Food & Drink

Russ Winton: Wine ideas for your Valentine

By Russ Winton

A bottle of Champagne is a perfect gift to give or receive. That’s the way it works in our house. Sure, it’s a fun celebration wine but with its high acidity it’s also an excellent food wine.

The Navigator and I always say we should drink more bubblies. Lord Maynard Keynes said on his deathbed, “My only regret is that I did not drink more Champagne.” Guess what we’re giving each other on the 14th?

Here are three inexpensive sparkling wines that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day: The Mia Sparkling Moscato Rosé’ has a light strawberry hue, fruity aroma and is in a beautiful curvaceous bottle that would make cupid smile ($12); Segura Viudas Brut Rosé is a dry sparkler with a touch of natural sweetness and plenty of tiny rose-colored bubbles ($10); and the deliciously-sweet, easy drinking Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato is a sure winner ($7). Attach a pretty bow, buy a pretty card, compose the perfect message and voila, you’ll have a happy Valentine.

Valentine’s Day weekend is a busy one for wineries. The Madera Wine Trail will have its annual Wine and Chocolate Weekend. The Placer Wine Trail features a weekend of Sweets and Treats, and the Summit Wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains host a Wine Lovers Weekend. For more information on these events and others, go to

Saturday is also the date for the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition’s public tasting at Fort Mason. This is the largest American wine competition in the world and one of my favorites. The wines are judged in price categories. A few examples:

This year’s Best of Class sauvignon blanc under $14 is the 2013 Wine Cube, a box wine sold by Target. That figures out to just $4.25 a bottle and that’s a deal. Sutter Home Winery won Best of Class Awards for their gewürztraminer and chenin blanc. They competed in the unlimited price category and both retail for just $6. Another standout deal is Trader Joe’s Honey Moon Viognier. It won the Best of Class Medal in the under $20 category and sells for $4.99. I’ve praised this wine several times; it’s definitely a winner. The Best of Class in the Red Blends under $15 category went to Barefoot Cellars Rich Red Blend ($6.99) and Coppola’s 2013 Rosso ($11). I could go on and on but you catch my drift. You can get all the results (sweepstakes, double golds, gold, silver etc.) and tickets ($65) for the tasting at

What’s on our table: The 2012 Columbia Crest Merlot ($11), the 2013 Charles Krug Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18) and the 2013 J. Lohr Gesture Grenache Rosé, are three wines we’d welcome back anytime. Cheers!

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