Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute Holiday Gifts

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It’s hard to believe that next week is Christmas, and we just finished Hanukah festivities.  Whether you celebrate one of these holidays, another one, or just the time of year, you probably have a list of people that you want to a little something special for. Don’t panic!  Here are a few last minute gifts that are sure to please the wine lovers in your life! Wine bottle totes – I love these cute little neoprene bottle holders.  They make a great gift in of themselves, but you can put your favorite bottle of wine inside and make even more special.  I love these soft, cushioned totes for parties, and they even keep those whites chilled! CBreeze design will monogram them for you, which makes a great custom gift.  Choose from a variety of designs and accents, and your monogram.  They also have wine tote bags and other designs. ($28) Built New York has a large selection of wine accessories, including the City Tote, which is the perfect light weight reusable bag for your your shopping needs. ($40).  They also have wine totes, which come in a 20201 or 2 bottle version.  Slightly taller than the CBreeze version, the Built wine tote is great for larger bottles and those odd shaped sparkling bottles. ($15-18). Tattinger & Dita Von Teese – Who doesn’t like bubbles at this time of year?  If you are celebrating something, on consoling yourself, sparkling wine makes everyone happy.  To celebrate the launch of Dita Von Teese’s new book, Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour, from famed Burlesque star Von Teese, Champagne Taittinger has worked with Dita to envision the perfect DIY Beauty & Bubbles Bash to host at home!  With the glitzy holiday packaging, even the box is a party, not to mention the nectar inside.   ($50 champagne) With instructions on how to build your own Champagne Tower, pirating advice, and more fun, this is a great party starter.  The book is fabulous too, and makes an awesome gift for someone who want to learn more about how Dita empowered herself, and broke all the rules, while defining a new style at the same time.  ($30 book) VinoMaster Wine Opener – similar to the Orignial Rabbit, this wine opener is a great tool to have in your bar.  The VinoMaster makes opening one, or many, bottles, super easy!  The simple lever action is fantastic for any one with manual dexterity issues, with arthritis, or just opens tons of wine.  $45 And don’t forget, Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine! Joyeaux Noel, and Happy New Year!

Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine – Books for the wine lover

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A few years ago, I was lucky enough to experience an amazing cultural experience in Rioja, Spain, exploring, food, and lifestyle writers.  While I wine, food and lifestyle options the region has to offer.  Our small group of compatriots didn’t know each other before our trip, but we quickly became a tight knit group meandering the countryside in search of delicious wines. Among those intrepid explorers were the dynamic duo behind Wine Folly, Madeline Puckette, and Justin Hammack.  Puckette, a talented graphic artist and Sommelier, is known for creating unique, easy to follow, and creative infographics that help us understand wine. This year, Wine Folly compiled those infographics and extensive wine knowledge in to a guidebook on wine, Wine Folly:  The Essential Guide to Wine.  Using simple techniques that yield complex results, Wine Folly provides a guide for over 50 wines, and helps the reader create their own ranking system by reinforcing basic building blocks of flavor, origin, and classic terroir. The clean layout is divided in to easy to understand fundamentals, styles of wine, and wine regions of the world, allowing even the newest wine drinker the ability to understand complex styles and regions. Not sure what wine glass is best for Chianti?  There’s an infographic for that.  How do you pair Riesling?  Check out the wine pairing consideration diagram.  My favorite part of the book is the in depth profiles of the most common varietals.  The clear flavor wheel is color coded and grouped by major flavor group and the dominant olavors are clearly outlined.  The facts at a glance makes it an excelelnt study guide, as you can see on one page, where it grows, how much grows, and hte average price per bottle. Wine Folly’s Essential Guide to Wine is available for $25 on Amazon as well as WineFolly.com.  I highly suggest you pick up a copy or two!     A promotional copy was provided by the PR agency for review, but my mad love of the cool images is all my own!    

