La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica
La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica

French champagne and sparkling wines are in order for Valentine's Day, but if you don't like tiny bubbles in your glass, here are some suggestions to put a shine on a romantic evening at home or on the town.

  • Chateau Miraval Rosé, Provence, $27 -- Each vintage gets a whole lot better and the 2014 bottling is by far the best from celebrity owners Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The dazzling duo rescued the crumbling winery several years ago with a $60 million investment in the estate's vineyards and -- Merci! -- made good on their promise to produce an outstanding rosé. A serious partnership with the Perrin family of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel has also helped.

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    In the glass, the salmon-colored rosé is quite appealing and yields to wonderful orange grove aromas. Full strawberry flavors blossom on the palate, along with starbursts of crisp citrusy verve. It's delicious and dry. Miraval drew raves at a recent house party, where guests enjoyed it with icy cold jumbo shrimp and a crab dip served on toasty bread chips.
  • Chateau Argadens Bordeaux 2014, France, $14.99 -- Don't let the price fool you on this white Bordeaux blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
    Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
    Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
    Yes, it's inexpensive compared to many Bordeaux bottlings, but it's crisp, clean, refreshing and wonderfully balanced for appetizers, salads, sushi and light cuisine. Fragrant in white flowers from the start, it tingles the tongue with grapefruit, apricot and lemon peel flavors. I found it on the shelves of Tutto Bene in Lowell.
  • La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2013, Italy, $24 -- The vineyards of Matelica, located in the western part of Le Marche province, benefits from the closeness to Tuscany's hillside clay and limestone soils in the west and the sunny, ocean breezes coming off the Adriatic Sea in the east. It's all about terroir and this white Verdicchio is one of Italy's finest. The key is its weightier mouthfeel and smooth texture. I've learned that Verdicchio is the mostly widely planted white varietal in Italy, although few U.S. consumers know about its fabulous offerings. I love steely clean, mineral whites that bring out the grape's true expressions, and La Monacesca's hands-off approach -- no creamy fermentations -- puts this in a class of its own. It's enticing in sour apple, pear, apricot and herb flavors. There's a nice, uplifting trace of bitter almonds on the finish. Well-made Verdicchio can age for several years and retain its "nervy" edge. Aldo Cifola, who founded La Monacesca in 1966, exports a limited quantity to America each year through K&L Wine Merchants. He also produces a high-end Riserva Mirum ($50) that contains a bit of Chardonnay and is given equal footing with grand cru white Burgundy.
  • Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Washington State, $11.99 -- Two weeks ago, the N.H. Wine & Liquor Store Outlets were selling this overachieving full-bodied red for $9.99. I scooped up six bottles. This bottling has made nearly every expert's top 100 best value list, and wine magazines have rated it between 88 and 90 points for its quality and big, bold berry taste. There's not much more to say. It's truly an outstanding bargain. You should also look for Columbia Crest's H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes from its prestigious Horse Heaven Hills vineyards along the Columbia River in eastern Washington. Costco had it on sale for $12.99 prior to Christmas. Another best buy to warm your Valentine's heart!