Romance, Hearts & Wine: Advice for Men on Valentine’s Day

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We women love romance, I don’t care what protestations we might make. So when someone asks, what is your first romantic memory involving wine, I can point to it most unequivocally, and tell you that it happened when the only thing I knew about wine was that it was made from grapes and contained alcohol.

Most Romantic First Date Ever

I met this guy in a wine bar. But not like you think. My friend Lisa and I got off work at the local department store where we worked during college. It was a boring Tuesday. Maybe 10 people in the whole place including the bartender and waitresses. So these two guys walk over to us and strike up a conversation. One shorter, beefy, with dark hair — a real charmer, the kind your Mother warns you about. The other is skinny, tall and blond with a rat tail — not “my type” at all. I’m really bad with names, but have a near photographic memory. So when a guy told me his name in a bar, I’d then ask, “How old are you?” Followed by, “I don’t believe you, show me your driver’s license.” It was also a good trick in case the guy turned out to be some creepy stalker.

Think romance, not sex. A red "merry widow" and garters set is not romantic. Preparing her dinner and dessert is.
Now I was 20 at the time. And in our state you could drink at 18. The neighboring state was 21. So kids would come across the bridge into our college town to buy booze. This guy looks young, and I figure he’s just out of high school. Turns out he’s 19. Out-of-state license. Turns out he’s funny. In that wry, sarcastic, arrogant kind of funny. So I end up talking to him all night while Lisa talks to the charmer. They both ask for our phone numbers. This was before cell phones, before caller ID, when you actually had to answer the phone to find out who was on the line. The only screener was your roommate, your brother or your Dad. But since I had both a Dad and brother at home, I didn’t worry.

So a week or so passes — Lisa is annoyed because Mark (Mr. Charmer) doesn’t call. Big surprise. Ladies you know, guys ask for our numbers all the time and never call. I’m told they have every intention of calling but chicken out. I figure it’s also just standard practice at the end of the evening, a way of saying “good-bye, thanks for the company.” I never expected anyone to call back — and frankly didn’t care if he did or not. Not just this guy, but any guy. It cuts down on disappointment if you don’t have expectations.

One day when I get home from work I see a note from my Dad on his “saw blade” note pad paper. “John (Last Name)” called, and a number. And I say to myself, “oh THAT was his last name.” Wrong spelling on the first name, but I remembered that because it was different. I can’t remember if I called him back, or waited for him to call again. At 20, in the 1980s we usually waited. But somehow we ended up talking and he asked me out.

Anyway, this long build up was just to say I wasn’t expecting much on the first date. But the guy was funny and cute, so I decided to go on a date with him, even though he had a weird haircut.

Wine, Cheese and an old MG

The guy picks me up in a dark red MG convertible. I worry more about my hair getting messed up. We go to a movie. We’re driving back on I-60 East toward my house. And he says, “Do you know a place around here we can go to talk?” Haha. “Talk.” But, of course I did know of just such a place, right off the highway. It’s since been closed down. But at the time, it was just a turn off the road that looped back onto the highway. So I give directions, we drive in and park on the side of the road. And he says, “I’ll be back in just a sec,” and gets out of the car. Okay maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, I think.

But just as quickly, he comes back with two glasses, some grapes, cheese and a bottle of chilled wine. Turns out he had it chilling in ice in the back of the trunk the whole time. I don’t remember what wine it was, perhaps Chardonnay. I don’t remember if I even liked it. But I remember that this guy thought enough ahead to plan a truly romantic ending to our date.

“You had me at ‘Hello,’” says Renée Zellweger, in that famous line from Jerry Maguire. Well this guy had me with the wine.

Most Romantic Gift Ever

When Joe and I met he was living in his sister’s basement. He was at a crossroad, of sorts, because he was recently divorced and hadn’t quite decided where to live. He just knew he wanted to be close to his kids. You guys know how this goes, the ex-wife gets the house, the kids, and the normalcy. You get to start over. At that point in life, it really sucks to be you, no matter how cool you play it. You love your kids, and you worry that the child support they take out of your check may be going more for her “whole new look” than the kids’ well-being. The last thing you’re thinking about is romance.

So I wasn’t expecting much when it came to gifts. Neither of us had a lot of extra cash at the time. So finding the perfect gift was going to require a lot more thought. I knew Joe loved wooden boxes — so I found an ornate one, probably at Pier I, and wrapped it up with a little heart inside. Somewhere along the line I’d told him that I loved hearts and the scent of patchouli. So out he traipsed into the snow and slushy tundra of Toledo in his Family Guy van to find a present for this chic from Houston who was visiting Toledo for the first time for Christmas.

At the time, neither of us drank much wine. In fact, Joe didn’t drink it at all. So the perfect wine gift didn’t matter. Wasn’t even considered. Joe’s sister knew of a funky store where the woman made her own oils, soaps and lotions. Right up my New Age alley. Toledo also has a a couple great museums, with awesome gift shops. While I enjoy museums, what I like best about them is their gift shops — because you can find things there that are unique and usually won’t break the bank.

So, when I opened my gifts from Joe, I must admit I was surprised to find the perfect gifts! A tiny bottle of patchouli oil and little heart earrings made from Russian amber. It shows he was paying attention. And it made me know he cared.

Four Tips to Men for Valentine’s Day

1. You Don’t have to Break the Bank. The best gifts come from the heart, not the wallet. And sometimes spending lots of money you don’t have just makes you look irresponsible or foolish. If you have it, that’s a different story.

2. Let Her Know You Listen. Sometimes the best gift simply shows you’ve been paying attention. Nothing says you have no clue like giving a pair of earrings to a woman without pierced ears. Even if you hate cats, if she loves them, she’ll love you if you get her some little cat statuette.

3. Don’t Take the Ordinary Way Out. I suppose some women love red roses. But keep in mind the price of red roses in hyper-inflated around Valentine’s Day. Get her something unique. Something special. Whether it be exotically spiced chocolate and port, or tiny heart earrings. If the gift is special, she’ll know she’s special.

4. Think Romance, Not Sex. Well okay, I know you’re thinking about sex, but don’t make it so obvious. A red merry widow with garters is not romantic. Preparing her dinner and dessert is. Letting her choose the wine with dinner is. And the truth is they may end up giving you the same desired result.

Romance Should Not End on Valentine’s Day

One day I came home and there was a gift bag sitting on my spot on the couch. “What’s this?” I asked Joe. He said, “It’s Wive’s Day.” It wasn’t really Wive’s Day. As far as I know, there is no such thing. But inside the bag was a pair of pretty dangle heart-shaped earrings from my favorite maker, Brighton. Just a little gift to show he cared.

Sometimes it’s tough to be spontaneous. So, here’s a little trick I shared with a friend. Get a wall calendar and a packet of stickers. Have someone else (kids are great for this) put the stickers randomly on the calendar several months in advance. Now, pay attention to the calendar. Whenever you see a sticker, tell your Valentine you care. Tell her she’s special. Tell her why she’s important to you.

These are the keys to her heart.

Cheers!

The WineWonkette

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. She holds certifications from International Sommelier Guild, regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events and is currently studying for her California Wine Appellation Specialist certification through the San Francisco Wine School.