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Two Women on Wine: Choosing the perfect holiday wine gift

Posted: December 10, 2010 10:05 a.m.
Updated: December 10, 2010 10:05 a.m.

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier

 


Editor's note: This column has been updated from one that ran in December of last year.

Wine is one of the most popular gifts at the holidays. It's easy to give and always appreciated. It's especially popular as a last-minute gift and perfect when you're on your way to a holiday party and you don't want to arrive empty-handed. With a small bit of help from your neighborhood wine merchant, it's not hard to come up with a wine gift that's personal and special.

Our approach is to start by thinking about what we already know about the recipient. Do they love chocolate or sweet desserts? If so, then a bottle of Port might be the ideal wine gift. Fortified with brandy, which gives it a higher sugar and alcohol content, Port can stand up to sweet desserts. And there are few moments more luscious than a nibble of chocolate and a sip of Port.

If we know the person's favorite vacation spot - maybe it's the Pacific Northwest, Tuscany, South America - we try to choose a local wine produced by a small, artisan winery in the region. What a lovely "souvenir" gift!

A friend of ours travels to Alaska each year to fish for salmon. (We love him for that because he always shares his catch.) For him, we choose a bottle of Pinot Noir because it is a wonderful match with the salmon. If we knew a hunter who brought back venison to share with us, we'd select a Shiraz, Malbec or Zinfandel, all bold enough to pair nicely with game meat.

We have some wine-savvy friends, and for them we may lean toward a blend, perhaps a Rhone blend (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah) or a Meritage blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot). These are good choices if you're not sure of the recipient's preferences.

For folks who may be new to wine, look for light-bodied wines. For example, choose Pinot Grigo, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, or Sangiovese. Light-bodied wines have lower alcohol content and aren't challenging, which makes them easy and enjoyable to drink with or without food.

New this year is our Holiday Sampler, which is sure to complement everyone's holiday table. We've personally selected six sampler wines with gift giving and holiday entertaining in mind: one sparkling Malvasia Rosé from Italy, two crisp whites (a California Pinot Grigio and Argentine Torrontes), two full-bodied reds (a Russian River Zinfandel and Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon), and one late harvest dessert wine.

We also have other wine collections available, while supplies last. Please note: Because we carry hand-crafted, artisan wines that are only available in very limited supply, there is always the possibility that we may sell out of a particular varietal. In that case, substitutions for wines with a similar profile may be made.

And then, of course, there's always the option of choosing something universal that can be enjoyed by everyone from novice to aficionado. We recommend a journey through California's wine country with a collection of wine-centric books: "The California Directory of Fine Wineries, Northern Region Edition" (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino) and "Central Coast Edition" (Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles). Every page is illuminated by images that take readers on a journey covering boutique tasting rooms, working ranches, warehouse wineries, elegant estates, and intimate, family-owned vineyards. These hardcover directories are an essential, up-to-date guide to destinations of charm and character and make the perfect gift for anyone who loves wine, travel or both.

For history buffs there's Andrew Caldwell's latest book "Their Last Suppers." This fascinating glimpse into the personal lives of such notables as Abraham Lincoln, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe explores their final meals and wines consumed. The concept behind the book is about famous people who died tragically and a recording of some of the funny or just amusing historical facts about those individuals and what they ate for their last dinners. Meals are listed in cookbook style with ingredients and directions for making those exact dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen.

In addition to fine, wonderful wines, you may want to consider all the fun, wine-related gadgets available on the market today. Perhaps the Vinturi Wine Aerator, which allows wines to breathe almost instantly, would make the perfect gift or the Ravi Instant Wine Refresher, which chills red wines on the spot. There's the Electric Rabbit rechargable corkscrew or the Houdini corkscrew. New to the store is the Wine Life Preserver, an inert gas that's flavorless, odorless, and colorless, and the Onyx Vintage Vac, an automatic vacuum pump that allows you to enjoy your wine from beginning to end. And, of course, there's handy two and three bottle totes available that are always holiday favorites.

At Vino 100, our friendly, knowledgeable staff can help you select the perfect wine or wine accessories for everyone on your list. We have extended hours through December and offer complimentary gift wrapping with every purchase. Have a happy holiday season!

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier are owners of Vino 100 in Valencia, a unique specialty wine store offering boutique, handcrafted wines from small, artisan vineyards, as well as a large selection of gifts and accessories. Daily tastings, weekly specials and monthly events. Visit Vino 100 located at 28112 Newhall Ranch Road in the HighRidge Crossing Center at the corner of Copper Hill Drive in Valencia. (661) 294-6886, www.vino100valencia.com.

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