It’s December, and the holidays are upon us. Let’s get straight to your questions on gifting!
Heather Nicole Sarkees: We’ve all been in a situation where we forgot to pick up a host/hostess gift or we ran out of time and had to pull something from our own wine racks to bring. What wines would you suggest to always have on hand during the holidays for just these occasions?
Yes, at this time of year I keep beautiful looking and tasting bottles on hand for just this reason. Right now we have a cool half case that features wines from around the world, which might be a good option if you have different occasions to take each bottle. Or I will find one holiday wine that I am really in love with and just keep the bottles flowing, as I know I will consume any overflow. This Argentine Malbec is delicious and an incredible value. Also, bubbles are always great at this time of year — I just adore this bottle from Pommery, but it leaves me tempted to drink it rather than part with it.
Melissa Hilton: My question is: I want to make my best friend a basket with wine and other goodies, but not sure what to make. Do you have any ideas for a stay at home mom of 2 that casual drinks and focuses more on her family than her self. I want her to feel special.
Three words: CHOCOLATE INFUSED FIGS. Okay, I guess we should add a few more things to that gift basket like a fresh, decadent bottle of dessert wine, and maybe something fun that you can do together like this Neapolitan pizza-making class.
Michael Flynn: When gifting a bottle of wine, is it better to give a unique bottle that you know and love (and that the recipient is not likely to know), like a Corison Cabernet, or is it safer to go with a better-known winery like Mumm or Mondavi?
Michael, check out the advice I gave Stephanie below. If you have the time to craft a note explaining why you chose the bottle, I think that it is more fun to give a unique bottle. I really believe people enjoy wine more when they have a high expectation of what they are drinking and connect with the history and people behind the wine. Anyone can go out and buy an expensive bottle for himself, but if you turn someone to a new love, you’ve gifted an experience. The risk of the bottle being unknown/unappreciated is far outweighed by the hope that I’ve converted another wine lover.
Michael Freid: What are your techniques for shopping for unique gifts that you know the receiver wouldn’t be able to find on their own?
Heard of a site called Lot18? This is our specialty. Many of the wineries or chocolatiers that work with us are small artisan producers that don’t have a ton of product or money to spend on expensive distribution options. Luckily our team of wine, food and travel curators are in the field scouting out these folks, and many of these producers are old friends. Try this MacRostie Syrah or these chocolates especially crafted for wines from Brix. Even better, try them both together!
Grape Friend: Cava, Prosecco or sparkling - which would you recommend serving at a party?
I find these to be completely different beasts. Prosecco is great if you want an aperitif that is a little fruity. The bubbles tend to be more vivacious in the beginning before fading. It’s a great pairing with melon and prosciutto, or even better, jamón and nectarines with a dash of mascarpone. On the other hand, Cava is a drier sparkler that I enjoy more with shellfish, so an oyster platter would be ideal (though at that point it’s hard to pass up Champagne). Try this Cava as a good match for creamy cheeses or gougères.
Stephanie Emory: What are unique ways to present a bottle of wine as a gift?
When I take wine as a gift to someone’s house I like to tie it with a ribbon (a personalized ribbon is a decorative way to go, so they always know who the bottle came from) and attach a little note. On the note I write tasting notes about the wine or the reason I chose the bottle. I love to gift bottles with a story behind the winery. All our products at Lot18 showcase someone’s story.
Ideally I choose a bottle that I have a connection to and explain why I love it. It is even better if you can personalize your gift by remembering a trip that your host went on or a restaurant where you all dined together. And lastly, now there are so many great carrying cases for a bottle of wine, why not present your gift in something re-usable and memorable?