Last Minute Wine Gifts

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It’s the 5th day of Hanukkah, and Christmas is only 4 days away.  Whatever you might be celebrating at this time of year, if you’re like me – you are scrambling for some last minute gift ideas for the wine lover on your list! Soiree – in bottle aerator.  This is my go to wine aerator, and the pretty bottle topper makes any bottle festive.  Available in several optional gift configurations, this pretty glass topper allows wine to flow around the glass bulb, giving it time to breathe and encouraging the aeration process for any bottle of wine.     Capabunga – these innovative bottle toppers are handy little buggers when you want to recork something for ready access.   A reusable silicone cap that reseals a bottle of wine, the concept was inspired by the bung caps that are used to reseal wine barrels.  Once you pop a Capabunga on your wine bottle, it’s air – and wine – tight.  No more spills if you knock the bottle over!  I am impressed by the usefulness of these gems, and at $7.95 for a pair, they are also great for resealing beer or champagne bottles.  I have had a bottle of bubbles still fizzy after a day in the fridge. Indigo Root Drink Dotz are fun and creative wine glass identification stickers, which are a great alternative to those annoying wine charms.  Do you remember Colorforms?  You know, those sticky plastic things that you could affix to anything, and reuse, stick again, etc…well these are colorforms for drinkware!    For $10, you get a set of Drink Dotz and Wine Wrapps, which wrap the bottom of a wine stem.  What a fun party gift!  With creative designs and holiday themes, these are great for your next party and last forever.  Indigo Root also sells fun temporary fabric wall squares, called Tilez, which are perfect for apartment or dorm room decorating.  In fact, I’m going to decorate my apartment with some! The Exes in my iPod:  A Playlist of the Men Who Rocked Me To Wine Country – a raucously good read by my wine buddy Lisa Mattson, exploring the iidiosyncrasiesof love, life, and laughter amongst great music and wine is a must read for anyone navigating wine country, dating, or just wants a good laugh with a happy ending.   The Essence of Wine – while the first run of the print book is sold out, the ebook of this wonderful pictorial and educational meandering through the discovery of wine.  Pre-order a copy or order an ebook today, for enjoyment all year long.   Corkscrew – the ultimate in luxury corkscrews, the Legnoart or Laguiole corkscrews are weighty, balanced, and have teflon coated screws for easy manipulation in the cork.  The right corkscrew is worth $1000 for any wine lover, so they can easily and quickly open that special bottle.  While you’re at it – add in a good foil cutter to ensure that the capsules are cleanly severed at the lip, and that there are no […]

Kickin’ it with Kitchit!

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How is it possible that there are only 4 days left until Christmas?  For those of you celebrating other holidays around this time of year, like Festivus, or the 8 days of Chanukah, or any other celebration – you are, no doubt, in the thick of things. This time of year, we often realize that we have forgotten to shop, whether it be for one specific person or for several hard to buy for family members.  Or perhaps you are throwing together a last minute dinner party to celebrate with the family and friends.  Nothing says stress like a party for 6! Instead of running out to Whole Foods and fighting for the last organic ham, check out this new service from Kitchit.  Kitchit brings talented local chefs to you, in your house, to cook up a storm . It’s like having a private chef on demand!  Cooking a wide variety of special menus for up to 6 people, you can whip up the feast in no time. Kitchit chefs each have their own style, and menus to choose from.  Customers can select a chef and menu that meets their needs.  From only $39 per person, you can build a gorgeous dinner party and sit back and relax!  The chef preps, cooks, serves and — here is the amazing part – cleans up!  Yep.  That’s worth $40 right there. But wait!  Like a Ginzu Knife commercial, there’s more!  It all starts with the menu; with an ever changing collection of Kitchit Tonight menus in collaboration with chefs and local specialty vendors, focusing on high-quality seasonal ingredients.  Why not try the “Leaf Strewn Streets of Lyon” for your holiday dinner?  Roasted Beets, Duck Confit, Paris Breast for dessert.  Viva la France!  Or perhaps you’d rather have a “Roman Holiday”, with stuffed squash, Saltimbocca, and Crostata de Ricotta.  Yum!  Have little ones at your house?  Don’t worry, you can add on kids meals for $9 each. But, if you something specific in mind, check out the chef matching tool.  Chef Tiffany Friedman is cooking up a Sonoma inspired dinner party with poached pear & prosciutto crostini, scallops, duck, beef loin, and lemon pudding cake. I know I’ll be checking some of these great deals out.  Need a great gift?  Kitchit also has gift cards to help your friends and family survive the holidays. Happy eating! Kitchit is available in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Uncommonly good gifts from Uncommon Goods

