Counting today, there are still four shopping days until Christmas. I wouldn’t call half a week “last minute” yet, although retailers have been using the phrase for about two weeks now. If you are in a pinch, wine and wine-related gifts are always my go-to gifts during the holiday season.
A bottle of wine or sparkling wine is perfect as a host or hostess gift. The host can open it at the party, adding to the array of beverages they probably already have for guests, or save it for themselves to enjoy at a later date. I recommend a bottle of red — such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir — or something bubbly, like Moet & Chandon White Star, which is always festive.
It’s really easy to wrap or dress up these bottles. Besides a variety of wine gift bags available, there are decorative mesh and tinsel-y bottle covers that just slide over the bottle. I even saw a knit sock monkey bottle cover available at Sur la Table last week!
Besides wine itself, there is an entire market of wine-related items out there. Some of the most useful are the openers themselves. There are about a thousand different styles, but I like the more novel ones for gifts. A few years ago, we bought my father-in-law an opener that used a small carbon dioxide canister. You simply insert a needle-like thing into the cork, press a button and whoosh, out comes the cork!
Other items good for stocking stuffers are wine-pouring foils and Label Off label removers.
Pouring foils are small, round foil or cellophane discs that you curl and insert into the neck of the bottle. They keep the wine from dripping when you pour.
If you (or your gift recipient) are in to commemorating bottles that you have drunk, I recommend Label Off removers. They are inexpensive and will remove the label without tearing it and without any steam. My wife keeps a scrapbook of labels and writes next to each the occasion and with whom we drank. This way, you don’t have to keep the bottle around.
If you’re looking for a really nice gift, consider a decanter. I don’t think it is common for most people to own one, but if you are giving to a connoisseur who does already have one, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having another. They come in all different shapes and sizes.
Most of these items can be found at BevMo, Total Wine & More or Sur la Table. If you still aren’t sure what decanting is all about, look for next month’s column, when I’ll talk more about decanting. Until then, happy holidays!
• Robert Morris is owner and manager at East Valley restaurants Cork, BLD and Stax Burger Bistro. Reach him at (480) 883-3773 or CorkRestaurant.net