February 08, 2006

Beringer 2004 California Founders' Estate Pinot Noir

(Beringer Vineyards, Napa, CA; beringer.com; about $12)

There are basically two things to remember about choosing a wine for Valentine's Day: Less alcohol is more; and lighter is better.

The first, because you want to make the evening last; start with a 16 percent alcohol zinfandel, and you might have tanked into your plate before the dessert course.

The reasons hold for the second tip too: a giant, toasty, rich red might taste really great for the first glass, but it could make you feel groggy and overstuffed halfway through the evening. (It will also turn your teeth purple faster, which isn't the most fetching look.)

It's better to find a wine with lots of flavor but not a lot of weight. That means a winewith lots of acidity. In red wines, that could mean a whole slew of choices, but one of the most seductive is pinot noir. Pinot has the advantage of having a soft, silky feel, and it hides a lot of heady, truffley scent and spice in its pale purple shade. Pinot tends to demand high prices for its pleasures, but Beringer has released a version with the grape's hallmark scent, feel and weight for $12. At that price, you could spring for a Port for dessert.

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