As the Christmas and holiday season roll around, several friends have asked me for gift suggestions for the wine enthusiasts on their gift list. Without knowing the wine tastes of their enthusiast friends, I am hesitant to suggest a particular wine, but often suggest wine-related items that have caught my attention and are available locally.
I’ve observed that wine lovers are also, more often than not, food enthusiasts, so a gift of food items or food-serving items is also often a nice idea. So I surveyed several merchants in Whitehorse and have found a selection of interesting gift ideas that may please the wine lover on your list.
Since we live in such a beautiful part of the world and much of what we do involves being outside, a natural category to consider are items that you could use on a hike, snowmobile outing or canoe trip.
I have come across several offerings, both old and new: while camping, cups are perfectly satisfactory drinking vessels; wine glasses add a delightful touch of class to wine drinking in the outdoors and there are several choices I would enjoy receiving.
While I have enjoyed Lexan wine glasses ($6.99) with screw-off stems that have been offered at Coast Mountain Sports (CM), for several seasons, yesterday, John, at Coffee, Tea & Spice (CT&S), showed me some terrific Govino polycarbonate stemless wine glasses ($20 for four).
They are feather-light, have very nicely shaped bowls and look just like crystal. And the stemless design makes sense to me as it would make them less likely to tip when placed on the uneven ground outdoors. I may have to put them on my Christmas Wish List.
CM and CT&S also offer stainless-steel wine glasses ($10) as a highly durable alternative.
Getting the wine to that ideal outdoor location is another consideration. If you’re taking glass wine bottles, either to a party or out on a trip, CT&S offers one- and two-bottle neoprene bags ($13 and $22). They’ll cushion the glass bottles from bumps and provide a layer of insulation to slow freezing in winter and keep wines cool in summer.
Alternately, CM offers classic wineskins (under $20) as well as the very clever Platypreserve 750-milliletre wine bag system ($44.99 for four) or singles ($12). Made by Platypus, maker of water bladders for backpacks, these clever screw-top BPA-free plastic containers will hold the contents of one regular wine bottle. Just pour it in, squeeze out any excess air and you have a lightweight, non-breakable carrying solution for a good bottle of wine. I’m planning on taking eight or 12 on a Kayak trip to Haida Gwaii, next summer, and once they’re emptied, they roll up to about the size of a toilet paper tube.
If you take traditional glass bottles with corks, DON’T FORGET THE CORKSCREW. I’ve climbed more than one mountain, only to reach the top, ready for a nice lunch, and a glass of wine, and been completely frustrated because I left this behind. My preferred solutions are a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman with a corkscrew ($20 and up at CM), or from CT&S: a double lever corkscrew from Peugeot ($35) or Trudeau ($14), or Peugeot two-tined Mathus corkscrew ($30).
For the wine lover who stays a little closer to home, I’ve seen a number of very nice items to consider, all offered at CT&S. The first that I am considering for my wish list is the Ravi Instant Wine Chiller ($55). Stick it in the freezer (or outside the cabin in winter) for a couple of hours and then attach it to the neck of your wine bottle.
The room-temperature wine, passing through the chilled Ravi, will be cooled down and poured into your glass, nicely chilled. It’s more for a white-wine drinker, though it would likely bring red wines down closer to “cellar” temperature.
As mentioned above, stemless wine glasses are becoming a popular item as they take up less space and there are no stems to break. CT&S has beautiful Spielelau stemless red-wine or Bordeaux glasses ($110 for four).
CT&S has an excellent selection of Spielelau and other stemware for every type of wine and spirit, and it is always a treat to drink out of the right kind of wine glass, so consider that as well.
And I saw some (admittedly smaller) basic stemless glasses at Superstore (under $20 for four).
CT&S has a super selection of stocking-stuffer items to consider for wine lovers: decanter cleaning balls ($19) and brushes ($17), and decanters themselves starting at $25. Wine Out red-wine stain removers ($9, $12) and wine pourer spouts or wine-glass markers ($9).
My final idea goes back to the idea of wine lovers often also being “foodies”. In my opinion, few things accompany a glass of wine better than French bread and cheese, so you might consider a few options.
A chunk of two-year-old aged Parmesan or Padano Italian cheese ($15 to $20) at Superstore or the Bent Spoon Café, on Main Street, is the perfect, classic accompaniment for an Italian red wine.
Superstore also brings in a selection of Québec cheeses that have been wonderful in past years, though OKA cheese is available year round and delicious with wine when served at room temperature.
The Chocolate Claim carries the wonderful, creamy Salt Spring Island cheeses (around $15, and highly recommended), and you might check to see what imported cheeses The Deli is offering as I have found some delicious European cheese favourites there.
A nice cheese, perhaps packed with a cheese knife ($17 to $30), a set of cheese knives ($30 to $50) or a set of cheese plates ($28 to $30), all offered at CT&S, would be a lovely gift for wine lovers.
Good luck on your Christmas and holiday shopping, and if it begins to wear you down, stop, put your feet up, pour yourself a glass of wine and reflect on how lucky and blessed we are to live in such a wonderful place.