Gift suggestions for wine lovers.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week June 5, 2008
If you are invited to a birthday or anniversary party for a wine enthusiast or are looking for a gift for the hosts of a dinner party you’re attending, there are many new and interesting items to make your search easy. Here are some suggestions:
Eisch Glaskultur is one of Europe’s most innovative glass makers. The company’s cutting-edge technologies include a process that inhibits drip formation on the lip of their decanters and “breathable” lead-free crystal that is reported to improve the aeration of the wine while in the glass.
Eisch’s breathable wineglasses come in various shapes designed to maximize the flavors of specific varietals ($ 19 – $ 26) and the Eisch decanters are both stylish and functional. Many older wines, as well as some of the big-styled newer ones, will benefit from decanting. My current favorite is the Eisch “duck”-shaped no-drip decanter ($ 149), with a clear base and a beautiful red crystal handle, which is attractive enough to be displayed prominently on any table.
Many wine lovers also enjoy flavorful spirits. Produced in Loretto Kentucky, Makers Mark is one of the best small-run bourbons. This delightful “sipping whisky” is created by painstaking attention to detail over the entire 6 year production process. Master Distiller David Pickerell describes making Makers Mark as “a labor of love.” The wheat, barley and corn are grown by local farmers and must meet exacting standards.
An old-fashioned roller-mill is utilized because “it doesn’t heat the grain like a hammer mill will,” and all the water used comes from a naturally filtered spring lake located on the distillery grounds. Because the top of the warehouse has different humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions than the bottom and sides of the building, the whisky filled barrels are rotated to various positions during aging.
Before the bourbon is placed into their trademark square bottle sealed with red wax, each batch is tasted by a panel of 20 employees and 95 % have to agree that it tastes “just like it should.” The result is a deliciously smooth, clean light bourbon with elegant honey, caramel and vanilla notes.
Personalized wine labels add a fun touch to a gift of a bottle of wine. Signature Wine (www.signaturewines.com) offers a large selection of first-rate wines (including Clos du Bois and Kendall-Jackson) as well as large and small format Champagnes. Signature’s user-friendly software makes it easy to design an appropriate label for the holidays.
The latest baggage restrictions prohibit taking wine bottles in carry-on luggage. Packing wine in suitcases is always risky since is it is difficult to assure appropriate padding that will reduce the chance of breakage. An alternative to risking a cherished Cabernet soak through sweaters is the Bottle.wise Travel Bag, ($ 49) a TSA-friendly wine bottle holder. The padded, liquid-tight pouches can also be used to protect other regional delicacies such as olive oils and is a great gift for someone planning a trip to the wine country.
Food-friendly and festive, sparkling wines are a classic gift for any celebration. From France try the dazzling Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Blanc de Blanc des Millenaires 1995 ($ 95) with creamy honey, toffee and hazelnut notes. The Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne Cuvee 225 1997 ($ 100) comes from an underappreciated vintage. It has well-balanced and lingering brioche and butterscotch flavors along with a citrus at the finish.
Different in style is the medium-bodied Philipponnat Brut Champagne Reserve 1997 ($ 60) with lemon, ginger and honey notes. California’s Domaine Carneros Le Reve Carneros 2000 ($ 65) has beautifully complex biscuit, nut and vanilla flavors while the Schramsberg J. Schram Napa-Montery-Medocino Counties 1997 ($ 85) has citrus and orange aromas leading to delightful fig and hazelnut notes. A very good kosher sparkler is the Laurent Perrier Brut Rose Champagne NV ($ 50) with slightly spicy strawberry and cherry flavors.
Wine cooling units are some of the most popular gifts this year. Wineenthusiast.com has a series of silent wine coolers ranging from a 6 bottle counter top model ($ 130) to a 48 bottle unit ($ 600). When money is no object, consider the Vinotheque 550 Chateau Montelena, ($ 9500) available in oak, cherry or mahogany, that can hold over 400 bottles at perfect temperature and humidity (iwawine.com).
A way to combine gift-giving with charitable contributions is to buy some Big Tattoo Wines. Founders Alex and Erik Bartholomaus established the company to generate money for charity to honor the memory of their mother, Liliana. A portion of the purchase price is donated directly to local causes and over $1 million has been raised since the company was founded in 2002. A blend of German Reisling and Pinot Blanc, the Two Brothers Big Tattoo White ($ 9) is a great bargain with crisp peach and citrus flavors while the Two Brothers Big Tattoo Red ($ 9), a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Chile, has big black fruit and cherry flavors.