I enjoy tapping into the knowledge of winemakers, wine educators and others savvy about all things enological.
And I think others with an interest in wine would benefit from the gift of knowledge ... although I don’t intend for it to come from a book or magazine, nor from some new electronic gadget.
If I was handing out wine gifts to friends this holiday season, I’d start with a gift certificate to a wine tasting at Carpe Diem in downtown Napa. I’d hook up with the restaurant and wine bar’s sommelier, Steve Distler, and find out what type of tasting he could put together for $50 — or, if it’s for a real good friend or family member, maybe $100.
Sure, the recipient of the gift certificate could blow it on the great food at Carpe Diem but I’d ask Steve to make sure that my friend doesn’t pig out, but rather tap into the sommelier’s great palate for wines of both New and Old World.
I’m sure Steve could turn a blah pre-dinner cocktail hour into a fascinating turn devoted to learning more about wines of the region and how they pair with food.
My second seasonal gift would be yet another wine tasting gift certificate — this time from Oenotri wine director Sur Lucero. Like Steve, Sur has an amazing wine palate, and, at Napa’s Oenotri, he has put together an incredible list of wines from all over Italy, from Alto Adige in the north to Sicily and Sardinia and Sicily in the south — and just about every grapegrowing region in between.
Again, I’d ask Sur just how many dollars would guarantee an extensive survey of Italian winemaking, using two-ounce pours of everything from dolcetto to zibbibo to get an idea of what that nation has to offer in a wine glass.
You have free articles remaining.
Since Sur slakes the thirst of those who dine in this exceptional temple to culinary mezzogiorno, I’d ask him to pair a couple of the wines with taste treats from the kitchen. I think I’d set aside at least 50 bucks for this experience, but 100 would be nicer.
It’s possible today to enjoy excellent wine without spending a fortune. Whatever your preferred style, there is great value to be found if you know what to look for. That’s where Jim Gordon’s new book, “1,000 Great Everyday Wines” (DK Publishing, $25), comes in. The Napa Valley resident wine expert offers suggestions for wines from both Old and New Worlds, wines with great personality, that many people can afford. Here’s a great guide for your best wine friend.
I’d give a friend who enjoys wine a bottle of something he or she’s not had before. For example, you could visit winetasting.com and look for a wine that’s available only on the local retailer’s website — Mezzanotte 2008 Verdemare Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Riserva. It’s a wine I discovered on a visit to Le Marche last year. I love the wine’s mineral backbone, it’s refreshing squirt of lime and bitter almond finish. And it’s only $20.
You could also do well by visiting JV Wine and Spirits, Back Door Wines or Trader Joe’s to pick up a wine you feel your friend doesn’t know. Get a bottle for yourself and then the two of you will have something to talk about.
If you enjoy taking a great bottle of wine to a friend’s dinner party, you know how often you scratch around for an appropriate bag to carry it in — especially if it’s a wine that’s been chilled.
Bella Vita offers “Chill It” bags. Sleek and cool, the new freezable Chill It bags can be kept in the freezer and become instant coolers for your wines you want to keep chilled in transit. There are a half dozen eye-catching colors to choose from and they’re $10 each. They are available at amazon.com.