Wine (and Brew) for Valentine's 

A lover's holiday to celebrate a martyred Saint whose history is shrouded in mystery? Legend has it that a third century Roman priest incurred Claudius II's wrath when he continued to perform marriages for young couples in defiance of the emperor's edict. Some even contend that, while in prison, the priest fell for his jailer's daughter and proclaimed his love in a letter signed "From your Valentine." The message appears to have stuck, so now we have the perfect Hallmark Holiday.

Whether you buy into the hype or not, it's a great time to share a bottle of something special with your significant other. Try a bottle of Bellini, $11.99, a sparkling cocktail with an Idaho connection--it was invented back in 1934 at Harry's Bar in Venice, one of Papa Hemingway's favorite hangouts. Low in alcohol, but rich in sweet peach flavors, the color is a vibrantly opaque pink--the essence of romance in a glass. Served with a light chill, it's sure to warm up any occasion.

With a heart-shaped graphic on the label, Quady Elysium is tailor made for this lover's holiday. Made from the Black Muscat grape, it's dessert in a bottle, though it also pairs nicely with chocolate and is delicious poured over ice cream. A richly aromatic wine with the essence of sweet rose--deep, dark red in color, a half bottle is priced under $15, a 750 ml bottle just over $20.

If pink is your color, but you prefer dry to sweet, try a bottle of 2004 Fleur Vin Gris, $10.99, a lovely rosé made from the Pinot Noir grape. Very fresh, vibrant cherry and light raspberry flavors back the delicate, dark berry aromas. The finish is crisp and refreshing, and lingers nicely, while the very pretty floral label makes for an appropriate presentation.

For the beer lover, Samuel Adams Chocolate Stout is a Valentine's Day must. It offers flavors like no other, combining hand-selected hops and a complex combo of carefully roasted malts, all slowly aged on a bed of rich Sharffen Berger chocolate. A big, 750 ml bottle is just $13.99.

So skip the sappy card this year, and toast the Saint's demise with a glass of your favorite beverage instead.

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