We are right in the middle of the holiday season again. Looking for something to give the wine lover or even wine geek this holiday season? From the very special gift to the fun stocking filler, here are some ideas that have caught my eye.
Perfect Stocking Fillers for Wine-Lovers
For stocking fillers, we want something fairly small and not too expensive. Books are always a great idea. The casual wine drinker might prefer something more narrative, a story, a journey or memoir. Terry Theise's Between the Wines (University of California Press) ($14 at Amazon), which I reviewed last week is sure to please.
Other fascinating reads for me this year include Matt Kramer on Wine: A Matchless Collection of Columns, Essays, and Observations (Sterling Epicure). Matt is one of the most noted US wine writers. This is a wonderful collection of interesting and amusing essays on almost every topic imaginable. ($15.75 at Amazon).
Still on the book front, another favorite read this year was The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, by Benjamin Wallace (Broadway Publishers). Now out in paperback ($11 at Amazon). A fascinating read about the difficulties in authenticating the provenance of old wines, skullduggery, and the various wheeling and dealings that surrounded the auction of allegedly old, rare wines supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson.
On a more fun note Wine Wars: A Trivia Game for Wine Geeks and Wannabes ($14 at Amazon) is a fun trivia game that tests your knowledge about all sorts of wine topics from grapes to winemaking, to cellaring to noted personalities. Great to play with friends or family – amateurs or wine geeks alike.
Who doesn't appreciate some bubbly wine? Champagne Nicholas Feuillette One Fo(U)r Pink & Blue Duo pack (one for you and one for me) contains two cute quarter bottles of Champagne (Brut NV and Rose NV) in a trendy transparent packaging with co-coordinated blue & pink wrist bands. And they taste pretty good too ($30 at wine shops).
Be Adventurous: Gift American Wines beyond California
If gifting a bottle of wine to a wine-lover or interested amateur, I think it is always appreciated to seek out something a little different. Perhaps a wine made from a less well-known grape variety, or a wine from a less well-known region. For US wines, maybe this is the time to think outside California. Maybe something from Oregon, Washington, New York - something that perhaps is not so widely available around the country. Today most online retailers ship to a great number of states.
Some special excellent non-California wines that I would recommend are:
• 2009 Patricia Green Ana Vineyard Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon $45 – From one of my favorite Oregon producers. This wine is elegant, perfumed, packed with layers of intense persistent flavors. Delicious and long. Ready to drink but could easily age 5 – 10 years.
• 2008 Betz Family Vineyards Syrah La Serenne, Yakima Valley, Washington, $60 – Deeply colored, brooding. Rich and smooth with great depth of flavor.
• 2004 The Grapes of Roth Merlot, South Fork Long Island, New York, $60 – Rich and elegant. Incredibly smooth and packed with ripe, plummy, berry flavors, spice, earth and leather. Drinking beautifully.
Splurges: The Ultimate Luxury Champagne
And for the real geek or oenophile there is always vintage or Prestige Cuvée Champagne, which never goes amiss. Unlike most non-vintage (NV) Champagnes, which should be drunk within a year or so of purchase, both Vintage and Prestige Cuvée Champagnes represent the very best the house can make. Grapes are typically sourced from the top Grand Cru vineyards, and rest on the lees for between five and ten years before release, resulting in wines of great finesse, incredibly well-structured and complex. Wines that need years if not decades of cellaring to reach their potential.
Obviously these Champagnes do not come cheap. But if money is no object, here are a few of my favorites, that as well as being some of the best Champagnes money can buy, are also beautifully and luxuriously packaged
• First up this year has to be the recently launched 2002 Andy Warhol Dom Perignon. The year 2002 was an absolutely excellent Champagne vintage. Andy Warhol, one of the most iconic pop artists of the 20th century was also a big lover of Dom Perignon, often associated with his time socializing at the famed Studio 54. This is a limited edition release and the label and packaging design were inspired by Warhol's bold colors and comes in vibrant blue, yellow or pink ($170).
• 2002 Cristal from Roederer is truly one of the world's finest Champagnes. Elegant, taut, lively yet precise, complex and persistent, it is still quite young and deserves an additional 10 to 15 years cellaring ($180).
• 2002 Perrier-Jouët, Fleur de Champagne Lighter0bodied than Cristal, 'PJ fleur' is a testament to elegance and liveliness. In addition its flower-decorated bottle is absolutely beautiful and an instantly recognizable signature ($130).
1995 Charles Heidsieck, Blanc de Millénaires (Blanc De Blancs), $190 – Perhaps for someone who prefers a less widely known brand. Charles Heidsieck is one of Champagne's lesser-known treasures. This is a Blanc de Blanc – so only made from Chardonnay grapes. Being a 1995 vintage it is now just about ready to drink, but you could also cellar it for another 5 to 10 years. Exceptionally focused and elegant.
And to finish off some beautiful glassware as well as somewhere to store your lovely wines
• Eisch Vino Nobile Breathable Flute Champagne, Set of 2 ($45.21 at Amazon) – About a year ago I received a gift of two Eisch glasses. I loved them, but could not recommend them in my post of wine glasses, as they were only available to the trade. Now, I am delighted to see that they are now available on Amazon. I think these flutes are really lovely. Perfect to show off some nice Champagne over the holidays.
Finally a little storage gift, perhaps. I was quite impressed by the 12-Bottle Silent Touchscreen Wine Refrigerator from Wine Enthusiast. Currently selling for $179.95, it has two temperature zones, which can be set at two different temperatures – so whites can be kept slightly more chilled than reds if desired. Handy for apartment-dwellers who might like to have a stash of wine on hand.
For additional ideas see my holiday gift post from 2009.
Happy Holidays everyone!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She hold the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Courtesy of producer websites, Amazon.com and Avalon Wine)