Slightly Last Minute Gifts for Wine Lovers
The holidays are upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you haven’t yet begun shopping. Most people in my immediate circle love wine and are connected to the industry one way or another—a bottle of Bruno Paillard Brut Champagne is always welcome, but I like to give gifts that last.
The pursuit of wine makes us a bookish, endlessly curious crowd. Here are a few favorites from 2016—a short list of movies I’m sure to watch again and again and books I’ll thumb through to find a favorite passage.
Alder Yarrow’s The Essence of Wine is a visual feast. This collection of photos and wine descriptors assembles the familiar; cherries, peaches, grapefruit, and plum to more enigmatic aromas of green wood, the sea, and wet stones. Alder’s background in design shows in the tailored organization of content, where sumptuous images live alongside poetic descriptions. Thoughtful and informative, this book deserves a spot on the wine lover’s coffee table.
You can purchase The Essence of Wine directly from his website, Vinography.
For Burgundy fans, filmmaker Rudi Goldman offers us an intimate glimpse into the region. Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine opens not with a native Burgundian, but with Alex Gambal, an American transplant turned winemaker. “Burgundy is one of those interesting metier that allows one to be creative but to be creative in a tight, restrictive manner. This is the paradox of Burgundy. We just can’t plant anywhere, we just can’t do what we want. But in within those very strict rules there is a great deal of creativity and nuance. Whether its music, art or in this case wine, we have to work at understanding the nuance,” says Mr. Gambal. Studded with a colorful cast of characters, including luminaries Véronique Drouhin, Jacques Lardière, and Olivier Leflaive, the rest of the film strives to help us unravel a bit of that mystery. We tag along on treks through Grand Cru vineyards and moldering cellars, a convivial Wine Brotherhood ceremony, and year’s most anticipated event outside of harvest: the Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction. The DVD is handily available for purchase here.
Moving on, from France to Portugal’s steeply-terraced Douro Valley, I was charmed by A Year in Port, the last in a trilogy of documentaries narrated and directed by David Kennard. All three films, A Year in Burgundy (2013), A Year in Champagne(2015), and A Year in Port (2016) follow French wine distributor Martine Saunier through the mantle of each region’s changing seasons.
In 2014 I attended a small tasting led by Martine at Soif Restaurant & Wine Bar, a cozy destination in the heart of Santa Cruz. Her soft-spoken manner and deep knowledge translate on camera and in person, I left that tasting feeling as though I’d met a pioneer—being a successful importer and a woman in the late 1970s was no small feat.
In the spring of 2015, I traveled to Europe for the first time, my first stop and one that I’d spent months planning was at Taylor Fladgate. As a winemaker, processes I’m not familiar with—in this case making fortified wine using the solara method of blending is not typically part of the American winemaking experience. My visit culminated in tasting an 1863 Single Harvest Tawny Port, an experience that set me back $100 euros, but one I’ll never forget. A Year in Port is available for purchase on Amazon, better yet, buy the entire collection.
2016 also marked my first trip to Champagne, a region clad in tradition and steeped in time. I spent a week tasting grower Champagnes from producers I’ve long admired, Larmandier-Bernier is one. Our small group also toured larger houses like Louis Roederer and Veuve Cliquot. (Veuve’s deep hand-excavated chalk crayère are impressive and well worth seeing.)
David White, founder and editor of the acclaimed Terroirist.com wine blog has recently published But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine. The book takes us through Champagne’s long and complicated political history, exploring how its wines became intertwined in pomp and ceremony, and how they’ve evolved sylistically. It then detours into the practical, laying out how Champagne is made—I dare say the reading is far more entertaining than WSET’s dry chapter on méthode champenoise. The second half of the book is devoted to producer profiles, White offers a comprehensive, accessible guide to anyone seeking to learn more about the region and its wines. But First, Champagne can be found at Barnes & Noble.
And finally, for those of you with philanthropic hearts and generous souls, consider a gift from Feast it Forward, a digital network led by host Katie Hamilton Shaffer. Feast features culinary, drink and entertainment segments while showcasing the goodwill across the globe. The network makes its home in Napa Valley and has recently formed some incredible partnerships, including Sunset Magazine and celebrity chef, Jacques Pepin. You can learn more about Feast it Forward’s foundation and their initiatives here. You can also visit their online store featuring wines, spices and stemware. My personal favorite is their luxury line of Stölzle stems. A portion of proceeds goes to the Feast it Forward Foundation.