By Bob Leone

Now that we've got ’08 behind us — all of it — the joyful holidays and the depressing bank statements and jobs reports, we can look forward to a (hopefully) better ’09.
A good way to start the New Year is by planning for the most romantic holiday of all — Valentine’s Day.
Anyone can make reservations at fancy hi-end restaurants, but to really impress your significant other take the time to find a secluded piece of beach or make the arrangements for the baby sitter without being asked. Then make a quick stop by your favorite wine and food shops and put together your own very personal Valentines Day repast.
Here are a few food and wine pairings you can use to create a memorable "Lovers Day:"

If you are lucky enough to find that lonely stretch of beach, pack a chilled container of pre-made Bellinis (Prosecco and peach nectar), or a chilled Rose Champagne like the fabulous Billecart-Salmon Rose ($80). Add some smoked salmon sandwiches with dark bread and fresh dill dressing and a few fancy cookies to finish. You’ve now created a personalized, quiet moment for two, and you wont have to make conversation with your neighbors at the next table who made the same 8 o'clock reservation.

Or keep it really simple and have your romantic dinner at home: Fix your loved one’s favorite meal, or make a call to one of the areas great caterers and let them do all the food work for you. Then all it takes is finding the perfect wine to compliment your special meal.

Speaking for myself and my many carnivorous friends, nothing beats a dry-aged, prime cut New York Strip done to medium-rare, accompanied by a big, robust California Cab like Caymus ($70), Darioush ($90), or one of my new favorites, 2480 Cab ($100).

If steak is not your thing, try a steamed lobster dinner accompanied by a lush, rich Chardonnay like Mer Soleil ($35) or Beringer Private Reserve ($30). Or maybe Lobster Thermador — a rich decadent dish you could pair with Montrachet la Guiche ($300); a wine of equal decadence.

To bring your memorable evening to a close, present a slice of Italian cheesecake paired with a bottle of Chateau d'Yquem ($200+) — the greatest dessert wine in the world.

Of course none of these wine suggestions is cheap, but it’s Valentine’s Day and making your significant other happy can be priceless.

Until the next time: Drink and eat well — if not often. Ciao, mi Amici.

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