2021 – Your Best Valentine’s Day EVER!

Valentines Day 2021 – a celebration like none we’ve had before!

(Internal dialogue) “Valentines Day 2021? This is gonna suck! Stuck in the same rooms since COVID lockdown began? How do we even BEGIN to make Valentine’s Day enjoyable this year?!”

By re-imagining the entire evening! Here’s how…

Valentine’s Day “Before Times” – Think about it. Before COVID, things weren’t really that great, come February 14th.

We’d make reservations at a great restaurant, over-pay for a Prix Fixe menu and a temporarily-inflated wine list, then wait at the bar for forty minutes past our reservation time because the restaurant packed in “just one more turn of the tables”, until finally (tipsy after our second cocktail) we’d have to call the sitter to see if he/she/they could work an additional hour…

Valentine’s Day in the Before Times

Come on, friends. We can easily cook up a more enjoyable Valentine’s Day than that!

Here are some fresh, wine-themed ideas for a truly memorable at-home Valentine’s Day celebration.

And remember, Valentine’s Day 2021 falls on a Sunday and is followed by a national holiday. Many of us will benefit from built-in snuggling and recuperation time on Monday morning!

Valentine’s Day 2021

Whichever activity you choose (ideas to follow), there are a few basic ingredients in our recipe for a memorable at-home Valentine’s Day. Start with the essentials listed here, then build on them using any of our ideas – or ones of your own:

The Basics

To begin with, we suggest these essential ingredients in our recipe for a memorable at-home Valentine’s Day. Bring in the basics listed here, then build around them using any of our event ideas:

  • Flowers: There is no better way to brighten your space than with fresh flowers. But before you resort to the standard – red roses – consider that many people have fallen seriously out of love with this old standard. Perhaps, in part, because rose prices get seriously inflated for Valentine’s Day! If you need creative ideas for flower arrangements, consult the florists at Foothill Flowers (800-742-2551) before placing your order.
  • Candles: Candle-making is now a common at-home business for many of the bartenders and waitstaff that once served our Valentine’s Day meals at now-shuttered restaurants. But as you shop for hand-made candles, note that the scented ones add unwanted flavors and aromas to your wine and food and often become over-bearing. Best to stick with unscented. You’ll find candles you like here on Etsy.


  • Play Lists: If your youthful dream was to be a DJ, you’ve probably already compiled a romantic playlist for Valentine’s Day. If not, just search your favorite streaming service for ‘Valentine’ or ‘Romance’, and find a list you like, one that will last… all night long.
  • Food: Whether your plans include cooking or ordering delivery/take-out, eating together is an essential part of a romantic evening. To make this night different from the prior 333 dinners you’ve shared during lock-down, why not dress up as if you were going out (when was the last time you did THAT?!) to make the evening more memorable… and the unwrapping more fun.
Visit Black Lapel, A Style Journey. Not an ad partner.

OK, Now Build on Those Basics! – build on this foundation with one or two of these ideas:

  • Wine and Chocolate Pairing – Contrary to popular belief, wine and chocolate don’t really pair very well. And many sparkling wines paired with chocolate can be downright offensive. But here’s my time-tested tip for making this fantastic – select an oxidized dessert wine (one with the nutty flavor also known as ‘rancio’) such as an aged Tawny Port, a Banyuls or one of the unique and special wines from the Rivesaltes. Pair these wines with three or four exquisite chocolate bars containing varying amounts of Cacao and vote for your favorite combination. Pure delight, and a great hopping-off point for one of the other activities below!
  • Spa Night – Grab some bath bubbles (our new favorite is from Alaffia – not an ad partner) foot scrub, lotion, face masks, massage oils and candles for an evening of pampering. If a good soak is how you like to begin your spa night, light loads of candles to enhance your relaxation and stress relief. Cap it off with a new pair of luxurious bathrobes to preserve the warm glow until bedtime. And to go with the bubbles for your bath, you’ll need some bubbles for your flutes of course! 
  • Movie Night – We’ve all watched a lifetime of movies during the pandemic, so suggesting yet another movie night for Valentine’s Day means we have to take it up a notch! Some ideas: 
    • Give each other a pair of luxurious pajamas to relax in as you watch the movie. Or as you don’t watch the movie, should distraction happen.
    • Pick a killer movie! Here’s LifeHack’s thoughtful list of the top 21 romantic movies.
    • Add plenty of popcorn and some great Champagne (trust me, this odd-sounding pairing works well!) If you can afford caviar, go for it!
    • Bonus Idea: Top this evening off with a gift of special Champagne glasses. My wife recently expressed an interest in the vintage Coupe glasses (see a non-vintage version, below), and I scored some points Christmas morning by presenting an unmatched collection I’d gathered from several vintage shops. Go ahead, draft off me.
12 for $77 at Bed Bath & Beyond. Not an advertising partner.
  • Bring the Valentine’s Day Heat! – Baking and icing heart-shaped cookies as a family provides a creative activity for any number of participants. And for wines to pair with sweet cookies or other deserts, remember the wine needs to be sweeter than the food. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.


