I met an old friend for coffee this week. We soon began comparing levels of amazement at how fast the holidays were approaching, and how ill-prepared we are.
“I have too many gifts to get and not enough time” my friend complained.
“I can help, you know. Wine always makes a nice gift.” I said.
“But I can’t give wine to everybody on my list” she said, “they’re all so different.”
“Try me”, I said. Then the next few minutes turned into what can only be called my “Gift giving guide for a wine-soaked holiday”.
Innovators vs. Traditionalists
“Well, for example, a lot of my friends are pretty progressive – they work in the arts, advertising, writing… you know the types. But then there’s my old college roommate – she’s the very poster child for “Traditional”, has Norman Rockwell prints in her dining room, sends daily tweets with feel-good quotes, and probably has a kitty poster in her cubicle, you get the idea.”
“Those are easy”, I said, “Your current friends are likely to eschew the traditional. Give them the gift of the latest new wine discovery – something that’s hot in the hippest of wine bars. Good candidates that won’t break the bank include a dry, floral white like the Malat Gruner Veltliner ($18) or the Andeluna Torrontes ($12.50). And if they enjoy red wines too then include a bottle of the Southern Rhone blend from Riussanelle ($19) or the Chilean Pacifico Sur Reserve Pinot Noir ($15)
“But your old roommate is a different story” I went on. “She clearly likes to stick with known entities, so don’t surprise her with anything too edgy. Stick with the ol’ traditionals – Cabernet and Chardonnay. Try the Napa Cabernet from Bighorn Cellars ($20) and/or Bonneau’s Carneros Chardonnay ($28), both are affordable wines made in the classic style she’ll appreciate.”
“Perfect, that takes care of my friends and co-workers!” She said as she paused to take notes on the inside of her coffee cup’s hot sleeve. Then she turned a bit coy as she asked “What would you recommend for my dinner date tomorrow night? I’ve been invited over by this new guy I’m seeing. It’s our first dinner at his place and I’m bringing the wine, but I don’t know what we’re having.”
“Well, if you don’t know what he’s making or ordering you’ll want a very versatile wine. And since it’s a new relationship, a Beaujolais Nouveau would be a lot of fun!”
I went on… “This young wine just “arrivéd” in local wine shops about two weeks ago. It’s called ‘nouveau’ because it’s the first release of the harvest – a simple wine, barely past puberty and fresh from the frothy fermentation vat with still-vivid memories of hanging around on the vine. Beaujolais Nouveau celebrates the fertility of the harvest, so it’s Bacchanalian at its core! In its native town of Beaujolais, the celebration begins at midnight with a parade (featuring lots of drinking), after which the wine hits the stores to satisfy long, anticipatory, Harry-Potter-like lines of eager imbibers. The only serious thing about this wine is that it’s seriously grapey and easy to drink” I said fondly. “And besides, they’re highly affordable, though in the world of Beaujolais Nouveau, you get quite a bit more bang for spending a bit more buck, so to speak.”
Hmmm, that sounds interesting, but what should I bring as a back-up?” she asked, wisely cautious.
“Well,” I continued, now on a roll, “at the holidays a sparkling wine is always a welcome site, and a good Brut is one of the most versatile food wines you can find – especially a Brut Rosé, which also lends a festive holiday color to your glass.” Besides, (depending on your goal for the evening!) sparkling wine inspires more lurid conversation than most wines – want to hear a good story along those lines?”
“Well I’m not sure I want to get into that on our first dinner date, but… I’d like to hear the story!” she said.
“I think you’ll like it,” I said. “You know the two types of champagne glasses, right? The tall, slender flute and the low, flat cup or coupé?”
“Of course.” She said. “And I know flutes are best for preserving the bubbles.”
“Right. But it’s the coupé that has the more tantalizing story. It supposedly originated in the years just before the French revolution. According to the story, poor King Louis didn’t offer his young bride much bedroom satisfaction even though she was young and vivacious and wantin’ to be wanton. Which she was, on more than one occasion, but outside the restrictive confines of the royal bedroom. Each time, she countered her husband’s jealousy through extravagant gifts.
Keep in mind that her wanton behavior occurred when the age of courtesans was still fresh. And as a courtesan’s customers entered her boudoir, she often greeted them with champagne served in a hand-blown glass – a replica of her own breast. A preview of coming attractions, as it were. Rumor has it that one of Marie Antoinette’s penance gifts to her King consisted of such a glass – titillating, so to speak, in its naughtiness as a gift to a King, and exactly the sort of thing the marauding revolutionists would have surely destroyed during the siege of the royal residence.”
“Wow!” she said with raised eyebrows. “You’re right, I’m not sure that’s a story I’ll tell on the first date.”
“Why don’t I quite believe you?” I teased.
“Well… getting back to my holidays, what should I do about my crazy uncle? He’s more of a ‘Jack & Coke’ type of guy who’s inclined to tell the same jokes every year, laugh a little too loudly, and who often forgets to bring the presents he supposedly bought for the family.”
“Sounds painful” I sympathized. “He’s accustomed to a drink that delivers an alcoholic burn offset by the sweetness of Coke. So that calls for a red wine with lots of ripe fruit and a big wallop. Sounds like the job for a California Syrah or Zinfandel with alcohol above 15%, which comes with the side benefit of encouraging Crazy Uncle to take an early nap. A good example is one whose high alcohol is kept in balance by ripe fruit, one such as Sextant’s Holystone Zinfandel from Paso Robles ($27) [Link #7]
“Ouch! That’s a bit pricey for my crazy uncle!” she said “maybe I should save that one for my wealthy aunt, besides, she’s the real wine lover!”
“Wait a minute, are you in the will?! Then avoid having her fall in love with an expensive wine or she may be tempted to drink your inheritance!” I joked, “but if she does develop a thirst for expensive wines, please give her my number!”
“Well, there is ONE relative I definitely won’t buy wine for – my aunt who quite drinking a few years ago. What do you recommend for her?”
“Oddly enough, there are some good grape juices you should consider. We buy the plain grape juice from Navarro Vineyards for our daughter, but our absolute favorite is the Vignette sodas made from wine grapes (I like the sparkling pinot noir juice the best!) These are not wines that have been de-alcoholized like the horrid Fre “Wines” – a sort of cross-dressing experiment gone awry. These are very appealing beverages in their own right.”
“How much time will it take me to purchase these on your website?” she asked
“Just as much time as it will take you to give me the payment info and delivery addresses of each recipient – I’ll do the rest!”
“Perfect” she said. “And don’t forget to include some for me too!”
If I haven’t covered some of the folks on your list, please give me a call (toll free 866-746-7293) or visit my online store.
Dave the Wine Merchant