Liquid Love

A candlelit corner; a table for two; gleaming glassware. But what to put in the glasses? How many people, after arranging all the details of that crucial supper à deux, have clutched when it came time to buy the wine? Champagne? How obvious can you get? And some people don't like champagne, especially with food. And it's not a good idea to try to impress with a famous label or a great vintage; apart from the risk of looking gauche, there's the fact that "great wine" demands a lot of attention for full appreciation, and this is not an occasion where the wine should be center stage. We asked some local wine merchants to suggest a bottle to enhance romance, not distract from it; here are some of their suggestions. Jennifer O'Neil, Pike & Western: "Burgundy. Burgundy is romantic. And you don't have to spend a fortune. We have a very pretty, subtle 2002 from Domaine Mongeard Mugneret for $19 with gorgeous raspberry and graphite overtones." Karri Norton of Larry's Market Queen Anne is on the same wavelength: "Pinot noir in a heartbeat; the '02 Andrew Rich Les Vigneaux ($25) from the Carleton Wine Studio in Oregon. The first time I tasted an Andrew Rich pinot I thought, 'I want to marry the man who made this.'" If price is no object, Steve Springston, Esquin Wine Merchants, has just the thing for you: "1998 Chambertin from the négociant Joseph Drouhin ($123). It's everything fine Burgundy should be—seductive silky elegance, pervasive aroma, delicacy, and charm. It's a fairly 'big' wine but settled in and ready to love." Doug Nufer, European Vine Selections, suggests another well-settled red: "The 1998 Pio Cesare Barolo ($43) was among Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines the year it was released. Even after seven years, it's a particularly full-bodied kind of wine you shouldn't rush through, a great wine for lingering over. Jan Hunsley, Pete's Bellevue, particularly likes the 2001 Joseph Phelps Le Mistral ($21.50) "because it's got some complexity but it's still smooth and easy to drink and, like most Rhône-style blends, a great wine with all kinds of food." If you're looking for an unusual wine to accompany dessert, consider the choice of Pike & Western's Jason Marvin: "Brachetto d'Acqui from Italy's Piedmont. Sweet, slightly sparkling; seduction wine." Something a little less explicit? Kate Kirkwood, Admiral Metropolitan Market, suggests Bonny Doon Framboise ($12.50 for a 375 milliliter bottle) from the ever eccentric winemaker Randall Grahm. Made from 100 percent Washington-grown raspberries, "it smells and tastes exactly like fresh ripe fruit and is perfect with creamy desserts and especially chocolate."

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