Classy Gifts for Wine Lovers

Once again, I’ve put off my holiday shopping until the last minute. It’s cold, it’s snowing and I don’t want to leave the house.

Fortunately, Santa has a laptop now, so we can all pour ourselves a glass of our favorite Big Sexy Red (or white, or hooch) and get our shopping done online. Here’s a list that any wine lover (which is pretty much everyone I know) can cozy up with:

 

 

The Aervana Aerator – $99.95 (left photo, above) might be my favorite wine toy. It aerates your wine instantly; gently press the button and your wine is on tap. Sediment stays at the bottom of the bottle, not in your glass, and you’ll never spill a drop. It takes six AAA batteries to operate, but thank you Santa, they’re included with the aerator. Use this gadget in front of your friends and it’s guaranteed to send your cool factor through the roof. Also available at Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond.

We’ve all known the heartbreak of dropping a bottle of wine on the sidewalk and watching our precious liquid spill onto the sidewalk. You can prevent those sad accidents with the Bottle Shock Wine Case –  $159, 2-bottle case; 179, 3-bottle case (center), a crush-resistant, gasket-sealed tote. It’s sturdy enough to be checked baggage, but I find it most handy when I’m taking several bottles to a friend’s house and don’t want to risk breaking them. The dense foam will protect your wine – trust me, those bottles aren’t moving – and the strap even has a small pouch for stashing a corkscrew.

I’ve tried a lot of drying cloths, but none have dried my glasses as fast and completely as the Wu-beez – $7.95 or $9.95/pack of two (photo on right). They leave behind no streaks or lint, and dry my best glasses with one swipe. If you’re giving wineglasses, stuff some cloths into the glasses to complete your gift.

 

For the wine lover who travels, the VinGarde Valise – $299.99 (photo on left) is a splurge but worth every penny. The super-dense foam inserts fit up to a dozen wine bottles safely – and by safely, I mean you can feel confident checking the bag; your wine will arrive at its destination in perfect condition, and under the 50-pound weight limit. I’ve carried wine home from Sonoma and Italy in this lightweight, indestructible suitcase. Extra foam sheets and straps constructed with auto seatbelt material secure the wine, and you can order extra inserts shaped for carrying wineglasses or magnums. VinGarde Valise is also available on Amazon.

Once you’ve drank wine from fine crystal, you’ll never go back to clunky glasses – but honestly, PubWare – $49.99/set of 4 (center) is different. It has the weight of glass and the rim is thin on your lips, just like a quality wineglass, but PubWare is unbreakable. It’s not plastic, exactly, but these stemless, 12-ounce glasses are PBA-free. PubWare also is available in flutes and other shapes. The best part: until December 31, the glasses are on sale for 25 percent off ($37.49/set of 4) with free shipping, so if you expect gift-giving occasions next year, it’s a good idea to pounce on these now.

Lastly, I think the RePour – $8.99, 4-pack; $16.99, 10-pack (right) makes a great stocking stuffer. These stoppers save leftover wine by eliminating all the oxygen in the bottle, thereby preventing the wine from degrading. The manufacturers claim the wine will stay fresh for months; I can’t test that part because I can’t imagine not finishing a bottle for that long. But if you have an expensive bottle and want to save some for a special occasion coming up in a few weeks, these stoppers should preserve it for you.

Happy shopping!

Mary

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My Top 10 Wines & Spirits in 2017

As you might guess, I enjoy an adult beverage (or two) pretty much every day. That adds up to a lot of different wines and spirits. Selecting 10 favorites was a challenge – but holy Zinfandel, was the research fun!

These bottles range in price from super-affordable to impress-the-boss splurge, but none are ridiculously pricey. Any would make superb holiday gifts.

In no particular order, these are my 2017 picks:

 

 

