Wine’s time to shine comes the same time every year — right now. Whether as a gift, part of a larger basket, holiday dinner party fuel, family get-togethers, or whatever, it seems there is always a bottle or two in the picture. And for good reason: The holidays are made for wine.
Think about it. What is one of easiest gifts to give (other than those ubiquitous gift cards) and one that is always well received? Yes, wine. I give them out like business cards to friends, neighbors, family, colleagues, tennis coaches, our letter carriers, the FedEx and UPS guys, our gardener and cleaning lady, the list goes on. Plus, for the true wine nut, there is a whole world of great gift-giving options.
During a recent visit to Williams-Sonoma, I learned more about the company’s Wine Club and mailing program and thought it would make a wonderful gift. “The Explorer” package, as an example, includes four reds and two whites for $90 ($15 per bottle) and is designed for someone seeking broader knowledge of particular varietals or regions. A recent mailing included a Spanish cava (sparkling wine), a California chardonnay and cab, malbec from Argentina, a red from Austria and a Tuscan red blend. Good cross section and a good gift for a wine fan.
With relaxed shipping laws taking hold in Arizona, you can finally send your friends and family the gift of the grape, or receive some yourself. Wine and spirits retailer BevMo is touting its shipping and receiving wine program by Christmas with shipping options up until Dec. 20. Need a couple of bottles of Pommery sent to your best client by Christmas? Contact BevMo, which, in the East Valley, maintains stores in Queen Creek, Chandler and Tempe. AZ Wine Co., with several Scottsdale locations, also ships wine.
But giving wine also opens up another quandary: Which wine to give? If you’re anxious about giving wine to someone who knows his way around a wine cellar, perhaps you’ll want to consider giving a wine accessory or book or even the gift of travel. The former is always a good option. A decanter is always an appropriate gift for a wine aficionado. They always have one of two bottles that they’ve been squirreling away and will only serve it if it’s been decanted. Prices vary wildly. An entry-level but good-quality Riedel Vivant decanter costs about $20 at Target stores, while a top-of-the-line Riedel Amadeo decanter costs more than 10 times that at specialty stores like Sportsman’s in Scottsdale or Sur La Table in Chandler. These stores will also have lots of other wine-centric accessories like high-quality cork screws, crystal corks, wine “charms” (those cute little tags you put on your glass to know whose glass is yours) and more.
Wine books also are winners among wine lovers. Annual vintage reports by trade journal Wine Spectator are always a good read, as is wine wonk Robert Parker’s annual compendium. But one gift that I’ve given out several times and always seems to bring smiles is “The Wine Bible” by Karen MacNeil. The author spent most of her career based in Northern California writing about wine for Sunset magazine, and now teaches full-time. “The Wine Bible” is accessible and easy to follow, and includes lots of historic anecdotes and information about regional wine laws, which helps sort out, for example, why a First Growth is called a First Growth. The books costs about $20 and is widely available.
Finally, several years ago, I sent some friends down to Arizona’s wine country with a gift certificate to the Sonoita Inn south of Tucson, and they still thank me every time we see them. They spent two days visiting the local vineyards and quaint shops and restaurants of Sonoita, Patagonia and Elgin, and gained a sense of Arizona terroir in the wine. Much of the year, you can stay at Sonoita Inn, and several other options in the region, for less than $100 per night. It’s a gift that will cause the recipients to raise a glass in your honor.