Valentine’s Day is for love, regardless of who or what you love. Benicia restaurants offer many choices and special menus to celebrate this romantic holiday. Once you make your restaurant selection, you have only to choose your menu items and decide on your wine. We tapped food and wine pairing expert, Maggie Bernat, to provide an easy to follow guide on wine selection to make this evening an even more romantic experience. BM



Step one, start with some bubbly. Even if you’re not a sparkle drinker, I highly recommend you start your evening with it. Sparkling wine is high in acid and loves creamy, gooey cheeses, bruschetta, carpaccio, or a fresh seafood starter. This high acid wine livens up the palate by literally making you salivate, thus making it easy to indulge. Be sure to slow down and notice what the wine tastes like on its own, it’s textures, the flavor developments, how long it lingers. Next have a bite of your food, then sip again, notice how the flavors and textures change when both the food and wine intermingle. Once you start paying attention, you’ll see how the wine and food interact together. Let the wine and food get to know one another. The overall goal is to enhance the meal. A good pairing will do exactly this. 

Main Course

Mushrooms are enjoying a rise in popularity in many Bay Area restaurant menus.  The suggested pairings are inspired by a main course that include this delicious fungi.

Pinot Noir pairs with everything but it really goes well with mushrooms! The flavor of Pinot Noir is known for being the most transparent reflection of the earth. The delicate, earthy flavors of this varietal when paired with mushrooms enhance each other like soulmates. Pasta dishes can sometimes be difficult to pair, but some simple rules can make it easier. The sauce will rule the selection, a marsala or a Bolognese wants a red wine. A cream sauce such as a wild mushroom ravioli would pair better with a Chardonnay. 


When you choose your dessert, I implore you to order a dessert wine to go with it. I believe the reason dessert wine is not indulged in often is because it can be overwhelming on its own, but when paired with another sugary substance it completely mellows out, and the transformation is euphoric! 

The general pairing rules here are easy: light with light and dark with dark. Try a tawny port, a sauternes, or ice wine. Take small sips to coat your mouth, then a bite of your confection. You will see that the sugar in the dessert takes the heavy sweetness out of the wine and they balance each other out perfectly. If you are going down a chocolate path, try a ruby or vintage port, or a late harvest wine. Follow the same ritual and bliss shall follow. I promise that a properly paired, romantic meal can make this evening truly special. 


 Happy Valentine’s day!

Maggie Bernat