We hate to tell you this, but the holidays are lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce on gift procrastinators (like you) who haven't even thought about what to buy the winos in their lives.
Since you can't always depend on that red-suited-fat-guy to save your butt at holiday time, we're here to help you choose the perfect loot for your favorite wine lovers.
What wine geek wouldn't love the gift of vino? Here are just a few of the endless possibilities.
Single Bottle Splurges: For reds (from most expensive to least), think Stag's Leap Cabernet, Argyle Pinot Noir or Silver Oak Cabernet. White wine lovers will drool over the likes of Kistler Vineyards Chardonnay, Mer de Soleil or Landmark Chardonnay. Some of the best bubblies come from Veuve Clicquot, Roederer, Schramsberg and Mumm Cuvee Napa. $20 and up.
Case o' Cheap but Good Wine: For a combo of quality AND quantity, put together a mixed case of value wines from reliable wineries like Canyon Road, Bonny Doon, Fetzer, Rosemount and Cline.
Vino-by-Mail: Unlike many wine Web sites, Viansa winery (www.viansa.com, 800-995-4740) can legally ship wine to any state in the US. That's because Viansa's dee-licious wines are sold only at the winery. $11 and up. Also look up www.wine.com and see if the company delivers to your state.
Winemaking Kit: Know someone who thinks he's the next Robert Mondavi? Home brewing shops and Web sites (www.beer-wine.com) offer complete do-it-yourself kits for about $50.
Decent Wine Glasses Riedel makes some great (but pricey) ones, which are scientifically designed to make even crappy wine taste better ($20-$85 per glass). For cheaper stemware, check out the Wine Enthusiast catalog's affordable knock-off versions.
Glass Charms: These nifty little ornaments fit around wine glass stems to help absent-minded drinkers keep track of their glasses at parties ($19.99-$24.95/set).
Palm Software Spare your favorite wino the hassle of lugging around a dog-eared wine book to every shop in town. WineScore's cool Palm device software lets ratings freaks tap into thousands of wine scores in the grocery store, wine shop or wherever ($25).
From any given crowd, there always emerges a jabbering wine idiot spewing half-truths about French appellation this and single vineyard that. Do us all a favor and give the gift of knowledge. Here are some wine bibles we recommend.
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course 2002 Kevin Zraly, Sterling Publications. Kevin Zraly, wine educator at the ill-fated Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center, reigns as one of this country's gifted wine gurus. The book is fun, down-to-earth, and free of pretension. Zraly makes wine stuff look easy ($24.95).
Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine, Second Edition Philip Seldon, Alpha Books. Okay, okay, the "idiot" thing is a bit hokey, but Selden really knows his wine. The book starts with the complete basics and moves to higher-level wine peculiarities. Great starting point for the downright novice ($18.95).
101 Essential Wine Tips Tom Stevenson, DK Publishing. Succinct and compact, this little book covers more detail than you might imagine. It walks you through the winemaking process, the different wine-producing areas, and how to buy wine. And for the price, you can't go wrong ($4.95).
MO' WINE EDUCATION
For hands-on (or should we say "mouth-on") learning, sign your wine-loving friend up for a wine class or tasting event. For the scoop on what's happening across the country, click on over to www.localwineevents.com or www.winebrats.org.
Whatever you select for your wine-loving pals this holiday season, be sure to remember the most deserving people of all: us. After all, we gave you lots of great ideas and saved you hours of gift-hunting torture at the mall. No need to add us to your Christmas card list - Burgundies and Sauvignon Blancs will do nicely.
Comments? Questions? Great wine experience to share? Talk to us! We'll feature your comments in our Mailbag. E-mail [email protected], mail to Corkscrew, 1310 E. Ninth Ave., Tampa, FL 33605 or call 1-800-341-LOAF.