© 1997 JDM Enterprises
HOLIDAY SHOPPINGby Jerry D. Mead
The wine lovers on your gift list should be the absolute easiest people to shop for, even if you don't want to buy wine because their personal collection is worth more money than the inventory at your favorite wine shop.
The reason it's so simple is that there are so many wine oriented gifts that will please any wine lover from absolute novice to serious enophile.
A good example is quality stemware. No one ever has enough, and if they did, breakage would change that soon enough. The crystal most coveted by most wine lovers is from Riedel, an Austrian manufacturer. It is expensive, but the glasses are so special that even a few stems are bound to please. You may find Riedel Stemware at local department stores, but usually with top dollar price tags. A couple of retailers which discount Riedel like 30-40 percent are Wine Club (with several locations in California) at (800) 966-5432, or Wine Stuff (based in New York) at (800) WINESTUFF. Both retailers will provide standard or overnight shipping.
Books are always a good answer, because there are new ones published every season and because they come in a variety of price ranges from moderate to expensive. You can make a wine book a special gift or a stocking stuffer.
One of the hottest titles this season is The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia ($50) by Tom Stevenson, which combines the attributes of a colorful, coffee table size and quality book, with a tome containing really meaningful editorial content.
Also on the hot list is the new edition of Portugal's Wines & Winemakers ($34.95) by Richard Mayson, perhaps the ultimate guide to this region, and by the way, the wines of the island of Madeira are included as well. Just make sure you're getting the new edition.
If your wine lover is also a computer geek, then you can do no better than Oz Clarke's CD/ROM Wine Guide ($29.95), about which one critic opined "It will be the best $30 you can spend on a wine information resource."
If you're buying a wine book for yourself, or for a friend, the one book (even though it is a couple of years old) that should be in every wine library is The Oxford Companion To Wine ($60) by Jancis Robinson, which is the most all-encompassing wine reference work in print and the one to which I refer most often.
If you're looking for an inexpensive but excellent wine book, A Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine ($13) by Hugh Johnson is unbeatable at the price. Only thing is, this is an annual, so make sure you get the 1998 edition. Another annual is California Wine Winners 1998 ($8.95), which includes results of the nine major 1997 American wine competitions, cross-referenced in such a way as to make a wonderful shopping guide for the coming year.
All of these books should be available through any local bookstore (though they may have to order some of them) or via the internet and Amazon books. Some fine wine shops and winery tasting rooms also carry wine titles.
If you have trouble finding any of the above books, or for that matter any of the wine or merchandise mentioned in today's column, call my office at (800) 845-9463. We may not be able to name a specific store, but can usually put you in touch with a manufacturer, publisher or producer, who can provide the retail source.
Want to get really fancy? How about one of those refrigerated wine storage cabinets that perfectly control temperature and humidity? They're available in sizes so small they only hold a case or two, all the way up to room size versions. The same folks who sell these gizmos usually sell custom designed wine racks to complete the home wine cellar.
You do not need one of these if all the wine you purchase is consumed with 48 hours of purchase, or if you never store anything but three bottles of White Zinfandel and two of Chardonnay. They are really aimed at collectors serious about wine for aging and investment.
There are numerous outlets for this kind of equipment. Two we've heard good things about are Wine Cellar Solutions at (888) 649-9463 (that's a toll free number) and Vintage Cellars (800) 876-8789.
If you're buying for someone who is an even bigger sports nut than wine nut, you may be interested in the latest in collectables. For baseball fans, you might be interested in "Big League Bottlings," with laser-etched team logos of all 30 major league teams, plus a limited edition World Series bottling. You can buy a single team's bottling, or an entire league's. Call (800) 649-4637.
If we're talking football, you might be interested in Legends Gridiron Cuvee, a collection of 50 different bottlings honoring, of course, "gridiron legends," including 24 Hall of Fame players. The Gridiron wines retail for about $10 bucks and are available in some retail outlets, or call toll free to (888) 599-4637.
The wine in both of these sports bottlings will be sound, but its the etching or the labels that make them collectable. The wines themselves are not that special.
If you do want to give a wine gift, Champagne is always a good bet. Most people like it, it has a festive image, and with any luck the recipient might offer to share it with you. Ask your wine merchant to help with a selection from his inventory and in your price range.
Some widely available wine selections that would make a nice moderately priced wine gift include any recent vintage of Beaulieu Vineyard "Rutherford" Cabernet Sauvignon; Ferrari-Carano anything (there's no wine in the line less than superb); Dolce, at about $50 the half bottle is the most expensive of California dessert wines, but a delicious nectar in a spectacular bottle; a Pinot Noir from Gary Ferrell or David Bruce; or any recent vintage of Joseph Phelps Insignia, a classic blend of red grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and more.