  • When I served Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (40 proof, $38) to a few friends, none of them knew they were sipping rum – they thought it tasted like brandy or a honey-infused bourbon. That’s not too far-fetched, since this Venezuelan beauty is aged for up to 12 years in bourbon barrels. Long aging bestows elegance on a fine rum; this one carries notes of fennel, caramel, oak and corn. I wouldn’t mix Diplomatico – savor it neat or cool it with one ice cube.
  • If you haven’t tried reds from northern Italy, the 2016 Colterenzio St. Magdalener, DOC Alto Adige (12.5 percent alcohol, $14) is a good introduction. Its vegetable tone is delicious, tinged with parsley and, as it rests, tea and black cherries. It’s a bit stony, and the ashy aroma continues into the taste with milk chocolate and smoke in the finish. If you don’t like tannins, you’ll love this wine, but keep it for a year or two before you crack the bottle.
  • I drank my 2014 Yarden Malbec (14.5 percent alcohol, $32.99) while I munched on olives, cheese and pepperoni – a typical lazy supper for moi – and it held up beautifully. This Israeli wine, produced in the Golan Heights in Galilee, is a real Big Sexy Red – plums and smoke aroma, followed by bacon, blackberries and a bit of dark raisin tastes. It reminded me of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered shortbread stars, but with heat.
  • Whenever I see Zweigelt, I buy it because it’s not that common in the U.S., but I had never tried a Zweigelt rosé. Earlier this year, a friend gave me a bottle of 2015 Josef & Philipp Bründlmayer Grafenegg Rosé vom Zweigelt (12 percent alcohol, $50) and I’m on a mission to find more. Although Zweigelt is a relatively obscure grape in the U.S. it’s actually the most-planted red in Austria. The soft salmon-colored wine is a high-acid gem – “almost fizzy,” my friend said – but creamy and earthy at the same time.

 

 

 

  •  Pinot Noir isn’t always a big-bold red, but the 2013 Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir       Carneros (13.5 percent alcohol, $27) is almost chewy, and dark like a California tan. I got an aroma of dark grapes, blackberries and a bit of turkey sausage (and I mean that in a good way). Add black pepper, raspberries, plums, bell peppers and pomegranate on the palate – a well-ordered structure with smoke and mocha on the finish.
  • I discovered Hanson of Sonoma Small Batch Cucumber Flavored Vodka (80 proof, $26) on a trip to Sonoma last spring and when I returned in November, I brought home two bottles. Don’t let the “flavored” deter you; these certified organic artisan distillers infuse their grape-based vodkas with real produce, and you won’t be drinking a cucumber salad – that taste is barely a kiss. It’s only distributed on the West Coast, but I found it online at MissionLiquor.com. Shipping cost for one bottle is exorbitant, but if you buy three or more it gets reasonable.
  •  One of the hottest wine regions these days is Eastern Europe, and 2015 Patricius Tokaj Dry Furmint (12 percent alcohol, $15) is a great example of the quality wines produced there. Tokaj in Hungary is the world’s first designated wine appellation, and Furmint, one of its most abundant white grapes, is used for making both sweet and dry wines. This one is as dry as wine gets – zesty, fresh, with strong minerality and stone fruit flavors, along with a touch of pineapple and banana.

 

 

 

  • I haven’t tasted every rye in the world, but Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Small Batch Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (90 proof, $49.99) is the best I’ve tried. Developed by Wild Turkey’s master distiller Jimmy Russell, it’s one smooth drink. The tastes are a delicious blend of toffee, rye, pecan and cinnamon – and don’t you dare mix it; this is a fine sipping rye. Just make sure it’s labeled “6 Year Old,” because the regular Russell’s Reserve Rye is 104 proof and not nearly as refined-tasting.
  • Casal Thaulero’s 2009 Thalé Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (14 percent alcohol, $40) is that special-occasion bottle you set aside – but just for a short while, because it’s at its peak now. After aromas of red fruit and vanilla, expect a big, bold mouthfeel and tastes of maple, pumpkin spice and dry leaves – perfect for fall and winter drinking.
  • It’s probably not fair for me to include this bottle because a friend bought it in Italy, but Limoncello is my favorite digestivo and always makes a great gift. It’s traditionally made with Sorrento lemons in southern Italy, but I’ve come across some terrific limoncello produced here in the U.S., too. Get recommendations from your liquor merchant; the best limoncello is sweet enough that you know you’re drinking liqueur, but not cloying; and tart but not bitter. Like any fine liquor, it should be smooth and balanced. You can find quality limoncello for less than $40.

Bonus picks – Three choice drinks didn’t make the list: Ferrari Grappa Segnana Solera, omitted only because it’s not distributed in the U.S. (but worth ordering online if you can find it); OYO Bourbon Whiskey, Michelone Reserve, distributed only in eight states but also available online; and Maker’s 46, a great option when you want a not-ordinary bourbon to sip by the fire. All three are in my cabinet…So many bottles, so little time!

Next up – uncommon, last-minute wine gifts for any wine lover – or treat yourself!

Cheers,

Mary