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Wish List

December is here. Like many of you, my thoughts are turning to gifting. For the wine lovers on your list (or yourself), many options can enrich the experience of enjoying wine, from books and magazines that offer insight and understanding of the ‘why’ behind the wine, to unique tools that elevate the wine service, and wine itself - be it a wine that a meal or gathering can be built around or go big and plan to enjoy the wine in the vineyard that the grapes call home.

Wine books line my bookshelves. I eagerly await new releases and often gift my favorites. If I know that someone has fallen in love with a particular region and will be traveling there soon, a gift of a book that delves into that area is my go-to. Exceptionally well-written explorations that delve into the geology, microclimates, and the producers will leave you with a sense of “the why” wines from this area taste as they do and, inevitably, a list of producers to check out. Kerin O’Keefe’s books on Italian wines, Wines of the Northern Rhöne by John Livingstone-Learmonth, and Peter Liem’s Beautiful Champagne are full-hearted recommendations. For those who want to get into the fascinating science behind grapes and truly geek out - Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson is an epic tome of knowledge about the world of grapes. This book (which, in its heft, can double as a weight for working out) delves into grape genetics, key production areas, producers of note, and synonyms – perfect for those who love the rabbit hole approach to learning. For the wine lover who wants to think like a sommelier, I highly recommend a book written by my mentor, Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser, called Message in the Bottle: A Guide for Tasting Wine. I’ve long considered him the Yoda for sommeliers as they progressed through the ranks of the Court, as his ability to convey knowledge about wine in an insightful and precise manner is unparalleled. His book breaks down the tasting process, gives classic tasting notes for each grape, and singles out key producers. For those who love periodicals via magazine or online subscriptions, there are so many great wine journalists to read via Decanter, The World of Fine Wine, Purple Pages, and Northwest Wine Report.

I have a kitchen drawer dedicated to wine tools – many of them the Waiter’s Friend – that handy little switchblade and corkscrew contraption that fits easily in a pocket. If you were to hand me any of the other tools for pulling a cork, I would be utterly lost. When presented with the opportunity to open a special bottle, I always reach for my indulgence buy – my Lagioule wine opener made from the metal used for the British Airways Concorde; it was a gift to myself when I was promoted to my first Wine Director role. Having opened thousands of bottles with it, I can defend that splurge as it’s gotten out many challenging corks with grace. I know many sommelier friends swear by the Code38, a variation of the Waiter’s Friend that includes an Ah-So that helps with troublesome and delicate corks. The Coravin system is a unique tool with a needle that gently punctures the cork to get into the wine within the bottle. The gift is that it allows one to treat oneself to a delicious glass of fancy wine without pulling the cork and inserting a puff of inert gas – thus slowing the oxidation of the wine. A truly handy addition to the wine lover’s arsenal, they have made one for sparkling wine. Regardless of how you get the wine into your glass, beautiful wine glasses and decanters also make for thoughtful gifts. Personally, I’ve had my eye on the Amadeo decanter from Riedel for many years as it’s so reminiscent of the Amadeo Modigliani faces in his paintings.

Fine wine is an experience in itself, be it a birthyear wine, an iconic wine destined for the cellar, or even a wine from a region that is a favorite of the wine lover. Thoughtfully chosen, it can be personal and meaningful; it’s the gift of a moment, a reprieve from the hustle. Or maybe it’s time to go big and gift the experience of drinking the wine in the region and vineyard; if so – do note I have my passport ready. . .

The beauty of giving wine books, tools, gadgets, or meaningful wine experiences goes beyond acknowledging the recipient’s passion for wine. It’s creating memories to last a lifetime, books that will be referenced for years to come because the explanation of the terroir and producers are so evocative, and beautiful accouterments for the wine service elevate the moment. Happy wine shopping, everyone, and don’t forget to treat yourself!

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