Making a holiday shopping list can be pretty stressful. Fret not: Wine and spirits are the perfect gift for all of your 21 and older loved ones. I guess it could seem like a bottle of booze is a pretty impersonal thing to give someone. You just have to make it a very personal gift. Think of something special about each person and equate it with a wine or spirit. If your buddy took a trip to the Caribbean, get him a great bottle of high-end rum, along with a fun recipe book for fruity cocktails. Not only would your friend enjoy trying some tasty rum drinks, but he would be revisiting his vacation thanks to you.
We all have friends or family who come from far-away places. My brother-in-law, who is German, loves trying new wines. Several years ago I gave him a bottle of Louis Guntrum Niersteiner Riesling Spatlese, and had it signed in German by Louis Konstantin Guntrum himself, wishing him well. Even though it was just a $15 bottle of wine, it meant so much more to him.
Know someone with a serious sweet tooth? How about giving them a bottle of port or dessert wine, along with some kind of sinful pastries. Make it even more special by baking something yourself and declaring it your family's secret recipe (even if it isn't). A good combination is tawny port (I recommend the Warres Otima 10-year Tawny) and nuts, whether they be chocolate covered or otherwise. Another fantastic coupling is vintage port (the Broadbent 1997 is quite a treat) with chocolate in any form. Unfortunately, vintage ports usually carry a pretty hefty price tag, so go for a Late-bottled vintage port if you're on a budget. (Try the Quinta do Crasto 1997.) The wine will be a little less intense, but will be equally impressive alongside a hunk of chocolate.
Lots of people are self-proclaimed experts in the art of grilling and barbecuing. If you know one who is also a wine lover, give 'em some zinfandel. Zins are really peppery and spicy, and most have very little tannin, if any, which makes for the perfect accompaniment to tangy BBQ sauce. The absence of big tannins also make zins great with grilled seafood, not just meat. Go for any Ridge Zinfandel (range from $17 - $40), Biale (the "Black Chicken" Zinfandel—around $35 is fantastic), or Karly "Warrior Fires" (around $20).
Glassware makes for great gifts, too. Both Riedel and Spiegelau make glasses not only for wine, but also for single-malt scotch, tequila, cognac or martinis—you name it, really. A couple of fancy snifters with a bottle of Remy Martin XO Cognac (at least $120) would be downright impressive. A decanter is also a good present alongside an older vintage wine or any phat collectible bottle. For the all-out wine enthusiast, look for unusual decanters—the avid wine collector most likely already has a few basic decanters. There are some pretty cool ones out there. Check out Wine Enthusiast on the web for a huge selection of pretty much every wine accessory under the sun.
Oh, and for anyone who might be trying to decide what to get for me, I collect vintage cocktail shakers.
Try not to give someone a bottle of wine because you like it. Instead, find one that you know they'll love for more than just the fact that it's good. Plus, there's a pretty good chance that you'll be invited to share.
I just wanted to say that Lesley's wine guides are among my very favorite things in the JFP. They're just smart, accessible, fun to read, and perfect guides to drinking.
- David McCarty