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  • Playing passionate games with wine

  • So maybe it was the Ab Rocket he gave her for Valentine's Day. Or the book autographed by Snooki she gave him for his birthday. Or the Snuggie someone misguidedly gave anyone to mark a special occasion.
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  • So maybe it was the Ab Rocket he gave her for Valentine's Day. Or the book autographed by Snooki she gave him for his birthday. Or the Snuggie someone misguidedly gave anyone to mark a special occasion.
    Granted, no one in this group will be hired as a Nordstrom personal shopper or a romance novelist anytime soon. The message delivered was that perhaps the fire of passion had turned to ash.
    Want to redo Valentine's Day? Rev up those flames? An easy way, I'm hearing, is through the thrill-inducing pairing of wine and board games.
    Before you think I'm bluffing, YouTube it over to the seductive chess scene from the 1968 movie, "The Thomas Crown Affair." I've never seen so much metaphorical caressing or obvious innuendo. When Faye Dunaway's queen traps Steve McQueen's king, and he says, "Let's play something else," my geek glasses steam up.
    After reacquainting myself with "The Affair," I decided it was time to practice brushing a finger across my lips when pondering my next move. I also decided to listen to two happily married couples explain how they found heated bliss through cardboard and wine. Let's call it a complex Board-O.
    Mike and Merry Vediner are co-owners of Funagain Games in Ashland so, of course, they are gung-ho on games. But there are a few secrets they don't tell customers. Lean in and hear Merry whisper this one:
    "The first time we noticed the magic was several years ago over a bottle of cab franc, pistachios, dried figs, slices of Parmesan cheese and a competitive round of the delightful tile-laying game called Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers." (Hmmm? Hunters? Gatherers? Is that what a sex expert means by role-playing? I wonder while accidentally jabbing my top lip.)
    Merry breathlessly continues: "The experience made us wonder what other pairings we might discover. It became a tantalizing challenge." I think I heard an Eartha Kitt growl on the "tantalizing" part, but maybe not.
    For their next encounter, the couple moved onto the deck. Under the table, I'm sure there was a rousing game of footsie. On the table, was Trium's viognier ($20), clementines, baked crackers and Uptown, which was explained to me as a fast-moving "positional" game with "short and sweet turns" and "aggressive and passive strategies." Egad!
    "Uptown would also pair nicely with Mimosas or Champagne," Merry adds. This time I definitely heard a purr.
    To cool down, I called up the DeFriscos, who are so close that they share the same first name, Chris. But no one would confuse Mrs. Chris, as she is called, with Mr. Chris. What they also have in common is their love of board games and wine, although she likes whites — viognier and pinot gris — and he's decidedly a cab man.
    The Ashland couple say they spend three nights a week alone with their large selection of two-player games.
    "When we just want to be together," says Mr. Chris, "we play Pickomino, a push-your-luck dice-rolling game that doesn't take a lot of thought and won't get ruined when food is accidentally spilled upon it, which has happened on multiple occasions." (Hmmm. Why is food flying? I inquire followed by a slightly less clumsy clawing motion around my mouth.)
    If the DeFriscos aren't sleepy, they open up a brain-requiring game like Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries. They pair it with a wine du jour, pita chips and red-pepper spread. On a frigid night, they might consider wrapping the task of building train routes in the snow with warm, spiced wine and gingerbread, but maybe that's just the Merry in me talking.
    Merry recalls that once a customer asked if she sold any drinking games. "I thought for a moment," she says, all giggly, "and I replied that really all the games are drinking games."
    That was all I needed to start pondering again. Hmmm. My favorite board games. My favorite alcohol. Put them together, and you get: Backgammon with 2008 Troon Zinfandel Reserve ($60). Checkers with 2009 Folin Passive Aggressive Petite Sirah ($18). Candy Land with 2010 Foris Muscat Frizzante ($13.50).
    I would be happy to get any one of these combos as a gift. Because what I really love about receiving is not the bottle or the board, but time with someone I love. Checkmate.
    Many local tasting rooms have board games waiting to be cracked open in front of the fireplace. Test drive a few while sampling wine. Let me know what you find to your liking.
    EVENT: More than 10 local wine producers will be pouring at the March 10 fundraiser for Medford's WinterSpring Center, the nonprofit, volunteer organization that offers grief support to Rogue Valley children, teens and adults. Supporters who buy a ticket for $35 to $45 will tour Pallet Wine Co.'s custom-crush facility in Medford and receive tastes of food served with wine fresh from the barrel and aged. The second annual New Vintage Wines & Music runs from 1 to 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 541-552-0620 or see www.winterspring.org.
    TASTED: Popping open a bottle of the sold-out 2010 Plaisance Ranch Ginet Rose on a cold night has me dreaming of the wine owners' warm-weather barn events and grilled organic beef burgers. The next Wine Down (free admission; wine and food for sale) on Joe and Suzi Ginet's Williams property is March 30, right after they bottle their 2011 rose ($20); www.plaisanceranch.com.
    Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email jeastman@mailtribune.com.
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