Giftmas Wines

Christmas? Already? Light the lights, jingle those bells, let’s wassail all season long. It’s a love fest. Quick switch from giving thanks for our gifts, to giving gifts, with our thanks — and lots of love.

Now, you might imagine that because you have a wine fiend on your gift list you have this one in the bag: Plunk for a jug of plonk, plop into glitzy bag, designate, done.

Not so fast. True, there are thousands of decent wines in stores, and gobs of wine-related gadgets, but getting a wine gift just right can be challenging.

First challenge: You really need to know the giftee’s taste preferences, level of wine savvy, degree of wine toolage. You need answers. Snoop. Pry. Probe with subtle enquiries.

Second challenge: Questions for self: bux available, i.e., budget. How many ducats you ready to dole, ’cause when it comes to wine, there’s almost no upper limit to amounts you could spend. You could, with sufficient cash, elect to build a wine cellar, complete with wine racks. Potential costs, depending on materials and craftsmanship, could easily reach five figures, mebbe more. Add coolers, frigs, etc. Wine frigs cost between $1,200 and $4,500, depending on capacity and décor. Imagine adding wines.

Imagine Uncle John has a jones for red Burgundy ’n’ ya wanna tickle him (’n’ mebbe pay back some college loans?). Gift wrap Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tache 2011, superwine. Ready to see the ticket? $3,500 per 750 ml. bottle. Aunt Mary gotta fix on Napa cabernet sauvignon? Screaming Eagle 2005 Napa Cab rings up at about $1,600 per bottle. Yup, that’s Santa love.

Gets silly, no? Value, though, is a function of desire and some other psychological mysteries too profound for us.

Wines and wine gear as gifts can still express love without getting absurd. Budget still plays a part, but beauty, it seems, comes at various prices.

Oregon has come through some remarkable years/vintages. Just for example, the 2008 pinot noirs tend to be firm but elegant; the 2009s are usually big and bold; the 2010s have been called “pretty little wines,” quite drinkable; 2011 was dubbed the “miracle vintage,” yielding pinots of great finesse; the 2012 vintage yielded some profound wines, though they’ll reach peaks of flavors in a couple of years; 2013 was the year of the Big Rains at harvest, but some vintners beat the rains and were rewarded with some fine “cool country” wines, not to be shunned. Of course, vintners are raving about the wines of 2014, “the best ever,” most still unreleased.

A very wine-hip gift might select bottles from each vintage (2008-13) for comparisons over years; many wine-hip giftees would be thrilled to open such a package. Price? Six good bottles, guestimate $300, ballpark.

Alternatively, try gadgets, like the Vinturi aerator ($40), a device that oxygenates a wine-pour, opening flavors and aromas: mas yums. Some winers still fret about temperature at serving; for such, wrap up Vinoice combination wine pourer and chill rod ($30). Stocking stuffers: box of “wine charms” for ID-ing a person’s own glass at a party ($4-$11); or a “drip stopper” — fits on neck of bottle, prevents stains on tablecloths — ($6).

Late entries: J. Scott 2012 Viognier ($20), a lovely, floral white; a yummy red surprise is J. Scott 2012 Zinfandel ($28), from Columbia Valley grapes, terrific.

All the space we had. Get help. And very merry Giftmas of wine, all year long.

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