Buying Christmas presents for the wine lover in your life can feel daunting, especially if you don’t fancy yourself an expert on the topic. But as a wine lover myself, I can vouch that the following options are bulletproof solutions to satisfy your gifting needs.
After years of working in Santa Ynez Valley wineries, Billy Dim launched Blendtique, which brings the fun of winemaking to your kitchen table. The company sends you a kit with four small bottles of different grape varieties (typically cabernet sauvignon, merlot, grenache, and syrah) along with a flask, pipette, and instructions. Once you concoct your favorite blend, you can order your own cuvée straight from the website. Kits range from $80 all the way up to the $500 combo pack, which includes your first case of wine. See blendtique.com.
Books to Buy
Books are the gift that keep giving, whether that means revisiting the pages, posting on your shelf to boost your wine-wisdom street cred, or letting friends borrow them when you’re done.
I’m frequently picking up The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste from my living room table to spend a few minutes enjoying the lively prose of Jordan Mackay and expert insight of Santa Barbara’s own Rajat Parr. It doesn’t need maps to convey the sense of place that draw the authors to the Old World’s most important and resurgent wine regions.
For this year’s early Hanukkah, my wife got me a copy (okay, I specifically asked for it) of Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey Through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine. In a light-hearted and often personal tone, journalist Jason Wilson tells the saga of winemakers who are fighting to save grapes you’ve never heard of, upholding diversity in the face of cabernet–chardonnay–pinot noir dominance.
For the budding expert, the seventh edition of Wine for Dummies, by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, is loaded with the basics, from grapes to regions to how to order at a restaurant. But the authors’ combined expertise also makes for enlightening entries on why we should be buying Côte Chalonnaise and how to be on the cutting edge of the next wine trend (hello, Slovenia!).
With the closure of Still on Anacapa Street a couple of years ago, Santa Barbara doesn’t have many locally owned spots to purchase fine cocktail equipment or glassware, or really any high-end kitchen goods for that matter. La Maison Rouge is C’est Cheese’s pop-up answer to that void, and features wine totes, cocktail glasses, decanters, and other accoutrements to complete your sipping — and cheese-loving — experience. Check it out at 825 Santa Barbara Street and cestcheese.com.
What’s the one thing that a wine lover will never say no to? More wine! And there’s no better way to get a wide range of tastes than at one of the many educational tastings that are held around the region each year. Coming up soon is Wine Speak in Atascadero, where winemakers from Paso Robles and beyond will share their wares at three public events: the Taste of Paso Robles grand tasting on January 8, 2019; the BYOB Casual Tasting on January 9; and the Paso Paired luncheon on January 9 with Chef Cheyne Jackson of The Range and keynote speaker Fred Dame. See winespeakpaso.com for tickets.
And then in March is the World of Pinot Noir at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, where dozens of the world’s top pinot noir producers converge to talk shop, break out old bottles for dinner, and pour to the masses at two giant but always insightful tastings. See worldofpinotnoir.com for tickets.