Team Wine is back with more ideas for wine-centric gifts. This past week, we presented our favorite stocking-stuffers. Here’s what we think wine lovers will want to find under their tree. Coming soon: Splurges worthy of writing Santa about.
Get the party started with a wine-blending kit—and prolong the fun with a can of wine preserver
At a party, I’ve always loved drinking some wine (who doesn’t?) and testing my palate by trying to ID its aromas with a bunch of friends and a wine bouquet kit. But last Christmas, I discovered the Fusebox, which takes the concept to the next level by letting you blend wine to your own satisfaction. I can’t imagine a better way to spend an evening with friends: 7 bottles (375 ml. each) of Napa-sourced wines: 2 Cabernet Sauvignons, 1 Merlot, 1 Petit Verdot, 1 Malbec, 1 Cabernet Franc + 1 “mystery wine” (a palate tester!). Plus pipettes for measuring out specific amounts of wine and a graduated cylinder for mixing them together. And, of course, there’s an aroma card to help you ID what blends well together. Buy a Fusebox for $120, two for $199 (until January 11).
If you have a half-bottle left at the end of your blending—or after any evening of sipping—make sure you have a bottle of wine preserver handy. It lays down a blanket of inert gas (typically nitrogen or a nitro blend) that keeps the oxygen in the headspace from touching the wine and spoiling it; I’ve found that it keeps a red wine tasting like you just opened it for up to a week. A $5 to $10 lighter-than-air bottle (seriously, it feels empty) of Private Preserve or Wine Life will save 120 bottles of wine—a total deal.
Get your friends to make you wine—give a wine kit
All the basics are in this $105 wine kit—from a fermenter and airlock to corks and a corker. Just add a varietal grape juice (like this $74 Cabernet Sauvignon kit) and start saving your empty bottles to refill with your own wine. Warning: Winemaking is addictive.
Wrap up a pair of books for budding winemakers
The Wine Maker’s Answer Book ponies up 384 pages of advice from WineMaker magazine’s “Wine Wizard” columnist, professional winemaker Alison Crowe. When we had a question along the way, this was a quick way to find a concise and helpful answer. It retails for $15, and it’s just over $10 at Amazon.
The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home, by Sheridan Warrick, a home winemaker who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His book was our go-to guide as we made our own Syrah and Chardonnay this past year. Lists for $22; support your local bookseller, or grab a copy from Amazon for just under $15.
Join a wine club that pairs wines with recipes—ours!
Every few weeks, Sunset wine editor (and Team Wine leader) Sara Schneider and a bunch of staffers get together to taste Sunset recipes alongside wines from around the West for the Sunset Select Wine Club. Then each month, subscribers get one red wine and one white—or two different reds—plus the matched recipes, tasting notes, and winery info. The regular monthly fee is $35, but your first month is $20 and includes an extra bottle of wine. Plus, members get invited to club events, like special wine tastings and tours, and are even offered taste tickets and a Sunset cellar tour at our annual Celebration Weekend open house (June 6–7, 2009). Subscribe—or give a gift membership.