Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Gifts to Sip and Use

Emeril Lagasse is the latest celebrity chef happy to winnow down the ever-expanding world of wine choices for you before you decide what you really like or what pairs well with your food. The Food Network star chef has "curated" a wine sampler collection that is being sold on, coming after similar sampler collections by other celebrity chefs (Curtis Stone) and celebrity sommeliers (Rajat Parr). Emeril's Holiday Party Sampler and his Everyday Sampler each contain small sample bottles (1.7 ounces or less than half a glass of wine in a typical restaurant) of two white wines and four reds -- all high-quality such as Napa's Patz & Hall and Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma -- and have suggestions for what foods to pair with the wines. Example: a duck confit panino from Emeril's recently released cookbook is suggested with Fess Parker's Syrah. The tasting samplers may be a great holiday gift for those who aren't able to visit wineries for tasting, who want the convenience of wine arriving at their front doorstep, or who just enjoy exploring different wines without having to pay for and drink a whole bottle. Emeril's Holiday Party Sampler $39.95 and Emeril's Everyday Sampler $32.95. also has wine-by-the-glass samplers, a great idea for controlling wine appetites!

I thought I was drinking red hots when I tasted SinFire, a cinnamon whiskey from Hood River Distillers in Oregon ($17). If you or someone you're shopping for loves spicy/sweet flavors or Red Hots in particular, this is a unique gift -- great for cocktails. For tamer appetites, Hood River Distillers Pendleton 1910 Canadian whiskey is also a good choice ($40).  

One of my favorite wines to serve during the holidays is a French-style (meaning dry) rosé wine -- it's so pretty on the table and the combination of fresh, bright fruit flavors and crisp acidity goes well with a variety of appetizers and holiday dishes. The St. Francis Winery 2011 Sonoma County Rosé blended from  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, is a winner for the holiday table. ($20). Another wonderful choice is the 2011 Scalabrone Rosato from Tenuta Guado Al  Tasso in western Tuscany. Red berry flavors and a palate-cleansing liveliness. $19.

Newly available in the United States from Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits is Enza Prosecco, a lovely Italian bubbly with pronounced flavors of pears and apples. This was tasty on it's own but would meld well in a variety of champagne cocktails for the holidays. At $14.99, it's a bargain.

 Nice stocking stuffer for a beer drinker/dog lover -- or yourself: The Pop Tag is a stainless steel keychain/beer bottle opener that you can personalize with a hand stamp so you and/or your friends will never be caught unequipped. The  Pop Tag also comes in a version for your pooch - ID tag & bottle opener in one. ($14.99).