Lots of people and commercial enterprises are more than happy to suggest and supply appropriate gifts for the wine lover on your list. My recollection is that for many years - until the American wine market began to gather steam -there were two simple categories: a fine bottle (of which there were fewer selections than there are today) and a brilliantly illustrated coffee table album.
Today, the choices are myriad, and so it may jump-start your imagination to suggest a few items in this seasonal deluge and where to get them.
A bottle of good wine? What could be easier? Readily available, in countless varieties and from countless wineries, in prices that range from bargain basement to breathtaking. But be careful. If up to $15 or so is the price you have in mind, it shouldn't be hard; whether the recipients prefer red, rose, or white, sweet or dry, they won't feel bad about pouring one of these bottles for company, rather than saving it for themselves. Just pick one of the ever reliable labels, like J. Lohr, Meridian, Buena Vista, Chateau St. Jean, William Hill, Robert Mondavi Coastal, Clos du Bois, B-V Coastal, or Gallo of Sonoma, and you can't go wrong.
Something more costly, perhaps much more so, takes careful planning. Otherwise, you may spend anywhere from $30 to several hundred dollars for an impressive bottle that inspires effusive thanks and deep-down, unspoken regrets: “Oh, thank you, thank you, I'm staggered by this bountiful Petrus, but, alas, for the same price it could have been two bottles of Yquem.”
Probably a gift most likely to be sincerely appreciated is a magazine subscription or a book - not a coffee table sort, but one to be read and then consulted from time to time.
It's best to check before you send a subscription to the Wine Spectator, because a serious wine lover may already be one of its 323,000 subscribers. It is, I believe, the best known and overall the best American wine periodical. This journal is currently passing its quarter-century anniversary, and in these 25 years it has matured from a tabloid narrowly focused on the California industry to a professional, up-to-date journal reporting on worldwide winemaking and marketing. In its pages the consumer is advised on wines to buy and, occasionally, not to buy (on one of those numerical scales I dislike). There is reporting on winemaking and grape-growing technologies; what company's buying which in this era of rapid consolidation; and, best of all, sketches of the human face of the industry, the real, down-to-earth men and women who grow grapes and make the wine on your retailer's shelf. (A one-year subscription is $45; Call 800-752-7799.)
Now available in this country, the British journal, Decanter, is a good choice by itself or in tandem with the Wine Spectator. It's less likely to overlap an existing subscription; given the prestige of British wine writers, it is generally more sophisticated and objective, and it echoes what seems to me a healthier European attitude toward wine. However, some of what it says - about notable wineries and varieties, availability and prices - is beyond a transatlantic reach. (It is $80 per year. Call 800-875-2997.)
Here's an original twist to a familiar event, a wine tasting: Firelands Winery invites grown-ups to an open house, with tasting and tours, from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 8. The state requires payment for samples, so there's a $1 charge. Information: 419-625-5474.
Robert Kirtland is The Blade's wine critic.
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