- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- WINE GIFTS GALORE : Thanks to all the local wine shops, gift givers have a wide choice of items sure to please wine lovers.
If your friend is an oenophile (new to wine appreciation), any gift will be welcomed, from corkscrews and aerators to crystal wineglasses and educational tools. If he or she is a wine connoisseur, obviously, they always appreciate the gift of a great bottle of wine. That said, experts are the most difficult people to buy for simply because they already own the necessary accessories, from Riedel stemware and decanters to collectible corkscrews and bottle chillers.
Winemaker Lane Tanner, who makes her eponymous label in Santa Maria, told me the best wine gift she ever received was an insulated wine tote given by her friend Ceci at Maison Deutz (now Laetitia Winery) in Arroyo Grande. But there’s one type of gift she doesn’t appreciate much: “The gifts I think are really dorky are the wine-related Christmas tree ornaments,” she laughed. “And hopefully this means I won’t get any more!” I chuckled while picturing the reindeer made of wine corks hanging on my tree. As for my least favorite gift: I say bah humbug to wineglass jewelry!
But get your wine expert pal the latest guide to food and wine pairing, or a gift certificate for indulgent classes on pairing wine with artisan cheese, and he or she will always remember your generosity. You’ll find most of these gift ideas at every local wine shop, but here are some unique choices sure to please even the Grinch on your gift list.
In SLO, at Central Coast Wines you can buy your relatives or friends who love wine a gift certificate for a private wine and cheese tasting, or a wine and chocolate tasting conducted by a wine expert in their own home. Owner Dianna Ritchie said: “We discuss the theme with the host to set up the menu of wines and cheeses, or wines and chocolates. The choices depend on the budget, which starts as low as $100.” They recently provided this service for a party
The Crushed Grape, renowned for their lavish gift baskets filled with locally made ingredients, features a wide array of gourmet foods paired with fine wines. Owner Gretchen Gonyer said their most popular gourmet foods include Earth and Vine red bell pepper and ancho chili jam, Honey Ridge Farm’s balsamic honey vinegar, and their newest addition, a small dog carrier basket called “my dog and me” filled with treats for the master and pet.
Monterey St. Wine Co. offers excellent wine and cheese pairings. Why not have them create a gift basket with the ultimate wine and cheese pairing? Just tell them your price range and they’ll create the ideal basket for you, whatever your theme.
At the Madonna Inn Gourmet Wine Shop, which was recently relocated inside the inn, manager Sue Wenzel said they have an array of local wines and artisan chocolates from Oregon specialist Moonstruck Chocolatier.
In Morro Bay, co-owner John Nordhus of Morro Bay Wine Sellers reported the Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator, $36, is this year’s hot item for wine aficionados. It makes wine more approachable for drinking when opened young. They also offer the less expensive wine pourers with built-in aeration systems, only $18.
Fermentations in Cambria has something new, said owner Erik Fredrickson, a wine bottle- or wine barrel-shaped artistic wire holder for showing off the corks you’ve recently popped. It’s a bit like name-dropping, where you can show off your favorite wineries.
In Templeton, 15 Degrees C Wine Shop and Bar owner Ali Rush Carscaden is a Certified Sommelier who can help you choose the right wine for someone no matter what the receiver’s level of wine knowledge. “If you have an idea of what you want, we can help you find a great wine at any price range. We have wines priced from $6 to $600, and over 500 different wines from around the world,” Ali noted. Although that number of wines sounds intimidating, with Ali’s friendly help you’ll have no problem selecting the perfect wine for a gift.
In Avila Beach, Avila Wine & Roasting Co. exclusively offers Oregon artist Darryl Piatt’s ceramic glass trays that hold a wine glass and appetizers. Co-owner Karen Brandt says their beautiful plates come in several styles and colors at $16 each.
At DePalo & Sons in Shell Beach, Scott and Andrea William’s delicious deli foods and broad wine selection draws a crowd. And right now they’re still selling two wines from Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2009: Dr. Loosen 2008 Riesling, $14.99, and Monte Antico 2006 Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvingon, just $12.99.
In Arroyo Grande, owner Bob Lund of Lund’s Fine Wines says pink wines and bubblies are hot this year. “Americans are starting to appreciate Roses and they pair so well with holiday foods, from turkey and ham to pork and chicken.” His French sparklers range from Bouvet Rose at $15 to Louis Roederer 1997 Rose at $75, plus many American Roses. (Check out Margareta Lund’s beautiful handmade jewelry; it’s value-priced for the quality).