  • Become Immortal – Well, a small part of you anyway, by recording a brief video of each family member. So that this can be done in a single evening, limit your time to about 5 minutes per video, with one family member acting as the Host to introduce the “guest” and ask questions such as these:

For adult couples:

    1. How did you meet?
    2. When did you know there was something special, beyond just dating?
    3. Tell us about your first date
    4. What did your family think?
    5. What was the best part of your wedding?

And for kids of any age:

  1. What is your earliest family memory?
  2. When have you been the proudest of another family member?
  3. What do you think is the best part of being in Covid lock-down with your family?
  4. What are you looking forward to once lock-down orders are lifted and your life is back to normal?
  5. What do you think is the right age for getting married?

In advance of Valentine’s Day, create a private channel on YouTube or create a folder on a cloud storage platform so you’re ready to store your videos in perpetuity. Then share the link exclusively with your kids and/or friends and family members.

Chordboard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you use one of the ideas listed here or something you dream up on your own, we hope that Valentine’s Day 2021 becomes enjoyable and memorable for you and yours.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Warning. 30 Days until Valentine’s Day

Wow!  That wine really worked!It was five years ago this year.  At the French Laundry.  We’d just had the famed “Oysters with Pearls” paired with a beautiful Gruner Veltliner.  And, after a short period of hyperventilaing, my girlfriend leaned across the table and kissed me.  Four months later, we were married.  Must have been the wine.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Wine has helped fan the flames of passion for centuries, and I see no reason to stop the trend.  There is no better antidote for today’s troubled times.  And when it comes to wines of passion, is there anything better than Sparkling wine?

Here are a few of my favorites.  And guys, remember, even if Valentine’s Day is an over-hyped train wreck for relationships, it’s not that difficult to turn such things in your favor.  Starting with:

Today’s Featured Wines

Gruet, N.V. Brut sparkling wine.  $9 (half bottle) A half bottle is just the right size to begin the evening.  Pop a bottle while the two of you are getting ready.  Or while you’re waiting for your date before walking out the door.  Helpful seduction hint – arrive a bit early, not late.

Charles de Fere, N.V. Sparkling Wine, “Tradition”, $17.50 An affordable luxury that delivers far more than its price would lead you to believe.  From France, this wine is produced by a Champenoise  family who left the confines of Champagne’s rigorous rules and regulations in order to produce high-quality wine for far less money.  Click the link to learn more.  I don’t think you’ll regret that you did.  Seduction hint #2 – enjoy a great value in sparkling wine and you’ll have more for the rest of the evening.

Jacquesson, Cuvee 733 Champagne, $60 Jacquesson, one of the oldest Houses (and THE oldest independent House) in Champagne, has produced a non-vintage cuvee for over a century.  Each one is numbered (this cuveé is #733), making them almost semi-vintage releases, if you will, even though the juice comes from multiple vintages.  Seduction hint #3, pop the cork on this show-stopper and you may not need to plan anything else for the rest of the evening.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Wine, Music, Love

Vday_2February 6th, 2008
Now before you accuse me of selling out, let me say I don’t like cheesy Hallmark-inspired holidays either.  But I am rather fond of love, and taking a day to celebrate it is a tradition that spans centuries.  So here are my recommendations for some soulful wines (and music to go with them!) to help you celebrate love, no matter who or how many are invited to your Valentines Day celebration!

My Playlist for Love
Here are my top ten tunes to make your love-fest just a little bit better (click here to download iTunes 7). To download the recommendations, open the iTunes icon after your download, then search on title and artist.  You’ll have your playlist put together in just minutes.  It’s the way Cupid would celebrate, I’m sure.

