and aromas of plum, tobacco, and flowers. Tannins are velvety, the finish long. A wine to savor over the course of a romantic evening.
Alternative bottle: 2009 Gruaud-Larose Saint Julien (Bordeaux, France), about $100.
For that someone who vamps in silk and cashmere
2011 Calera Viognier 'Mt. Harlan' (Central Coast)
From a cooler vintage, Calera’s 2011 Mt. Harlan Viognier is lush and silky. The bouquet wafts flowers (violets?) and citrus. And the taste is nuanced, with an inviting minerality. Calera’s owner and terroir pioneer Josh Jensen made this wine from organically farmed grapes, so it’s perfect for someone into natural fibers.
Alternative bottle: 2010 Stolpman Vineyards "L’Avion" Roussanne Santa Ynez Valley, from $30 to $38.
For that someone who revels in the classics
2012 Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (Sonoma)
A beautiful and classic Chardonnay to drink young. Lithe and elegant with lovely aromas of pear and lemon, this Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast is Burgundian in style, aged in just 50 percent French oak. Anyone who loves white Burgundies or California Chardonnay will give this bottle high marks. About $36.
Alternate bottle: 2012 Sandhi Santa Barbara Chardonnay, about $33.
For that someone who runs off to Spain at every opportunity
2010 Bodegas Mauro Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Léon (Castilla y Léon, Spain)
A gorgeous red from Spain made by Mariano Garcia, former cellar master at the legendary Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero. Ninety percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Syrah, the 2010 Mauro is pure pleasure to drink. Sip after sip, the wine reveals not only concentrated sweet fruit, but earth, tobacco, cedar and more, all tightly fused. From $40 to $45.
Alternate bottle: 2011 Dominio de Pingus “Flor de Pingus” Ribera del Duero, About $80.
For that someone with an unrepentant sweet tooth
An Austrian dessert wine from Alois Kracher estate (Burgenland, Austria)
The late Alois Kracher made some of the world’s greatest dessert wines at his estate in Illmitz, Austria. They're luscious and honeyed with a fine thread of acidity that keeps the wines from being cloying. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any cuvée or vintage from Kracher and his son Gerhard. They can cost anywhere from $30 or $40 for a nonvintage auslese or beerenauslese to as much as $180 for a half-bottle for the 2000 Chardonnay TBA "Nouvelle Vague No. 7". The estate makes a dizzying array of sweet wines. Almost every wine shop should have at least one.
Alternate bottle: 2010 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume (Loire Valley, France), about $40 for a half-bottle.
For that someone who knocks back the hard stuff straight
NV Los Amantes Joven Mezcal (Oaxaca, Mexico)
Only recently available in this country, Los Amantes (“the Lovers”) is hand-crafted by Guillermo Olguín, who also owns the Mezcaleria (mezcal bar )Los Amantes in Oaxaca. Triple-distilled, this spirit is exceptionally smooth with a delicate smokiness. From $50 to $60.
Alternate bottle: NV Del Maguey Vida Mezcal. About $40.
For that someone who reads long novels late into the night
NV Chateau de Pellehaut Reserve Tenareze Armagnac (Southwest France)
A bottle of wine lasts, at most, an evening. The better it is, the quicker it goes. But a bottle of Armagnac can stretch over many evenings. It makes a great companion for a reader of long books such as “War and Peace,” “The Goldfinch,” or “The Luminaries.” In the chill hours near midnight, a sip of this fine spirit from the Tenereze area of Armagnac in southwest France with its chalk and limestone soils, warms the soul. From $50 to $58.
Alternate bottle: Darroze "Les Grands Assemblages" 12 or 20 Year Old Bas-Armagnac, from $76 to $100.