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Valentine wine 

Wine's the ticket on a day associated with love -- and massacres

Sexy, sultry, sensuous, luscious -- ever wonder why these words are used to describe wine? Could it be that wine leads us down the road to romance? To desire? Wine certainly goes with Valentine's Day.

But does romance have to rule the day on Valentine's? What if Valentine's Day conjures up bitterness and resentment rather than romance? For the singles out there, this Hallmark holiday might be black and depressing. So I started wondering how Valentine's Day has become inextricably linked with romance.

Like so many other holidays, the true origin of why we celebrate Saint Valentine's Day is filled with historical conjecture. According to the History Channel website, one legend says that third-century Roman Emperor Claudius II declared that his soldiers remain unmarried since bachelors made more loyal warriors. A priest under his rule, Valentine, finding this decree unromantic and unjust, defied Claudius and performed marriages anyway. Once Claudius found out, he sentenced Valentine to death, thus martyring the romantic priest for all eternity. The same legend says that Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter and wrote love letters to her, which he signed, "From Your Valentine."

As for the timing of Valentine's Day, some speculate the Christian Church established the date to "Christianize" the celebrations of the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, occurring each year at the ides of February on the 15th. It all became official when Pope Gelacius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.

By the 18th century, Feb. 14 emerged as the day friends and lovers exchanged tokens of affection, especially notes. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, 1 billion valentines are bought each year, approximately 85 percent by women. Guess now we know who is keeping the romance torch alive.

These days, Valentine's Day wine lets you stoke the fires of passion, drown out loneliness, toast to what is possible, or just get drunk with friends. Ports are a special favorite of mine on cold winter nights to liven up spirits among friends; sweeter sparkling wines almost always please the ladies; and big red wines get you there quicker when a speedy buzz is on the agenda. Whether to lubricate or drown emotions on this Valentine's Day, wine's the ticket.

Recommended Wines

Cockburn 20 Year Tawny Port. $53. Apart from the laughable spelling of this port, it's serious juice. Full-bodied and dripping with sweet butterscotch and honey flavors. Truly delicious and worth every penny. Keep in mind that port keeps pretty fresh for up to a year after being opened, so it can be an investment in future evenings.

Graham 10 Year Tawny Port. $30. 1/2 One of my favorite tawny ports. Rich with intense caramel and brilliant toffee flavors. The aftertaste keeps going, and going, and going. This amazing port warms you from the inside and whisks away cares. Really.

Banfi 2002 Rosa Regale. $18. The most romantic of wines -- a sweet, rich dessert sparkler from Italy. Bonus: It comes in a really cool bottle. Fragrant with ripe strawberries, and with a sexy finish that lasts seemingly forever. You might use it as a euphemism for your relationship -- or not.

Wente 2001 Crane Ridge Merlot. $16. Dark cherry and nice woody oak meld together in this elegant Merlot. Earthy and uncomplicated drinking. Doesn't have a lot of flavor depth, but who says it has to?

Hartford 2001 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. $20. Plenty to rave about in this fruit-in-your face wine. Chock-full of cherry and plum, balanced with medium tannins, making it a pleasure to sip. In the end, it gives you a bonus of smoky cinnamon. Fascinating.

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