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  It’s that time of year again – when people scramble to find just the right gift for their wine friends.  I like to find unique items that you won’t always find at the big box stores, and my friends at Uncommon Goods came up with some terrific ideas to fit the bill. Uncommon Goods was founded in 1999, and features unique gifts and handcrafted items that are particularly kind to the environment, people, and animals.  While they are not local to me, I step outside of my “shop local” zone for the holidays because Uncommon Goods is, quite frankly, pretty cool.  Going above and beyond what most retailers do, they run their operations from an historic building in Brooklyn, where they give back to the local community by paying their local seasonal workers a minimum of 50% more than the average wage in the area.  Their mission is to support artists and designers, particularly those that make their wares by hand.  This is the kind of company I encourage all of you to support, whether they are local, or not.  Going above and beyond, Uncommon Goods also offers design challenges, tours and classes to further empower the inner artist in you.  I know that the next time I am in Brooklyn, I will make it a mission to book a tour and check this place out.  I also know, that given their large selection of wine gifts and glassware, decanters and accessories, I will be doing some shopping there for the holidays!  Not in to wine?  No problem!  Then have gifts for everyone. Here are some of the wine themed items that I think will make excellent gifts this year: Soiree Home Self Chilling Wine Glasses – Now, I own several Soiree Tilt Chilling Spheres, and they are the best invention ever.  If you don’t own any, you need to buy some right now!  But the self chilling wine glasses take this a step further.  With an insert that you freeze, and place in the bottom of your glass, your white wine, soda, or other beverage will stay cool through the entire glass – for as long as you are sipping it.  As someone who shudders when people put ice in their wine (egads!) these are a fantastic innovation, and much like the Tilt Spheres, these glasses are the next generation and a must have.  $50 for 2           Twist Decanter – this pretty table top decanters aerate your wine and also is a nice center piece.  The curves allow up to half a bottle of wine to breathe and open up, and full of red wine it is simply gorgeous. If you’re looking for a statement piece, look no further.  They are compact enough to fit in even the smallest cabinet, and easily refilled without making a mess.  $29.99           ZinZag  – the Wine Game – Half trivial pursuit, half wine tasting challenge, this game takes your wine party to a new level.  With 3 bottles of […]

VinEdge – a life preserver for your favorite bottles

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  It’s that time of year again – when gadgets and gifting items hit the shelves, and all sorts of new technology is released for the holiday gifting season.  One of these gadgets is a new preservation device called the VinEdge, which is new tool to help you save that leftover wine.  Yes, I know, generally speaking leftover wine is an hilarious joke in this house, but occasionally, especially when I am doing multiple bottle tastings, there will be a half bottle here or there. So, to save that half bottle for the next night in the best possible way, there a few tricks.  First, you could just cork it back and put it in the fridge.  For a day or two, even for red wines, this works fine.  However, if you want to save the bottle for later in the week, you will need to block the oxygen from reaching the wine.  Remember, oxygen is only wine’s friend in the first 24-48 hours. After that, air can do nasty things to that bottle of Syrah you’ve been sipping on. I’ve written about other preservation systems here before, from inert gas to vacuums to covers; some with more successful testing that others.  The VinEdge is similar to another system that physically covers the wine, and blocks the oxygen from reaching that precious juice.  However, there is a twist. The VinEdge uses disposable inserts, similar to the Wine Shield, to cover your wine.  But, you also get a pour spout and delivery system that makes it unique.  This system incorporates a straw like delivery tube that delivers wine from under the cover, eliminating the oxidation that would normally occur over time.  Admittedly, i was skeptical at first given my history with preservation systems, but for $29.99 MSRP, including 10 disposable inserts (you can buy refills) it’s a pretty handy tool to have in the house if you don’t typically finish a bottle every night.  When you insert the VinEdge, a small tube with the cover is placed in the bottle.  The cover opens up and spreads out like a parachute, coveing the surface area of the wine.  As the wine is poured, the tube inflates, creating a vacuum and reducing the amount of air that touches the wine. Once bottle is empty, the spout is removed, leaving the detachable tube and cover n the bottle for easy cleanup.  Not bad!  Wine enthusiasts have long argued that the vacuum systems deplete wine of flavor and aromas, so this is a great alternative. Grade:  B+  A great gift for the wine lover in your life!  Check it out – you can buy direct from VinEdge, Amazon, or  your favorite retailer.   This product was provided by the PR firm for consideration, but all messy experiments and taste testing were my own.   Google