A couple’s romance begat the perfect wines for Valentine’s Day

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

Take one hopeless romantic — who is also a celebrity tattoo artist with a strong belief in symbols — and add an actress who directs and writes.

Mix thoroughly.

Next, add a sprinkle of serendipity.

Artist Scott Campbell and actress Lake Bell were on a Napa Valley winery date in 2013 when they met winemaker Clay Brock. Campbell and Bell decided to get married and to make wine. It was a busy year.

The Campbell/Brock partnership produced SAVED ($25), a robust Napa Valley red blend composed of Merlot (39 percent), Zinfandel (22 percent), Syrah (22 percent), Petit Verdot (11 percent), Malbec (4 percent) and Souzão (2 percent) grapes. Each bottle is decorated with a Campbell-designed label that includes images for love and luck and coded messages for Bell.

The wine partnership was a success. The fact that each bottle carries a love letter from Campbell to Bell indicates the marriage also is doing well.

A dozen Valentine wines

Not all wines have such a romantic backstory, but a lot of great romances begin with a bottle of wine.

Here is a bouquet of a dozen rich, red blossoms, with a few pinkish petals thrown in, to pour on Valentine’s Day. Not surprisingly, romantic Italians dominate the bunch.

• Begin with Marina Cvetic Iskra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($38), a long, bilingual name for a rich, complex wine of ripe red fruit and spice flavors. You only need remember iskra, Slovenian for “spark,” a word translated into 11 languages on the label. From a romantic standpoint, a spark’s a start.

• Once sparked, try Donna Laura Bramosia Chianti Classico DOCG ($15), which balances ripe fruit and acidity with accents of wood and spice. The winemakers translate bramosia as “desire,” but it also means “greed” — perhaps much the same thing.

• Assuming all goes well, you’re ready for Tiamo Barbera ($11), a lighter, fresher red wine redolent of raspberries from Italy’s Lombardy region. Tiamo means “I love you” in Italian and those words are always the start of something new.

But there is more in our bouquet even after those three little words have been spoken. Like relationships, some require gentler handling than others.

• The Ciù Ciù Piceno Bacchus 2015 ($15) from northern Italy blends the fruit of Montepulciano and Sangiovese vines for a full-bodied red that challenges with its tannins. Give this one a little time.

• The Ciù Ciù Oppîdum Marche Rosso 2012 ($28) greets with a heady vanilla perfume, giving way to purplish-red color and deep red fruit flavors. This one’s ready for you now.

• Gaia, in Greek mythology, is the personification of mother Earth. Given all the “fruitfulness” the name implies, it’s no surprise that the Domaine Bousquet Gaia Red Blend 2013 ($20) is as bright and as bountiful as its namesake. The almost opaque Argentine wine, with its full, plump flavors of red fruit and blackberries, is as lush as the Valentine holiday itself.

Thorny Rose Red Blend ($11), from Washington’s Columbia Valley, bills itself as a wine “created by Millennials for Millennials.” It’s made with Merlot (48 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (48 percent), Malbec (3 percent) and Syrah (1 percent) and pushes the fruit, achieving a sweetness aimed at younger wine drinkers. Expect balanced acidity and complex flavors of dark plum and chocolate.

The pink petals in our otherwise red bouquet sparkle, both figuratively and literally.

• The Vilarnau Brut Rosado Reserva ($18) is a sparkling Spanish cava that pours a pale pink with a nose and palate of fresh strawberries. Can you find the fennel notes in the aftertaste?

Sofia Blanc de Blanc ($18), from California’s Francis Ford Coppola Winery, follows a similar sparkling approach, but with notes of pineapple, peach and citrus on nose and palate. The filmmaker who brought us the Godfather saga produced it for his daughter’s wedding, revealing his softer, more tender side.

• But it was the Champagne Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve ($80) that started it all. The blend of Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir boasts a 20 percent reserve blend of wine more than 10 years old, giving the current bottles outstanding depth, breadth and delicate flavors.

Our brightest red blossoms remain, giving this bouquet special cachet.

• Few wines are as bright and fully developed as Cherry Pie ($50), a single-vineyard Pinot Noir grown and bottle by Stanly Ranch in Napa Valley’s Caneros region. Pouring a deep red with full-fruit aromas, the wine saturates the palate with buttery layers of fresh fruit, jam and vanilla flavors floating on a creamy, well-balanced mouthfeel and finish.

• For the light of your life, nothing is more appropriate than Luce ($125), whose very name means “light” in Italian. First produced in a historic 1993 partnership between Robert Mondavi and Vittorio Frescobaldi, the 2012 vintage Luce unfolds a dark ruby red, its blend of Merlot and Sangiovese unfurling deep, complex aromas.

The palate is sparked with hints of clove and black pepper, with dark fruits adding to a full-volume mouthfeel and velvety softness. The effect is sublime.

And what about those who will celebrate Valentine’s Day alone? There is always Tait Wines’ The Ball Buster ($21), a big Australian from the Barossa Valley that blends Shiraz (75 percent), Merlot (13 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (12 percent). Expect a wine big, juicy and broad-shouldered, imbued with winemaker Bruno Tait’s take-no-prisoners attitude.

The wine has its place on the most romantic of holidays because, as singer Pat Benatar taught us, love is a battlefield. Cheers to the survivors.