My kids and I always giggle when the song demands, “Now bring us some figgy pudding.” The bossy tone is disruptive in the peaceful setting of the holiday and the fact that feathers are ruffled over figgy pudding is something we find hysterical.
If figgy pudding is on your list this year, I’m helping you out right now, with this recipe for the stuff, which is apparently a treat of splendor. Be warned that there is an eight-hour cook time which lends some relevancy to the demand we won’t go until we get some. Imagine being on, say, hour three, and there is a crowd of carolers peeking into your window, breathlessly gearing up for round 45 of We Wish You a Merry Christmas… If you make it and arrange a wine pairing, I’ve got to know about it. In fact, I’ll share it with everyone and none of us will sass you.
As for most of us: we want wine. We want to share it, serve it, store it, read about it, preserve it, cook with it, learn about it, talk about it, write about it, watch movies about it, drink it and perhaps even bring it home to meet the relatives this holiday season.
I’ve curated this list of of holiday gifts for wine lovers. Some of these items were given to me to try out (free of charge, but I’ve not been compensated in any way); I’ve gotten to know the products and tried them in my own home and I feel comfortable saying that they are worthy. Links to purchase are included in the descriptions below.
Read on to find out how you can win one of these gifts for yourself…I mean, to give with holiday cheer to a friend.
Gifts for Serving Wine
I admit to being a Neo-Luddite at times, often falling on old, manual ways of doing things. I have had some fun this year trying out new technology, which I now realize isn’t always complicated. In fact, these three products deliver the true ease of modern helpers with very little fuss. And they are fun…as my guests and friends have agreed!
The Aervana Wine Aerator is a battery-powered tool that fits on the top of any wine bottle, with a straw-like stem that draws wine from the bottle into the aerator. The user presses a button on the top and the wine draws out of a little spigot, aerated and ready to drink. My hubby and I used this device a couple of times, particularly on some slightly-aged Italian wines that I needed to taste of an evening but forgot to open. In that instance I was delighted that I had a ‘fix’. We also pulled it out during a couple of parties and it turns out, this thing is real attention-getter. What they liked about it: it’s fun, it’s attractive, it’s tidy and easy. It also allows for consistent aeration for the duration of the bottle.
The Chillavino is a very easy-to-use wine chiller that sits on your table or bar. The look can be customized, which makes this a thoughtful gift for anyone because you can add themes, initials, logos…all sort of ‘skins’ to create a personal feeling. There is a display piece and a curved ice pack, which stays in the freezer until time to serve, when it slides into the display piece. Wine goes in, then it is time to drink. I used this at a holiday party and it was much tidier than the wine bucket I used to keep a few other bottles cold and it displayed the wine visibly. The wines in the bucket, as expected, got their labels soaked and they didn’t keep the proper temperature after I’d started mingling and forgot to check on them. This gift would be fun to pair with a wine thermometer.
When I was a kid, I remember boxes of wine in the refrigerators of all the moms. I understand now that they probably ended the day with glass of wine or two and didn’t want to waste a bottle that they might not finish. My hubby and I sometimes run into this problem, on Monday we want a glass with dinner or as a wind-down…days pass before we get the opportunity again and by then, the wine stinks. The VinEdge Wine Preserver is made to keep the oxygen out of a bottle of wine by the use of an inflatable bag that expands as wine is poured out of the spout. When finished, the bag is left inside the bottle and can be recycled. This would be a great gift to give along with a bottle of wine to try over holidays.
Books about Wine
There are two gift suggestions in this category and the level of passion, hard-work and insight generated by these artists makes me proud to share their efforts. Cathy Huyghe & Suzanne Hoffman are writers that I have followed over the past year. These projects inspire us to immerse into the things we love, and for the readers of L’occasion, one of those things is most definitely wine.
