ANNAPOLIS — The holidays are a good time for wine enthusiasts. You can never get enough corkscrews, there’s that book you’ve always wanted, and you can only hope someone will buy you an expensive bottle of wine you wouldn’t buy yourself.
If you are looking for a gift idea, we have a few related to wine that anyone would like.
Corkscrew: This is a great stocking stuffer or a gift for the person you really don’t know. We have a habit of losing one at tailgates and other outings, so we don’t regret having more than one sitting around.
The favorite standby is the waiter’s helper, an inexpensive tool that resembles a jackknife. If your friend likes a challenge, you can also buy an ah-so — but understand that it requires a little more dexterity to use.
We usually frown on electric gizmos that are ridiculous attempts to improve a mousetrap, but we have to admit to taking a liking to one from the Wine Enthusiast. We have used it for more than a year now and find it reliable for all but synthetic corks. You can get it through the Wine Enthusiast’s online catalog.
If you want to buy a waiter’s helper your friend will love, get a Laguiole. We have one we won’t let out of our hands.
Books: Several weeks ago we listed a few books to guide wine enthusiasts through the wonderful world of wine tasting. You can find many educational books that range from the basic “Wines for Dummies” to Jancis Robinson’s wine encyclopedia. There are journals and stories, like Jay McInerney’s “A Hedonist in the Cellar,” Don and Petie Kladstrup’s “Wine and War,” and William Echikson’s “Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution.”
More recently, we came across a fascinating, scholarly book by Baltimore resident Paul Lukacs. “Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World’s Most Ancient Pleasures” traces the evolution of wine in an interesting way.
Carafes: A vessel to let a wine breathe is an excellent gift for someone in the family who appreciates fine wine. Not only is it an attractive table piece, but it serves a practical purpose.
Decanting wine an hour before it is served unveils a wine’s hidden nuances. This is particularly true for older wines, but we have found it doesn’t hurt to decant recently released wines too. Avoid colored glass and look for decanters with wide bases – not only are they steady, but a wider surface exposes more wine to air.
Stemware: We are particular about the glasses we use to serve wine. The shape of the bowl is critical to whether a wine will show off its assets.
There is no such thing as an all-purpose glass that works for white and red alike. We still like Riedel for its grace and purpose. You can buy them in many retail stores. Another great gift idea to add is a drying rack. These racks, which allow you to hang glasses and carafes upside down, are incredibly useful after dinner parties.
Wine tote: Have you ever seen someone clutching a couple bottles of wine while trying to open a door? It’s an accident waiting to happen on someone’s driveway or steps. A wine tote can carry a couple bottles and be strapped over the shoulder. They protect the bottles and are great for picnics, boat raft-offs and tailgates. Totes can range in cost from $35 to $80.
Wine: We are always appreciative of a gift bottle that expresses a giver’s thought. Instead of buying just any ol’ wine, look for something unusual. Grape varieties like Spain’s modello or France’s tannat would demonstrate that you gave some thought to the gift. What about an unusual wine from Italy ‘s Mastroberadino, a producer who uses only ancient grape varieties? Add Lukacs’ history book and you have a heck of a gift.
Or what about a trilogy of pinot noirs from France, Oregon and New Zealand, or syrah from the Rhone Valley, Barossa and California? Add Hugh Johnson’s Wine Atlas and you can drop a hint that you want to travel to wine country.
If you want to spend some money on an impressive wine, here are some final suggestions:
Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($44). We really enjoyed the rich, deep flavors of this complex and delicious Napa Valley cabernet. Using grapes from the prized Atlas Peak and Mt. Veeder and Rutherford regions, the wine exudes plum and black cherry fruit, a touch of mineral clove and cedar. Full-bodied and long in the finish.
Col Solare ($75). A partnership between Tuscany’s Antinori family and Chateau Ste. Michelle, Col Solare is a stunning cabernet sauvignon-based blend. Using for the first time fruit from the Col Solare Estate Vineyard, the wine shows great balance and depth of character. Rich, black fruit flavors with a hint of tobacco and cassis.
Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Red Wine 2009 ($50). From Washington’s Spring Valley, this merlot-based blend shows off opulent fruit character with cherry and clove aromas followed by strawberry and raspberry flavors. It is a complex wine that would marry well with beef and wild game.