Gifts off the vine: Holiday ideas for the wine lover

The holiday season presents the usual anxiety of gift selection. For the wine aficionado in your life, here are a few out of the box ideas to liven up activity under the mistletoe.

Wine clubs provide the gift that keeps on giving. Envision Uncle Dan opening a box of fine wine shipped to him two to four times annually. Not to be confused with wine clubs shipping overstocks and miserable sellers to the unsuspecting, many vintners offer their best selections of two bottles up to a case at discounted prices periodically throughout the year. Limited editions not available at your neighborhood wine stores are also a part of the priviledge. Several wine clubs already road tested are Effeste, Ferrari Carano, Seghesio, Hawkes and Columbia.

One of my old friends enjoys nothing better than relaxing with a favorite Cote de Rhone and the latest edition of Wine Spectator. One of several monthly periodicals dealing exclusively with all things wine related, at $49.95 for 15 issues yearly, Wine Spectator is full of lush photos of exotic locales and in-depth wine reviews. Wine Enthusiast at $29.95 yearly is a terrific value allowing a bigger budget for better wine.

Wine temperature can be a fussy issue for those who have set aside a few bottles for special occasions. Warm or inconsistent temperatures and humidity can impact fermentation. Providing a place with constant temperature and humidity plus the added benefit of storage, wine coolers provide a convenient answer.

Wine coolers have become a standard equipment item for well-appointed kitchens. Varying in size from the humble under the counter unit to the double wide refrigerator version, your wine lover can store anywhere from a case of their favorites to 360 bottles. Costs range from just over $100 to $5,000. Consider such a purchase as insurance for a drinkable gem.

In order to maximize the flavor of a favorite wine, the gift of the proper glassware specially designed for that varietal is a great idea. There is stemware designed for chardonnay, burgundy, and many other wines. There is glassware also available for single-malt scotch, port and sherry for that matter.

Reidel, a crystal stemware manufacturer based in Kufstein, Austria, since around 1756, is the preeminent source for glasses and decanters for all wine and spirits. Despite its lofty pedigree, Reidel is available at retailers ranging from Wilbur’s Total Beverage to Williams-Sonoma, with prices ranging from $30 for a cabernet tumbler to more than $90 for glasses in the Sommelier Bordeaux collection.

Presentation is everything in the ultimate enjoyment of food and wine. Slowly pouring wine into a sexy decanter is not only cool but insures that sediment remains with the bottle. The process of decanting provides aeration to enhance subtle flavors especially in early vintages. Decanters are designed to maximize the amount of surface area exposed to the atmosphere. Libby has small carafes starting at $9 up to Reidel’s Crystal Dove at $235.

And because life is too short to drink average wine, here are my top go-to brands for the special bottle of something ambrosial. Stag’s Leap, Jordan and Silver Oak are excellent for cabernet. Zinfandel lovers will enjoy Turley and Seghesio. Duckhorn makes a terrific merlot. Pinot Noirs from Oregon vineyards such as Rex Hill, Bergstrom and Panther Creek are amazing. A exceptional chardonnay is Bergstrom’s 2014 Sigrid.

Happy Holidays!

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