  1. My Funny Valentine – Here are two great renditions, the first by Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan (the first song on which Baker sang, thus launching a whole new phase of his recording career), the second a non-vocal version by the Miles Davis Quintet.
  2. Sea of Love – Several options here.  For pure folk guitar, search for John Fahey, for a rock version try Iggy Pop, and for a soulful blues rendition, Katie Webster.
  3. Kiss – The artist formerly, and now currently, known as Prince throws a little upbeat Pop into the mix, helping to avoid temporal monotony
  4. My One and Only Love – with vocals by the golden-throated Johnny Hartman and classic sax accompaniment by the legendary John Coltrane.  Disclaimer – this is a personal favorite.  My wife included it in a playlist for our first Valentines Day, where she was about to receive an unexpected marriage proposal.  She said yes.  But it took her a while.  If this song hadn’t put her in the right mood I’d have been single forever.
  5. When You Say Nothing at All Alison Krauss.  It took this talented young lady to make me appreciate bluegrass.  A voice a pure as mountain air.
  6. More Than This – while the classic renditions by Roxy Music or 10,000 Maniacs are like comfort food for the ears, you may like the less traditional approach from acoustic folk guitarist Matt Nathanson for something new and different
  7. Passionate Kisses – Folk singer Lucinda Williams’ unfettered passion edges out Mary Chapin Carpenter for my favorite version of this song.
  8. Beyond the Sea – though Bobby Darin was the master who made this into a classic decades ago, try the talented Kevin Spacey‘s version from his movie by the same name. (Killer band!)
  9. Girl From IpanemaAstrud Gilberto and Stan Getz made this the hallmark of cool jazz in the 60’s, and it still works.  Our 5-year old sings along with this version, making it even more endearing. At least, for us.
  10. At Last – there are may good recordings of this classic, but once you hear Etta James sing it, the others fall off the list faster than Dennis Kucinich.

The Wines of Love
I’ve selected three wines to for your musical love-fest (see prior posting on how music affects wine).  These are food wines, wines with enough depth of character to reveal more of themselves as the night wears on, wines that linger, and invite you to do the same.

Tamayo Family Vineyards, 2006 Exotic Red, Contra Costa.  $13.50 Red as Dorothy’s slippers, this wine was a surprise for me, as seldom can so much complexity and pleasure be packed into such an affordable package.  Made from using old-world techniques, this wine is a blend of eight (count ’em!) grape varietals, including some most people have never heard of.  But whatever its obscure pedigree, you’ll have to agree it’s a lot of wine, and pleasure, for the money.  Serve this for company to accompany savory dishes featuring fresh herbs and the deep, passionate flavors of winter.

Logo_glassChateau di Riussanelle, 2008 Red Blend, Minervois.  $19. Not all my Valentine’s Day recommendations are red, but it DOES seem a logical extension of the table of seduction!  From Eve’s apple to the heart-shaped symbol of the day, and from ruby red lips to the infinite photo galleries of cherries dripping in syrup, red is the color of passion (and its distant cousin, rage.  But that’s a story for a different day).  Anyway, this red blend from the south of France offers the distinctive tastes of that area.  Serve this wine to your loved one and warm him or her with a hearty stew or cassoulet, then begin the regale of tales about the South of France, and this wine’s origins – the Minervois (perhaps most famous for its Abbey), the Minervois is a popular wine region that produces a growing number of interesting and affordable wines.

Andrew Murray, 2006 Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley.  $24 Viognier is enjoying an explosion in popularity, which is not surprising to me.  My wife predicted this would happen several years ago, and she’s been right except for the timing – everything happens slowly when it comes to consumer taste, it seems, unless you happen upon an American Idol or Oprah Winfrey moment, and find yourself suddenly launched into the headlines.  Viognier is experiencing the steady slog, the gradual rise from obscurity to mini-fame, based solely on the one-person-at-a-time discovery that it is just plain sexy.  Leading with aromas of citrus blossoms and honeysuckle, the taster is lulled into thinking the wine will be simple and perhaps even sweet.  And the first few molecules to hit the tongue won’t dissuade this impression – it’s not until the wine makes its way across the entire tongue that the taster says “Wow!, there’s a lot going on in that wine!”  There’s a distinct impression of almonds on the finish, and apricots up front, and miles to discuss in between.  A natural ice breaker for any romantic evening, with lots of opportunities for creative discussion diversions.


Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant



Quotes of the Day
“Why was Cupid chosen to represent Valentine’s Day?  When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” ~Author Unknown

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?”  ~Author Unknown


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