Hungry for Wine by Cathy Huyghe
Cathy Huyghe and I met in person this fall on a media trip in France’s Southern Rhône Valley. But that’s not the start of how I got to know her work. When her project, Enolytics, launched, I sent her a tweet: “Great Piece”, about her introduction story on her Forbes column. I kept an eye out for her work and followed along from my computer. By the time we connected in France I was reading her column regularly. I’m not the only one, in fact, other wine writing experts appreciate the work she does too. My friend, Michelle Williams of Rockin’ Red Blog, recently attended a Hungry for Wine party in Dallas, an evening shaped around Cathy’s book of the same name, published in fall 2015. The book itself would make a great gift, but why not consider giving to to your book group, neighbors or coworkers and hold your own Hungry for Wine party: “It’s about stories, and passion, and living with no regrets, and just drinking the stuff. Now, help us spread this message — of sharing wine, and talking about it, and eye-to-eye contact across the table.Gather a few friends together, and ask each of them to bring a wine they’re hungry to drink. Be ready to share why you brought what you brought. Or, if you’re on your own, ask yourself why you open the bottles you open. What makes it worth your time?” This is how it’s done, and aren’t the holidays a perfect time to be Hungry for Wine?
Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte
Suzanne Hoffman is a woman that has been given the blessing of connaissance of several wine-making families in Piemonte, specifically Langhe, Roero and Monferrato. The friendships she’s formed there led her to write a book about the women in these families, individuals who have come to the forefront of their craft in the past 40 years. Past generations have kept men at the reigns, but Suzanne’s book, Labor of Love: Wine Family Women of Piemonte, tells the story of female influence and contribution. In her words, these women often “ruled their roosts” from the shadows until now. With stunning photography and 22 chapters dedicated to these families, this book is pure pleasure, a learning experience that keeps the senses happy. It occurs to anyone who writes about wine, or simply loves wine, that understanding place and history are as important as taste. In an era where much of what we eat and drink is sanitized by marketing, this book reminds us that what is delivered in a glass of wine is the lives of those who made it. This book makes a perfect gift and simply needs to be paired with a bottle of wine. Deck a basket with the book, ingredients for fresh pasta and a note: happy holidays, from Piemonte!
Gifts from Wine Country
Wine Scholar Guild’s 2017 Wine Immersion Study Trips
The Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) offers certification classes on Italian, French and Spanish wines. I’m enrolled in the Provence Wine Master Level course and it’s because of my own experience that I can recommend these programs. Ah, but the word programs is so…boring. WSG offers more that a class-and-certificate style of learning. Genuine experts, cultivated offerings and a variety of experiences make WSG the first place to look for those interested in expanding their knowledge of these European wines. As a gift, considering giving an enrollment into one of the online regional or master level courses. To really charm your loved ones, perhaps 2017 is the year for a grand trip. WSG offers immersion trips. This year’s line up is situated now: “The trips include extensive high-caliber wine tastings at some of the best estates of each region. They are nearly all-inclusive, including the WSG Master-Level course, full comfort hotels, gourmet meals with great wines, all winery tours and tastings, and deluxe ground transportation.” Prices, dates, instructors and all the details can be found on the WSG website.
Schooner Lane Designs Charcuterie Boards
In 2016 I had the opportunity to get to know the winemakers of British Columbia. First I connected with Julian from BC Wine Trends and then I met Sujinder Junea who put me in touch with several BC wineries during their harvest season. It was a year of learning about what it takes to make wine there, what life is like “north of the border”. This gift, a selection of cheese and charcuterie boards, comes from an artisan from British Columbia. Each is made from a piece of Canadian hardwood and is handcrafted to last. To buy, visit Atelier Boutiques where these and other artisan gifts from the region can be found.
Luxe Provence Rosé Wine Liquid Handsoap from Rose et Marius
I received the summer box from Luxe Provence, which included a gorgeous rosé chiller as well as this soap, made from local olive oil and perfume from Grasse, influenced by the scent of Provence rosé wine. Everyone who uses it wants a bottle and is sending away to France to get some. I had a request the last time I was in France: bring home more soap. Thankfully, it is available online now and ships to the US and Europe. A really special gift would be the Luxe Provence box subscription which I can assure you will knock the stockings off anyone, but it might make Provence-lovers faint. It is exquisite, nothing less.
