great gifts to savor
CultureMap Wine Guy Chris Shepherd reveals his ultimate holiday gift guide
Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day. When Chris expressed interest in writing about wine-related topics for CultureMap, we said yes.
In this week's column, he shares his ultimate wine-themed gift guide. Take it away, Chris.
I love a good gift guide because it helps me to find gifts for people that I love and respect. So, I wanted to put together a wine-focused guide for you to be able to share amazing things with the ones that are close to you and maybe — justmaybe — they’ll share them with you as well.
Some of these items are for long-term enjoyment, some of these items are for big groups of friends or clients, and some of these items are just useful to have on an everyday existence of life.
Also, I’m also putting together a general gift guide for my newsletter, so if you want to get that one too, sign up here!
Wine memberships with legs
First out of the gate is the gift that keeps on giving. The recipient will be reminded of you monthly with a good wine club membership. Here are a few of my favorites with different price points.
Montrose Cheese and Wine has two wine club options for you to choose from: the “Scooby Snack” ($75 monthly) that has 3 selected bottles and 1/2 pound of seasonal cheese and the “Advanced Course” ($175 monthly) which has 6 bottles and 2 1/2 pound selections of Artisan Cheese. It’s a party pack, if you will.
We were just in Ojai, California last week and stopped into Ojai Vineyardswhich produces a stellar line up of wines. The club that caught my eye (yes, I joined because they are delicious) offers something really amazing. It’s a Case Club, where you choose one or two cases a year (I went with one), and it’s totally customizable.
Score the toast of Central California with Ojai Vineyards' Case Club. Photo via\u00a0Ojai Vineyards
Don’t get me wrong: I like when shops and wineries pick stuff for me, but I also like the ability to pick what I want. Feeling like Syrah? Order extra. Sitting on too much Syrah from that last order? Get some Grenache, Pinot, or whatever floats your boat.
One more for you. Robert Sinskey Vineyards has an awesome club called the “Glutton & Gourmand,” which is 2-3 bottles per shipment, about once a month. You never really know what you are going to get so it’s literally an awesome present every month. In addition to the bottles, you’ll always get tasting notes from Rob and snacks or ingredients from Maria, who is a fantastic chef. Food and wine are both important for this incredible team. Robert Sinskey Vineyards Glutton & Gourmand
Robert Sinskey Vineyards's Glutton & Gourmand membership is just awesome.Image via Robert Sinskey Vineyards
Cool wine openers are always a good idea. The practical double hinged waiters corkscrew is a classic. There should be multiple in every household so that one is always in reach.
Pop bottles open like a pro with waiters corkscrew openers.Photo by Zach Horst
The Durand wine opener is an impressive gift for those you know that love to age their wine. It’s a corkscrew that has two prongs that go down the side of the cork to help keep them intact. It’s a beautiful gift.
The Durand corkscrew wine opener is just a gorgeous wine gift.Image courtesy of Durand
Let’s talk decanters for a second. I love them and use them quite often, but not all decanters are the same. Some decanters look like works of art which are, yes, pretty — but sometimes not the most efficient.
I like a good durable decanter that is 1) easy to pour from 2) easy to clean and 3) easy to store. See where I’m going with this? Just a good, old-school decanter like a Riedel Cabernet decanter works perfectly for all the points I just made.
Riedel's cabernet decanter is all functional, no fuss.Image via Riedel
Glassware is up next. For the day to day, I like a good white wine glass and a good red wine glass. Both need to be similar to the decanter — easy to clean and store. Schott Zwieselis a good bet. If you are really into beautiful glassware and don’t mind hand washing and polishing, purchase Riedel or Zalto. They are beautiful but very delicate.
If you really love that person and they are starting a collection, I suggest giving them a wine refrigerator. Wine Enthusiast has a great selection of chillers in all sizes for any collector, and their service is great.
For the bookish oenophile
For those that want to know more about wine, there are so many books out there, but three I’ve gotten lately are just great. Wine Folly, by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack, is just an all-around great encyclopedia of general and advanced knowledge, easy and fun to read.
Wine Follow is a great guide and fun to read.Photo via WineFolly.com
Ray Isle, the Food & Wine magazine wine editor, takes us around the globe to find new artisanal, environmentally friendly and delicious wines with his book The World in a Wineglass.
One that’s totally out there is The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert by Richard Betts which is just, well…fun. Oh, and an important note: Even though I linked to Amazon above, I encourage you to visit a local bookstore like Kindred Stories in the Third Ward first. Shop local whenever you can!
Take a whiff of the wine world with The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert.Image courtesy of Richard Betts
Speaking of shopping local, visit your local wine shops and ask about the perfect bottles for gifting. We have so many great shops in Houston with incredibly knowledgeable staff. Talk to them, get to know them, and they’ll get to know you and your wine preferences — and everyone wins.
Some of the places I’ll be visiting this season — Lees Den, Camerata, AOC Selections, 13 Celsius, Montrose Cheese & Wine, Light Years, Dodie’s, Stella’s, Houston Wine Merchant, and Total Wine. A few places I haven’t been yet or recently that I’ve been meaning to visit are Vinology, Padre’s Wine Bar, The Heights Grocer, and Sonoma Wine Bar.
Our Wine Guy plans to hit Padre's Wine Bar in the Heights.Image via Padre's Wine Bar/Instagram
Alright! Now, get out there and get those gifts for the people you love ...or, just love yourself and get something for you. (Editor’s note: Well played, Chris. Adding to cart now.) You deserve it and I’m proud of you!
Remember to take care of each other— not just this holiday season, but every single day. We all live on one planet that is going in the same direction, and we need to remember that with love and respect for each other, we can make this a better place.
Take care of your neighbors, the staff you see at your favorite restaurants and wine shops, the people that need a smile. One thing to remember, smiling is way easier than frowning. Happy Holidays, team!
Lindsey Brown, our Wine Guy's wife/better half, and his parents make him smile the most.Photo by Emily Jaschke
Got a hot holiday wine deal tip? Wanna wish the Wine Guy Happy Holidays? Contact Chris Shepherd via email at email@example.com.
Chris Shepherd won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014. The Southern Smoke Foundation, a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife Lindsey Brown, has distributed more than $11 million to hospitality workers in crisis through its Emergency Relief Fund. Catch his TV show, Eat Like a Local, every Saturday at 10 am on KPRC Channel 2.