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Better by half

By Stephen Meuse
Globe Correspondent / February 10, 2010

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Restaurateurs know that on Val Day every reservation will be a two-top, as couples determined to create (or re-create) a sense of shared romantic adventure settle in for a tete-a-tete, one on one, just the two of them. In this atmosphere even the waiter can be the third who makes a crowd. Turn off that BlackBerry, honey. You’re having a rendezvous.

As emblems of whole-hearted intimacy go, nothing quite tops finishing off a bottle of wine together - something better accomplished at home than in a situation where one of you has to drive afterward. And no more easily accomplished when the bottle in question is half the usual size. Every wine isn’t available in a half (375 milliliter) bottle, but most good wine shops have a few to choose from. Find a bubbly to begin the evening and a red or white for your dinner. You will pay a little more than half the price, but somehow get twice the fun.

1. Muga Rioja Reserva 2004 Brooding purple-black hue; faintly woodsy aromas, some cedar and balsam elements. Flavorful, with layers of interest and a close-grained texture. Fine, old timey Rioja from a superb vintage. Around $20. At The Wine and Cheese Cask, Somerville, 617-623-8656; Berman’s Wine & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; Marty’s Fine Wine, Newton, 617-332-1230.

2. Gruet Brut Some bright citrus notes and a healthy dose of minerality combine with satisfying breadth in this fave. That it’s not too challenging to find in this format is a real plus. Around $11. At Lower Falls Wine, Newton, 617-332-3000; Cambridge Wine & Spirits, 617-864-7171; Martignetti Liquors, Brighton, 617-782-3700.

3. La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2007 Subtle aromas of tropical fruit and (yes) a whiff of fresh cream; mouth fleshy but quite firm with tasteful new oak garnish. Around $13. At Brookline Liquor Mart, 617-734-7700; Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, Cambridge, 617-491-8888; Marty’s.