Elegant Wine for Elegant Gifts
There are some wines that feel impressive, substantial, elegant…these wines make excellent gifts for loved ones, professional contacts or as hostess gifts. Throughout the year a few wines have come to my attention as something interesting. At a more-than-pocket-money price, these feel generous and indulgent.
Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée
This is a top-quality, extra-brut Champagne selected from over 30 crus. This wine is what the house calls multi-vintage crafted from grapes from several vintages (a secret: only the Bruno Paillard team knows which ones). I’ve read much about this wine, because I’m not the only one enchanted by it. The quality and enthusiasm of this Champagne estate embodies the essence of elegance and integrity, a bottle that puts pride in the gift box. According to the maison: The blend: Exclusively first pressing – the purest juice – Pinot Noir (45%), Chardonnay (33%) and Pinot Meunier (22%), part of which (20%) was in barrel for the first fermentation. Reserve wines: A blend of 25 vintages, since 1985; up to 50% of the final blend. Ageing: Ageing is longer than the legal requirement; three years sur lie, then a minimum of a further five months after disgorgement.
Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon
This gorgeous Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Puente Alto (“high bridge” in Spanish) vineyard, on the Maipo River. The grapes grow at the foot of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 2,145 feet in spot where the average annual temperature is only 58° F. The wine comes from a historic Chilean flagship, Concha y Toro, and has been influenced by Bordeaux traditions and winemakers. From Enrique Tirado, the winemaker, “For me, Don Melchor represents the constant search for the best expression of every vine in the vineyard in order to achieve the beauty of balance of the Puente Alto terroir in every vintage.” Highly-prized, generously-awarded and stunning in flavor, this is a gift that will impress professional contacts, wine geeks or your true love (no partridge necessary.) Don Melchor is a delightful new world wine with gusto, elegance and refinement.
Two Hands Wine Ares Shiraz
Two Hands Wine knows shiraz. They work with Shriaz in several of the best winemaking regions in Australia. They’ve built their estate on quality and integrity, and what I would call an infatuation with terroir. Most of what they make is Shiraz, and they craft bottles with vineyard-specificity, drawing out the profiles of their plots. This wine, the Ares Shiraz, is what they call the pinnacle of their production. Of the 1,500 barrels they taste for this wine, only the best is included in the cuvée. This wine is rich, saturated, deep and intense. There is something sexy about this bottle, which makes it an evocative gift that can be enjoyed during some alone time by the fire, or in a penthouse room overlooking silver-bell city lights. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to taste the range of Two Hands Wines and this is a collection I would recommend for a wine club membership as well, a truly meaningful expression of taste and generosity.
Chateau Montelena 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
There is, of course, excellence in this wine. A long-time classic, highly-awarded, top-notch Napa quality. Good things come from Chateau Montelena and they say the 2013 is drinking now. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay was chosen as the best in the Judgement of Paris, with an unexpected win over the French wines. At the time, California wines were peripheral, seen as junior and undeveloped. This recognition influencde the world and put a few pages in the history book, that’s for sure. But it also gave the California winemakers footing in front of consumers and turned the Napa landscape into what it is today: premium and elite. I featured this wine in my recent Books for Winelovers post as a pairing with The California Wife by Kristen Harnish. I’m featuring it again, as a gift for seasoned wine lovers as well as for those just getting into wine as a hobby. The history of this estate and of Napa is intriguing and the wine is an excellent example of a “Napa Cab”, and who doesn’t love getting a Napa Cab in their stocking?
The L’occasion Holiday Giveaway
Let me start here by saying I’d love to give each reader a parcel filled with all of these items. This year has been one of good fortune for me. I’ve made lots of friends and winemakers through L’occasion, I’ve traveled on behalf of L’occasion, I’ve been provided opportunities to taste and try because of L’occasion. I’m most appreciative, though, that there are readers for this blog. I write about places and people that spark my imagination, which I will do sans-limits eternally…but it is a heck of a lot more fun to share it with others that care about the history, current climate and future of our winemakers and wine-growing regions.
So, as a thank you, I’m offering a giveaway in partnership with Chillavino (see above) to win a customized Chillavino for your home.
Enter Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway