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Find last-minute gifts aplenty

No matter what size your budget, you can find ideal gifts at wine shops




If you still have a few important people on your gift list—your dad, say, or BFF—for whom you still haven’t found a present, I offer a simple solution. You can find something really special at your neighborhood wine shop. The great thing about wine shopping is that you don’t have to be a wine geek, nor even somewhat knowledgeable about wine to find the right gift. The wine experts and enthusiasts working at local shops can easily help you choose a gift your friend will never forget. Honestly, there’s a very good wine shop in nearly every town in San Luis Obispo County, each of which has an array of unique gift choices that will fit within anyone’s budget.

In San Luis Obispo, Monterey St. Wine Co. offers excellent wines and cheeses, and, like most shops, provides the opportunity for you to create a gift basket filled with delicious wine and food pairings. Shop manager Greg Rose recommends the Veritas True Crystal decanters, available in sizes for decanting a 500/ml or normal sized 750/ml bottle. “These traditional decanters are becoming quite the thing among wine lovers. They are made in Poland, mouth blown and lead free, ranging from as low as $9 to $40,” he noted. “The thing these days is all about getting some functionality.”

At Central Coast Wines, co-owner Dianna Ritchie suggested a certificate, approximately $250 per person, for their four-week wine classes. Or you can get a certificate for $15 or $20 for their monthly food and wine tasting events, which sometimes feature beer and food tastings.

In Morro Bay, Chris Battles, owner of Morro Bay Wine Sellers, reported that the “vinOair,” a $19.99 wine aerator, is this year’s hot item among wine enthusiasts: “It’s much easier to use than last year’s popular Vinturi aerator, and it makes wine more approachable for drinking when opened young.”

In Templeton, 15 Degrees C Wine Shop owner Ali Rush Carscaden, a certified sommelier, creates amazing wine bundles. It’s her idea of the wine gift basket, she explained: “We can make them as elaborate as you want, or you can buy a pre-made bundle we call “the grab and go” that are decorated with cute stoppers and candy canes.” They’re as low as $35 and go up to $950 for a case-sized bundle.

Visit Tastes of the Valleys in Pismo Beach, where co-owner Ash Mehta offers his own style of bundles: “If someone buys three bottles or more of wine, we’ll offer them a dozen Brown Butter Cookie Company’s sea salt cocoa cookies for $8, or a box of dukkah (Middle Eastern spice dip) for just $4.” He also offers discounts on sets of wines from the Central Coast’s best wineries.

In Avila Beach, Avila Wine & Roasting Co.
co-owner Karen Brandt said she’s offering original art from local artist Dotty Hawthorne, who specializes in plein air original oils and pastels. “Some of them feature vineyards, oak trees, and the Pismo Beach Dinosaur Caves, ranging from $295 to $1,100,” she said. “Her beautiful notecards are only $4.” The place will be open on Christmas Day. Brandt wants to give the tourists someplace to go besides their hotels—good to know in case you get a last-minute invitation and need to bring along some impressive wines.

If you have a recipient on your list who’s just starting to become a wine aficionado, or is a Cal Poly student in the Vines to Wines Club, any educational gift, especially books, will really be appreciated. Sideways is a great book for all wine lovers, who, undoubtedly, saw the movie based on Rex Pickett’s novel. After winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay. The attention it got put the Hollywood spotlight on Santa Barbara County wine country, which also illuminated San Luis Obispo wineries in a grand way no wine magazine had ever accomplished.

I enjoyed the movie so much, and laughed so hard, I had to read the book. In November, the sequel about Miles and Jack, Vertical, was released. The wayward wine drinkers hit the wine roads once again, but this time they start in Shell Beach at the annual World of Pinot Noir festival. From there you’ll follow them to Paso Robles, Carneros, Sonoma, and then to their final destination in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (in Oregon, they like to correct you by saying: “It’s pronounced Wil-lam-it, dammit!” and how could anyone forget that?). Pickett’s writing is as entertaining as it is insightful to the lifestyle changes he experienced after winning those prestigious awards. I haven’t found it in local bookstores, but you can order it at

Whereever you’re shopping in SLO County, you’ll find these outstanding wine specialists happy to help you fill out your holiday gift list. And they’re the only places I know of where you can taste wine while you shop.

SLO County wine shops:

• Avila Wine & Roasting Co., 53 San Miguel St., Avila Beach, 627-1918,

• Central Coast Wines, 712 Higuera St., SLO, 784-9463,

• Crushed Grape, 319 Madonna Road, suite 2, SLO, 544-4449,

• De Palo and Sons, 2665 Shell Beach Road, Shell Beach, 773-1589,

• Fermentations, 4056 Burton Dr., Cambria, 927-7141,

• 15 Degrees C Wine Shop, 1121 Rossi Road, Templeton, 434-1554,

• Gather Wine Bar, 122 E. Branch St., Arroyo Grande, 474-4771,

• Lund’s Fine Wines, 133 E. Branch St., Arroyo Grande, 473-1184,

• Madonna Inn Gourmet Wine Shop, 100 Madonna Road, SLO, 784-2438,

• Meze Wine Café & Market, 1880 Santa Barbara Ave., SLO, 548-8070,

• Monterey St. Wine Co., 1255 Monterey St., SLO, 541-1255, Monterey

• Morro Bay Wine Sellers, 601 Embarcadero, suite 5, Morro Bay, 772-8388,

• Paso Wine Centre, 1240 Park St., Paso Robles, 239-9156,

• Pithy Little Wine Co., 1037 Chorro St., SLO, 546-1059,

• Tastes of the Valleys, 911 Price St., Pismo Beach, 773-8466,

• Vino Versato, 781 Price St., Pismo Beach, 295-6622,

Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at


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