For those looking to impress a wine enthusiast, it’s a daunting time. Department stores offer little that would please an oenophile, and the staff at Best Buy doesn’t know a thing about wine. The internet, meanwhile, presents too many options!
Relax. Wine lovers are easy to please, regardless of your budget. Here are my top picks.
If you’re shopping for a friend or family member, I’d suggest a wine club membership. Whether you’re spending money on a complete novice or the next Iron Sommelier, everyone appreciates trying new wines.
To start, check out the California Wine Club (CAWineClub.com).
About 20 years ago, the owners -- Bruce and Pam Boring -- realized that their favorite wines came from small, family-owned wineries in California recommended by friends. Too often, these wines were difficult to find across the country. So they launched a wine club to that would always feel like “one friend recommending a great bottle of wine to another.”
Today, they offer artisanal wines from across California at a number of different price points. The entry-level option -- the “Premier Club” -- starts at $49.95 per shipment.
TastingRoom.com is also worth exploring -- as it literally brings the tasting room to your living room. Launched just two years ago by a successful tech entrepreneur, the company transfers wine into miniature bottles (in a sealed, zero-oxygen chamber), allowing consumers to sample a host of wines without having to purchase an entire bottle. Wine club membership starts at $29.99 per month.
Newspaper wine clubs are also fun, especially for a novice. Over the past three years, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and many other papers have entered the wine business. Wine Spectator reviewed these clubs, and gave its highest praise to the New York Times for offering “the most interesting selection in terms of both quality and diversity.” These can be pricey, though. The New York Times’ “Sampler” club costs $90 per shipment.
Books also make good gifts.
If you’re shopping for a budding oenophile, pick her up a copy of Kevin Zraly’s “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.” For good reason, it’s been in print for nearly 30 years.
If you’re shopping for a wine enthusiast who already has a stocked bookcase, pick him up a copy of Evan Dawson’s “Summer in a Glass,” which chronicles the story of New York’s Finger Lakes wine region by profiling 12 key winemakers and growers. I’ve read about 25 wine books this year, and Dawson’s was my favorite.
Actual wine also works. But to make an impression, you’ll want something that isn’t easily found at the supermarket but is also recognizable. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is always memorable, and Hall Winery, Chimney Rock, and Robert Craig would fit this bill. They’re pricey but delicious. Of course, if you go this route, don’t hesitate to ask the knowledgeable staffer at your local wine shop for advice!
If you’re shopping for your boss or a client, personalized and customengraved wine bottles are fun. At PersonalWine.com, you can do this on bottles ranging from $20 (for a Chilean Chardonnay) to $119 (for a world famous Super Tuscan).
Whatever you do, don’t waste money. I’ve never seen the point of a wine stopper (even if it looks like a chimney, with Santa perched on top), and no wine enthusiast wants a kitschy wine glass, even if it’s painted with a drunken reindeer. The latest gadgets, too, are typically a waste -- cordless rechargeable wine bottle openers always seem more difficult to use than traditional waiters tools.
The holidays are supposed to be a time about giving, but receiving is also fun. So hopefully, the wine enthusiasts in your life will share the bounty -- and pull some corks with you this season!
David White, a wine writer, is the founder and editor of Terroirist.com. His columns are housed at Wines.com, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet.