Most wine geeks are also foodies (a term I loathe, but it's pervasive) who own a decent corkscrew, a set of sharp knives and upgraded-from-college pots. But we can never have enough gadgets or tasty ingredients to fan our foodie fire. Satisfy insatiable yearnings with these gift ideas:
Bacon of the Month Club
Not vegetarian-friendly, this club sends a new shipment of artisanal smoked swine each month, complete with informative notes, wine pairing suggestions and recipes. Curated by Grateful Palate's Dan Phillips, he samples hundreds of bacons to decide the monthly selections. The taste difference, he says, comes from the farmers' smokehouses that make their cured pork "truly expressive." Phillips' palate is also tested daily as one of the most acclaimed Australian wine importers in the U.S.
Gratefulpalate.com, $150 plus s&h for one package of bacon each month. They also have an intriguing coffee of the month club, featuring coffee blends specially made by chefs, winemakers and other esteemed palates.
Green Gift Pack
Purchase a canvas shopping bag ($3) at any grocer, or buy an organically grown cotton tote emblazoned with "F*ck Plastic" ($35). Fill it with: 1. a handwritten list of local farmer's markets; 2. a plastic bag dryer stand ($15) that facilitates washing and reusing Ziplocs; 3. a bamboo cutting board ($10-$40, depending on the size), made from this renewable, fast-growing wood; 4. a bag of organic, fair trade coffee ($10-$20) and 5. a stainless steel water bottle that can be washed, filled and reused ($18).
1. Microplane paddle grater for cheese, ginger or chocolate ($17, williams-sonoma.com). 2. A signaling, digital probe oven thermometer that measures temperatures of food as it cooks in the oven or on the grill without opening either ($50-$100, depending on the features). 3. Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food, "A cookbook for people who would rather understand their food than follow a recipe" ($22, hardcover). 4. And for the super food geeks, an artisanal salt sampler, with 24 different selections from around the world ($150, redenvelope.com)
Large Format Wine Bottle
Why buy a little bottle when a really big one will generate more attention? Rarely sold on retail shelves and even sought out by people in the wine business (including me), "large format" bottles house four or more bottles of wine (3 liters). Magnums, which contain two bottles, are fairly easily to find, but 3-liter behemoths are rare and, thus, coveted. It doesn't really matter what you buy — however, reds age better — since wineries won't put crappy wine in an expensive bottle. And with the miracle of the Internet, FedEx and a stash of cash, large formats can be delivered to your door. They start around $200, and go up from there.
K&L Wine Merchants
I've never witnessed anyone pull a bottle of bubbly from a gift bag, don a look of disappointment and say, "Shit, another one?" Champagne and sparkling wines never, ever receive half-hearted thanks. High-priced range: Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($60), mid-priced: Schramsberg Blanc de Noir ($35) and low-priced: Domaine Carneros Brut ($20).
1. Riedel "O" stemless glasses. Their fat bottoms create difficulty with cabinet storage, but they look cool, like someone swathed off the stem of a regular wine glass ($16 to $19 for two). 2. The Wine Bag. Made out of neoprene wetsuit material, this wine tote keeps a bottle chilled for up to four hours — available in one- to six-bottle versions ($11-$19 the winebag.com). 3. Vacu Vin Wine Saver. Keeps an opened bottle of wine fresh for two-to-three days. ($12, most kitchen and wine stores).
Naia 2006 Verdejo Rueda (Spain) Verdejo is an up-and-coming white grape indigenous to Spain. Tastes like a tangerine creamsicle dipped in tart homemade lemonade. S, T. $14.
Sweet (SW), Hypersensitive (HS), Sensitive (S), and Tolerant (T). Find out your tasting profile at budometer.com.