Catherine Seda / Wine Tales
• Dry riesling. Because it is one of the best food wines ever, whether you choose Chateau Ste Michelle, Trefethen, Selbach-Oster, Willamette Valley Vineyards or Dr. Konstantin Frank.
• The new wine tome of the world, “Opus Vino,” edited by Wines & Vines' Jim Gordon. Written by trusted wine writers and up-and-coming wine voices, it is a huge new book on wines of the world today.
• The book “The Wild Vine” by Todd Kliman is a must-read with humor and good doses of fun facts. It is a history of wine in America along with intriguing tales of families, gender-changes, and life lessons for us all.
• Give the gift of a winery tour, and include a reservation for yourself. Tours make you stop, relax, and really take in what you are seeing and tasting. Schramsberg and Merryvale are two goodies.
• For real wine fanatics, consider a subscription to Sommelier Journal, or for a pricier gift The World of Fine Wine.
Allen Balik / The Wine Exchange
I love the idea of holiday giving around a wine theme. Wine lovers can be among the most difficult people on the list because they often have so many of the gadgets and just a simple bottle often does not do the trick for me. I always look to personalize the gift to make it different, but not so different as to make it unusable.
• A themed wine and food basket. My favorite is an Italian theme with a checkered table cloth and matching napkins. The culinary choices continue the theme with a selection of antipasti and a bottle each of a white and red Italian varietal. A picnic basket completes the package.
• A mini-vertical or mini-horizontal of a favorite wine. Rather than a single bottle of wine or an unrelated assortment, I find these two choices add interest and create more excitement. The vertical would be two or three bottles of the same wine from consecutive vintages and the horizontal would be two or three related wines from the same vintage and producer.
• Whimsical wine bottle holders. There is a wide variety of clever wine bottle holders on the market to feature a prized bottle on the bar, coffee table or in the wine cellar. They come in a broad range of sizes, materials, themes and designs to fit any home, décor or personal interest.
• A collection of wine gift bags. This is the gift that keeps on giving. Many wine lovers often give a gift of wine for a variety of occasions and search for just the right packaging. There is a creative selection of gift bags available from a wide variety of merchants to complete the package. This may take a bit of investigation, but it will be much appreciated.
• A wine decanter may seem mundane at first, but is one of the most useful and decorative wine accessories. Most wine lovers have one or more already yet a new decanter is always a welcome addition. They are available in a wide variety of styles and price points so pick something unique.
Norma Poole / The Wine Professor
Here are my top five food and wine pairing suggestions for unforgettable holiday (or any other occasion) gatherings. This was not hard to come up with, since I try to enjoy these pairings whenever it is humanly (and budget-wise) possible. I’ve ranked them 1-5, starting with my casual weekend favorite, Smoked Salmon on Boboli and ending with the best of all, 20-year or older, Chateau Margaux with white truffles from Alba, shaved over scrambled eggs.
5. Smoked Salmon on Boboli, with cream cheese, red onion and capers. Serve with Patz and Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. This is a great everyday hit and is an affordable crowd pleaser as well.
4. Mushroom Truffle-infused Triple Cream cheese, spread over toasted rosemary garlic bakery-fresh bread. This earthy cheese melts in your mouth and needs to be washed down with a 2- to 5-year-old Chianti or Tuscany Red. This is my getting-home-from-a-full-day-of-shopping treat when I am too tired to cook dinner.
3. Filet Mignon Carpaccio, drizzled extra virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and lemon wedges. Order 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of filet mignon and have the meat cutter freeze it, then slice it paper thin right before you pick it up to be served later that evening. A Napa Valley cabernet Sauvignon like Tor Beckstoffer To Kalon or a cabernet blend like Joseph Phelp’s Insignia are wonderful with this appetizer.
2. Caviar (domestic, like Tsar Nicoulai, is very affordable), on a pancake blini with crème fraiche. Serve with a bottle or two of a vintage Champagne, and watch your guests swoon! (The yeasty, toasty, elegance of a vintage Champagne or sparkling wine like Krug, Alfred Gratien and Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle or J. Schram, are my top choices.)
1. Here is the best food and wine pairing experience of my life and one that I daydream about relentlessly, especially during the holidays:
Freshly farmed white truffles from Alba, shaved over scrambled eggs and served with a bottle of Chateau Margaux, (or another first- or second-growth Bordeaux) at least 15 years old. The earthy, forest-floor wine paired with the indescribable pungency and buttery sweetness of the truffles with the creaminess of the scrambled eggs, is an out-of-body experience that I wish everyone could have at least once.
Sasha Paulsen / Register Wine Editor
My own thoughts on the subject of wine gifts became the photo illustration for the story, as I collected a bag of things to be photographed:
• A bottle of the new release of the 2008 Phelps’ Insignia. This is a sentimental favorite because my son thought every wine lover was a nut case until he tried a glass of Insignia. Then he said, “OK, now I get what all the fuss is about.” It’s true it’s $200 a bottle, but as he now tells me, “If you’re going to drink the stuff, you might as well go for the best.”
• A Jarvis chardonnay and taste it at the fascinating underground winery where it’s produced in Napa.
• Gerald Asher’s new book, “A Vineyard in my Glass.” Because amid a flood of mediocre, silly and pretentious wine writers, Asher stands out as a true craftsman and gentleman journalist who knows wine and can tell a story with wit and insight. This is a collection of essays he wrote as wine editor for Gourmet magazine.
• Take someone to a winery off the beaten path, or one where you’ve not gone to before. With more than 400 wineries now in the valley, there should be a couple you’ve overlooked. My favorites of the new ones I went to this year are Antica at the end of Soda Canyon Road, and Somerston, way out on Sage Canyon Road. It’s a beautiful drive to each of these wineries, and well worth it.
• Don’t know which Napa wines you prefer? Go to napavalleyvintners. com where a search engine will guide you through some 2,000 wines, listed by winery, varietal, vintage and appellation. If you remain confused, you can try ordering a sampler of six wines for around $35 from tastingroom.com/samplers.