Giving The Gift of Wine

Giving your friend or relative some wine during the holidays seems like a great idea. But how do you decide what wine the recipient would like? You might choose a robust red only to find that he or she prefers sweet white wine.

Think food.

what to know before you ship it

Selecting the best wine to give is just half the battle.

"Do not drop the presentation ball by just throwing it in a box or bag," says Liz Wan of Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley.

"Include a card," she suggests. "This is a great place to put notes on how long to cellar a bottle before opening or how long the bottle will last in the cellar."

"The bottle of wine you're about to give away took someone or most likely a team of people more than a year of their lives to make," she adds. "Learn something about that bottle and educate the recipient. Most wineries have this information available or on their website."

If you need to ship the wine elsewhere in Oregon, or to another state, consider these points:

"Wine can only be shipped from a certified wine agency," says Victoria Guantonio, co-owner of the Pacific Wine Club in Medford. Most wineries qualify, as do some shops like hers.

If you arrange with a winery or store to ship it, "do not pack the wine unless you pack in certified wine shipping boxes (recycled wine shippers are allowed — wrapping bottles in bubble wrap is not allowed)," she adds.

"If you plan to buy wine off-site and bring to your shipping agency — a good idea is to include an inventory of the contents of the package. If damage does occur in transit you have documentation of what you sent. If you ship anything over $100 in value, ask to purchase insurance."

Shipping in extreme cold or heat can damage the wine, so check the weather forecast. "You can always ship by air, which is more expensive," says Guantonio, "but may be worth it to insure that your special gift arrives intact."

"You'll also want to let the recipient know that the bottle should rest for a few weeks before they open it," adds Wan of Troon. "As we get jet lag on long travels, so do the wines we drink."

Shipping wine is regulated by individual states, and each has its own set of regulations and they can change from time to time. It's best to call your winery or shipping company to check on which states are legal. A little over half of them currently are, says Guantonio.

Chances are you do know if Uncle Joe is a meat and potatoes man or if Cousin Millie is really into Thai food. So pick a wine that pairs well with steak or pad Thai.

"I would suggest a big, bold dusty Cabernet Sauvignon, one with very fine acidity, for a meat and potatoes man," says Fred Jennings, co-owner of Corks Wine Bar & Bottle Shoppe in Medford. A local wine he'd recommend is the 2005 Evans Creek Cabernet from Trium.

"Steaks love an earthy Malbec from South America," suggests Victoria Guantonio, co-owner of the Pacific Wine Club in Medford.

"Thai food begs for a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Rosé," says Jennings. Rosé works well with people who don't like whites or reds because it's pink. One Southern Oregon candidate he singles out is the new Rosé of Tempranillo from RoxyAnn Winery of Medford.

"Spicy food lovers will love a wine to tame the heat," says Guantonio. "An off-dry Riesling will pair with fiery foods as the sweetness tones the heat and allows flavors to surface."

"Italian food lovers will enjoy a Barbera," she continues, "as the taste profile is fruity, tannins low and high acid to complement almost anything from pasta to mushroom risotto."

And if chicken Marsala is your gift recipient's favorite, Jennings suggests a Viognier. "There are several in the area that are very nice. RoxyAnn Winery, Folin Cellars and Spangler Vineyards are just three of the many choices."

If he or she is a seafood lover, Jennings would recommend a Chardonnay like one from Schmidt Family Vineyards and LongSword Vineyard of the Applegate Valley, or a Pinot Noir. "The Agate Ridge Pinot Noir (from Eagle Point) would be perfect or the LongSword Dolcetto would also be a choice to please."

"For the entertainer, a sparkling wine will be a welcome gift," says Guantonio. "The pop of a cork is fun and festive and the price range is wide. Look to a Spanish Cava for values and French Champagne for that special one on your list."

Pairing wine with the food your recipient likes is important, but it's only one of several "P's" that Liz Wan of Troon Vineyard would suggest gift givers take into account. The others include Pretty, Price and Palate, says Wan, a member of "Team Troon" as the staff is called at this Applegate Valley winery.

Pretty? Don't buy a wine solely because you like the label, says Wan. But on the other hand, an ugly label is a turnoff. Try to find a wine that fits your other criteria and also looks good.

Price? "There are a bazillion wines out there that are affordable and amazing," says Wan. "The most common myth in the wine industry is that good wine is expensive. While this may be true in some instances — it is not always the case." Guantonio agrees: "Suggestions are limitless and can cost from under $10 and up."

Palate? "What is it that your recipient likes to drink? It doesn't matter how much you love cabs if you have never seen the person whom you are buying for with anything other than pink wine in their glass," Wan explains.

And two "D's" on Wan's list:

  • "Do not buy wine at a location that the recipient frequents unless you want them to know how much you paid."
  • "Do your research. If you don't have time there are quite a few 'wine geeks' out there that would love to help "¦ no really."

"Make it special," adds Wan. "Something about that bottle of wine should be an inside secret between you and the recipient."

And in Guantonio's words, "Gifts are an extension of us, the gift givers... When you give wine you present an experience."

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