Gift suggestions for this year’s holiday season.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week December 7, 2006
By now your mailbox is overflowing with catalogs urging you to buy everything from a waxed-fruit subscription to a glow-in-the-dark menorah. While it is sometimes difficult to select appropriate holiday gifts, each year it gets easier to buy something for the wine-lovers on your list. Here are some suggestions:
There are a number of websites that will send a wine gift basket but, with a little effort, it is easy (and less expensive) to create one yourself. Pick out an appropriately large enough basket to accommodate the wines and tie a ribbon to the handle. Add two or three bottles of wine such as the delightfully crisp Pommery NV Brut Royal Champagne ($ 23) that comes packaged in a bright blue metal container or California’s Domaine Carneros Brut 2002 ($ 25) that has pear, apple and hazelnut notes.
And don’t forget some something sweet. Mike Grgich, one of the legendary winemakers of Napa Valley, also sells delicious Cabernet-Filled Chocolates ($ 9/box) prepared from Belgian chocolate and his 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (www.grgich.com). A box of wine charms (winerackstore.com) that slip onto the stem of the glass is another nice touch.
Present the kosher wine drinkers on your list with the Porto Cordovero Ruby Port NV ($ 25), made from the highly regarded vineyards of Taylor Flagate. The first kosher Port, it has cherry, black prune and spicy vanilla notes and is a wonderful accompaniment to cheese or with dessert. Also very good is the Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib Flor de Primavera 2003 ($ 40) a blend of Grenache, Carinena and Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the Montsant region of Spain. Oak, pepper, raspberry and blackberry flavors predominate making this a perfect complement to slightly spicy dishes. The well regarded Carmel Winery has released the Carmel Limited Edition 2002 ($ 40), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Israel. Earthy black fruit flavors, firm tannins and noticeable oak make this wine worthy of 3 more years in the bottle before opening.
Every wine drinker needs more wine glasses. Ravenscroft makes lead-free crystal glasses, wine decanters, and products to use with distilled spirits which cost much less than many other brands. Their Amplifier Series features wide bases and narrow openings to concentrate the wine’s aromas and flavors and the R. Croft Wine Collection glasses are attractive and dishwasher safe. The Ravenscroft Duck Decanter ($ 70) and Punted Trumpet Decanter ($ 50) are attractive and effectively aerate wines for serving.
For the single malt lovers on your list consider buying a bottle or two of Signatory Single Cask Scotch Whiskey. As one of the three independent Scotch bottlers, Signatory purchases individual casks from well known single malt distillers and ages them in their own warehouses. When they like they way they taste, the scotch is bottled with a label that reveals the cask number as well as the dates of distillation and bottling. The result is a range of flavors, ages and strengths usually not available from the original distillers. The Signatory Un-Chilledfiltered 1990 Macallan ($ 99) and the Signatory 1994 Tamdhu ($ 69) are two of my favorites but any of recent releases would be certainly be a special treat. In Washington, they can be found at Schneider’s of Capitol Hill.
For friends that like to entertain, I suggest a visit to MyWinesDirect.com which has a Tasting Party Pack ($ 99) that they call “A Party in a Box.” Included are instructions on how to host a wine tasting party, bottle wrappers to make the tasting “blind” and 22 tasting mats with space for comments. To make things even easier, they also send six wines, specifically chosen to demonstrate the effect of location on the characteristics of wine. My kit included a French White Burgundy, a bottle of Australian Chardonnay and a California Chardonnay from Monterey County, as well as three Syrahs; two from the Mendoza region of Argentina, and the other from Napa Valley. Consider also a membership in their wine club whose thoughtful selections are grouped by style and are accompanied by well-written tasting notes.
Another gift idea is a great way to learn to appreciate the scents found in the most common wine varietals. The Wine Bouquet Kit ($ 99) from WineEnthusiast.com includes 36 vials of the most common aromas found in wine. They also have a Wine Essence Kit ($ 69) that includes a glass and samples of the most frequent components within wine. Studious types may want to work on these solo, but they are also fun to open with friends.
Jancis Robinson is one of the hero’s of the wine world. Besides her regular wine column in The Financial Times, and her excellent website (jancisrobinson.com), she is the editor of the recently released third edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine ($ 40). Exhaustively researched and remarkably easy to read, it covers every aspect of the wine world from vines to goblets and would be welcomed by any wine lover. Beginning his career in 1960 as Vogue Magazine’s first wine writer, Hugh Johnson has over 40 years of experience in the trade. His A Life Uncorked ($ 24) is a marvelous collection of autobiographic stories and insights into wine creation and culture. And Daniel Rogov has updated his comprehensive Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines 2007 ($ 15), an essential guide to the wineries of one of the world’s most improving wine producing countries.