Slideshow: Ask a Sommelier: Valentine's Wine Advice

Watch the ABV
Watch the ABV
"Just don’t pick a high alcohol wine like Amarone or Zinfandel—you want to make it through the entire evening without falling asleep!"—Kerrie O'Brien, DBGB (NYC)
Choose Something Nostalgic
Choose Something Nostalgic
"I can't give away all my secrets, but I'm happy to help my fellow romantics out there a bit. Pick a bottle that has a special meaning to the two of you or evokes a great memory. What did you drink on your first date? Where did you first travel together? Have you shared a really memorable meal, what did you drink with it? What year did you start dating or get married in? What is your date's birth year? Call the restaurant ahead to get the wine list and pick something out in advance that falls into one of those categories. Have it on the table as a surprise when you arrive."—Sabato Sagaria MS, The Little Nell Hotel (Aspen, CO)
Skip Amateur Night
Skip Amateur Night
"The absolute best advice I could give is to dine out on the 13th or 15th of February instead…now then you will have a romantic dinner! For pairing wine with the dinner, if you think about the wine at all, you are an idiot…just drink and eat and move to the important stuff. And god forbid you have time for dessert (see previous note), but if you must, then a bowl of vanilla ice cream with Pedro Ximenez Sherry poured over top will remove all existing inhibitions."—Paul Grieco, Hearth/Terroir (NYC)
Champagne To Last the Whole Meal
Champagne To Last the Whole Meal
"My Valentine's Day advice: stay home and cook! Other than that, Champagne rules, Valentine’s Day or not. Champagne can be full-bodied and rich enough to work with almost anything you might serve your sweetie. And if you break the stereotype and have a beautiful cheese course to finish, the Champagne will also stand you in good stead. (You might need more than one bottle to last that long, though.)"—Juliet Pope, Gramercy Tavern (NYC)
Make Sure Your Dessert Wine is Sweeter Than the Dish
Make Sure Your Dessert Wine is Sweeter Than the Dish
"When it's time for dessert, choose something dark like a port with your chocolatey items and something bright and fresh like a late harvest Riesling with your fruit based desserts. One great trick to remember: you always want your wine to be a bit sweeter than your dessert or else the wine can end up tasting washed out and uninteresting. And don’t be afraid to try something new! There are a ton of great dessert wines out there from all over the world."—Savanna Ray, Wildwood (Portland, OR)

[Photo: Jannie Huang]

Pair to the Person, Not to the Dish
Pair to the Person, Not to the Dish
"When pairing wines for your loved one, it's not always about finding the best wine for the dish. Try and find out what your partner wants to be drinking, and pair the wine with her (or his) taste. Don't pick your favorite wine that your partner really hates. If you're looking for ideas for dessert, give Madeira with chocolate a chance. Or go with the perfect pink wine: Bugey Cerdon from the Savoie in France. This sparkling rose is great with lighter fruit desserts."—Eric Railsback, Caveau Santa Barbara
Simplify, and End with Champagne
Simplify, and End with Champagne
"My best advice would be to select a wine (or two) that both of you enjoy and skip the formality of wine pairings so you can focus on one another instead of fussing with different pairings.

Having worked in restaurants for all of my adult life, I'm usually at work on Valentine’s Day, so I typically prepare a delicious meal at home the day after with my girlfriend’s favorite wines, Selosse Champagne and Thierry Allemand Cornas. I like to end the meal with some good Camembert cheese and return to the Champagne that started the meal (providing we didn’t already finish it off before the main course.)"—Chad Zeigler, RN74 (San Francisco)

Champagne First, Port Later
Champagne First, Port Later
"Champagne always, gentlemen. Don't skimp out and please don't put fruit in the glass. For a dessert pairing homerun, chocolate and port. It's a winner every time."—Mark Bright, Saison (San Francisco)
A Range of Sparklers
A Range of Sparklers
"Champagne and sparkling wine are by by far the most romantic beverages—they keep you feeling light and giddy like a great first date! Plus these wines pair so well with food. You can start light and crisp and work your way into vintage rosé for a meat course, and if there is cheese to follow, nothing is better than some ripe Brillat-Savarin and rich, nutty chardonnay-based sparkler. One of my favorite dessert pairings is the lightly frizzante strawberry-scented Brachetto d'Acqui from Piedmont, Italy—it works well with many chocolate desserts or anything that has a red fruit component. It also has a beautiful deep pink hue which is perfect for Valentine’s Day!"—Gillian Ballance MS, Cavallo Point (Sausalito, CA)
Champagne: Not Just Before Dinner
Champagne: Not Just Before Dinner
"What’s more romantic than Champagne? The key here is to think about Champagne as a food wine, not just a light aperitif to drink before the meal. I like to work with richer, fuller styles to pair with food, like Vouette & Sorbée "Blanc d’Argile” Extra Brut from Buxières-sur-Arce, or Egly-Ouriet “Les Vignes de Vrigny” Blanc de Noirs Brut. Both of these wines offer enough weight and complexity of flavor to drink throughout a meal."—Chris Baggetta, Quince (San Francisco)