Fork in the Road is publishing a series of local gift guides this year — one from each regular contributor. This one comes from our Unscrewed columnist, Lauren Mowery.
We all know that while you’re out hunting for the perfect present, you may end up inspired by your market research, and so you buy duplicates — one for your lucky gift recipient, and one for yourself. If you’re a wine lover and you’re shopping for a wine lover, we’ve done your research for you — and you still may have to order two of each of these presents. We’d be thrilled to wake up to any of these beneath our tree.
Built Wine Bottle Tote, $16.99
NY-based company Built has been improving wine transportation and insulation, one scuba-suit neoprene sleeve at a time. For a festive look, slip a gift bottle into one of four season-inspired totes such as Wintergreen Forest, or skip hanging stockings on the mantle and fasten a sleeve stuffed with wine gadgets (or, duh, wine). A stocking that’s useful once unstuffed!
Astor Wine and Spirits or Center Gift Card, Astor Wine and Spirits, 399 Lafayette Street
Let the wino who has it all decide how to spend your money. An Astor Wine and Spirits gift card can be used to pluck a bottle from the store’s mega-selection of wines. Alternatively, purchase an Astor Center gift card (different from the store) to apply toward an excellent class or seminar. Upcoming topics include “Old World vs. New World” and “Nebbiolo beyond Barolo,” featuring vaunted importer Neal Rosenthal at the tasting helm. Astor Center gift cards are shipped directly to the buyer — not the recipient — in three to five days, so don’t wait until the last minute unless you plan to hit the store in-person.
The Wine Check, $75
This one’s for the wine travel junkie. Planning to hit a new wine region and hoard bottles you can’t find at home? Tired of paying exorbitant shipping fees? (What’s the going rate for a case of wine from Australia back to NYC, anyway?) Or dreading wrapping your treasures in dirty laundry, sleeved with tube socks, rolled in a Shiraz-stained sweatshirt, and sealed in a cheap convenience store plastic bag, only to pray throughout the flight that your cargo doesn’t break and drench your suitcase in red alcohol? If you or a loved one fit this description, you need this suitcase-cum-wine shipper. The Wine Check holds 12 bottles, is lightweight (less than five pounds, and has attached wheels and a strap, which make it easy to roll behind you. The Wine Check is also collapsible and reusable (when the wine shipper box/insert is removed), so you can store it and use it whenever you want to take wine with you. Just make sure to sign up for an airline credit card with a free luggage allowance to maximize savings, and you’ll never pay to bring wine home again.
Wine Diapers, $14.99 for two
For a cheaper, less committed solution to wine transportation than the Wine Check, stuff a wine lover’s stocking with a couple of Wine Diapers. Lightweight, flat, padded, and reusable, they are easy to pack and toss in a suitcase for that “just in case” moment that will inevitably come. The diapers seal, so if the bottle does break (it needn’t be wine — olive oil, whisky — whatever fits), the liquid stays in the bag, not your recipient’s shoes.
Brooklyn Oenology Wine, $19.99
How cool is a present of wine from an urban winery in Brooklyn? Alie Shaper, winemaker for Brooklyn Oenology, crafts a range of vinos in Williamsburg, including a zippy, brut-style sparkler called Shindig Fizz. At $19.99, gift a few bottles and keep the festive bubbles flowing from Christmas Eve until Santa’s arrival at dawn. (Assuming he doesn’t drink too much and forget to show up.)
Coravin Wine Preservation System, $300
Tell the lucky gift recipient to toss out all their gimmicky, subpar wine-saver systems, because they’ll only ever need the Coravin. The tool is equal parts dispenser and preserver: It allows users to pour wine from a bottle of still wine (no bubbles) stopped with natural cork without actually pulling the cork and exposing the remaining wine to oxygen. Days, weeks, months, and even — supposedly — years later, that same bottle will taste just as fresh and lively as the first time they sample it. A total game-changer for a wine collector.
The World Atlas of Wine, Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, $35
This seventh edition may be marketed as a wine reference book, but it reads like a menu of desires for vinous travel obsessives. The stunning photography brings palpable beauty, while detailed maps let geeks plot and drool over future tasting itineraries. The tome is packed with regional information and data; this is an essential book for any student or lover of the grape.
Wine and Beverage Pairing at The Musket Room, 265 Elizabeth Street, $125/person
I predict the New Zealand wine and food scene will continue to earn international attention, and not just for its Sauvignon Blanc and lamb. For a chance to drink exciting, non-SB wines (Millton Chenin Blanc, Man O’War Syrah) and dine on superlative food in a pretense-free space, celebrate the holidays with the gift of a six-course tasting menu ($75) and beverage pairing ($50) at Michelin-starred Musket Room. Chef Matt Lambert just returned from a trip to New Zealand, so expect fresh ideas on your plate(s) as he works towards a second star.
The New California Wine, Jon Bonné, $21
Wine is produced in all 50 states, but California has been and continues to be the most important domestic region. California wine authority and San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonné applies astute, epigrammatic, and engaging writing to the voluminous topic of California’s wine industry, acknowledging its past and present success stories and failings while identifying the revolutionary paradigm shift underway that will become its future. A bonus purchasing reference lists all the must-know producers and their best wines. This book is great for any wine enthusiast, especially those whose hand recurrently reaches for the fruits of the Golden State.
Zalto Denk’Art Glassware, $59-$354
Tired of drinking from stubby, fat-lipped glasses at your parents’ house during the holidays? Treat them to a new set of stems. If they’ve been really good this year (or your end-of-year bonus was), splurge on the ultimate in glassware by Zalto. A set of six universal glasses runs steep at $354 (or one for $59). Expensive? Very. But for your lips (oops — I meant theirs), only the best will do, and these feather-light, thin-as-razor Austrian crystal vessels will transform the drinking experience from ordinary to transcendent. Each handblown glass appears gossamer-delicate but is durable enough to withstand the dishwasher (although I wouldn’t risk it). It’s like flying first class — you’ll never want to go back to coach.