Wooing with wine 

Cheers — hope you get lucky. 

In a country filled with puritanical yet secretly red-blooded horndogs, it's tough to admit what Valentine's Day is really about. Although we shellac it with candy, roses and romance, can we finally admit we want the evening to end in one thing? Sex. We ply aphrodisiacs in many forms, from the disgustingly slimy yet somehow sexy raw oyster to the sweet, enchanting flavor of chocolate. But I'm not sure why we go to all that trouble -- it's as simple as getting your intended drunk on some good vino. Always worked for me. And it makes sense; wine is rife with sexual descriptors. Sultry, luscious and countless other qualities celebrated in porn-film names are used to describe wine. Combined with its perceived sophistication, wine pretty much owns the let's-have-sex market. When's the last time you wooed someone with a cold beer or a cosmo? (Well, maybe a tequila shot, but that's cheating.) Assuming we all want sinful results this Valentine's Day, perhaps we should fashion our foreplay with wine.

The first bottle of the evening -- whether it gets finished or not -- assuredly sets the mood. Senses are keen, impressions are fresh, and the sexual tension feels like an Emily Brontë movie when the Brits get steamy under their frocks. This bewitching moment is when you bring out the high-alcohol stuff, and we're not talking the scotch or brandy that might prematurely end the evening. We need slow growth, so we're talking warm, inviting oloroso sherry; fruit-forward, robust California Zinfandel; fragrant, ripe Viognier or oaky, buttery Chardonnay. Make sure it weighs in at least 14.5 percent alcohol (listed on the label). That should, ahem, sufficiently lubricate to ensure a fruitful evening.

To beeline down seduction lane, bring a bottle to dinner with you, but call first to make sure you don't look like an ass doing it. Or, if the restaurant isn't particularly amenable to that gallant gesture on Valentine's Day, check out its list ahead of time and pick out a bottle. Choose food-friendly wines for maximum punch and pairing at dinner, like Oregon Pinot Noir, Washington State Syrah or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, whose acidity and fruit profiles will complement most menu items. Research it and have a few esoteric facts on hand, being sure to drop the winemaker's name at least a couple of times. People, men and women both, really dig this stuff. Believe me, I've used the random trivia technique with fabulous results.

Once the dinner is complete, the nightcap begins. Time to reach for sweet. And don't go cheap with white Zinfandel. Port, tawny especially, works every time, since its mellow and rich caramel flavors are pleasing to people who've never tasted it. Or an opulent dessert wine, like icewine, late-harvest Chardonnay or any other sweet late-harvest offering. But to really ensure success, pour a demi-sec rosé sparkling wine, such as the soft and fruity Rose Regale from Banfi.

Hopefully at this point in the evening, you're both still standing and you took a cab. And even if you end up passing out on the couch all alone, the wine was good, right?

Recommended wines

Amisfield Pinot Noir Central Otago 2005 This is a small, boutiquey, southern New Zealand label with only six vintages under its belt. Sporting a super-ripe smell of strawberries and cherries you want to live in -- wish they had a Glade PlugIn for this one. Nice acidity, black pepper and earth make it a wonderful food wine. Sw = 1. $30. 4.5 stars

Bonny Doon Vineyard Vol des Anges 2006 Quite possibly the best Bonny Doon wine I've ever tasted, this deliciously balanced dessert wine melts on the tongue. Ripe peaches, apricots dripping in honey gush from this late-harvest Roussanne. Sw = 7. $30. 4.5 stars

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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