For more of our editors’ gift picks, read “Give What You Love”, in the Dec. 15, 2021, issue of Wine Spectator.
Food and Drink Essentials and Indulgences
Seattle Caviar Co. Petite Caviar 101
I am not a caviar expert by any means, but who doesn’t love that pop of delicately briny flavor? This family-owned company, which places an emphasis on sustainability, will send you a selection of all their caviars along with maps and tasting notes. This selection of seven includes at least two raised using sustainable aquaculture: Idaho White Sturgeon, sourced from the Pacific Northwest, and Siberian Sturgeon. Invite over five friends and, by the end of the night, you could be caviar experts. Just don’t forget the pearl spoon, toast points and crème fraiche.—Cassia Schifter
Aberfeldy 18-Year-Old Limited Edition Carries the Power of Côte-Rôtie
reservebar.com, $140 pre-order
When the Golden Dram of Scotch meets the singular prestige of the northern Rhône’s gem, the results can only be described as rare, luxurious and powerful. This is the character of the Aberfeldy 18-Year-Old Limited Edition, a single malt Scotch finished in Côte-Rôtie casks. It’s the passion project of malt master Stephanie MacLeod, who seeks out unique cask finishes that elevate the signature richness of Aberfeldy. Expect the power and elegance of the Northern Rhône’s famed “roasted slope” with the concentration and honeyed accents of Aberfeldy. Silky and expressive, it tastes of red berry fruit, vanilla and butterscotch. Gift this rarity to wine lovers, Scotch lovers or someone who is truly special.
Uplands Cheese Co. Rush Creek Reserve
The holiday season marks the arrival of some of the rarest, most decadent and sought-after seasonal cheeses of the year, including Switzerland’s iconic Vacherin Mont d’Or. (See “Give What You Love.”) Here in the U.S., Uplands Cheese Co.’s Rush Creek Reserve has just made its annual debut. This spruce-wrapped, washed-rind cheese is perfect for entertaining—spread the rich, scoopable paste on toast or crackers and savor its creamy, meaty and nutty flavors. For more on bark-wrapped cheeses, see “Bark-Wrapped Treats: Rare and Delicious.”—Robert Taylor
Diamond Champagne Bitters and Teddy Bear Champagne Bitters
sugarlab3d.com, 6 for $25
We’re a well-stocked wine and beer household, but when my cocktail-loving friends come over, they get frustrated at our lack of cocktail and mocktail accoutrements. Enter these charming bitters sugar cubes (6 for $25) from Sugar Lab 3D. The colorful diamonds or teddy bear shapes (which hang adorably from a glass) are made from sugar and are the equivalent of two dashes of Angostura bitters. For a delightful update on a traditional Champagne cocktail, serve a glass of sparkling wine with one of these cubes and a twist of lemon. The sugar dissolves quickly and completely, sending a whirl of bubbles and aromatics up to the top of the glass. Sugar Lab 3D has plenty of other great ideas for gifts—sugar cubes in distinctive shapes and flavors including Candy Cane and Pumpkin Spice coffee and tea lovers, craft beer chocolates in the shape of cans and even peppermint-flavored lumps of coal for those on your naughty list.—MaryAnn Worobiec
The Editor’s Collection
simiwinery.com, $45 for a two-pack and $120 for a six-pack
Dedicated to “page-turning, glass-filling women,” The Editor’s Collection is part of a novel new partnership between SIMI Winery and Reese’s Book Club (RBC). This limited-edition holiday box set features SIMI’s Sonoma County Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon along with a personal note from Reese Witherspoon. Together, this pairing will spotlight diverse female narratives and deepen connections within the community by offering book club members, wine drinkers and lovers of literature more ways to engage with stories and each other. As part of RBC’s mission to advance literacy, a percentage of proceeds from sales of The Editor’s Collection will support The Readership, the book club’s pay-it-forward initiative. Read along as the SIMI Winery and Reese’s Book Club story unfolds, and stay tuned for future offerings that are bound to happen by following @SimiWinery on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and downloading the free Reese’s Book Club app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Opopop Discovery Kit
Popcorn is a favorite snack at our house, and not just because salty, buttery popcorn and crisp sparkling wine are a perfect pairing. I recently discovered the Opopop brand, where each popcorn kernel is “flavor wrapped,” meaning there’s thankfully no powdery residue or oiliness to deal with, just tasty popcorn. The $40 Variety Show is a perfect housewarming gift or present for your flavor-intrigued friends. It comes with a collapsible, dishwasher-safe microwave popcorn popper, and sample sizes of the Vanilla Cake Pop, Cinnalicious, Maui Heat (a pepper/pineapple blend), Chedapeño, Salted Umami and Fancy Butter. I’m a bit of a purist, so I love the Fancy Butter flavor the most, but my 10-year-old niece convinced me to mix the flavors together and the Salted Umami, Fancy Butter and Chedapeno is a fun combo. Try your own! There’s also a Holiday Flavors Discovery Kit, with Salty Caramel, Gingersnap and Fancy Butter. Either option provides an excuse to open a few bottles and have a wine-and-popcorn pairing showdown to figure out the best match.—M.W.
Urbani White Truffles & Porcini Sauce
This is the perfect stocking stuffer or host gift for any truffle lover, but especially one who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Less than 10 minutes work—just the amount of time it takes to cook some pasta—produces a restaurant-quality dish with this savory white truffle and porcini mushroom sauce from Urbani. The small 6.1-ounce can is just about right for pasta for two people. Although I tend to use it with pasta, it also works well on toasted crostini, dropped into scrambled eggs, mixed into risotto and more. I always keep a couple of cans in the pantry, for the nights that I want to keep the cooking simple, as well as for the nights I want to impress guests.—Alison Napjus
TuttoCalabria Calabrian Chili Paste
Available on amazon.com, $10
In April 2020, only about a month into lockdown, I was already tired of my cooking! Searching for new recipes and inspiration I decided to try my colleague Julie Haran’s Spicy Pantry Pasta with Capers and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes, including the recipe’s signature ingredient, Calabrian chili paste. I made the surprisingly simple but delicious dish, and the rest is history: It was love at first bite. I make Julie’s pasta two or three times a month, but we also add Calabrian chili paste to so many meals: a dash on my bagel and cream cheese in the morning, mixed with honey and a touch of ketchup as an impromptu barbeque sauce for grilled chicken, added to Pad Thai delivery when it’s not quite spicy enough, and added to virtually any tomato-based sauce. A creative food lover who likes a little—or a lot—of heat in their cuisine will love to have a jar of this spicy goodness on hand.—Alison Napjus
Gifts with a Wine Country Connection
Shared Notes 100% Columbian Coffee Subscription
sharednoteswine.com, starting at $18 per month or $17 every two weeks
Winemaking couple Bibiana and Jeff Pisoni make terrific wines for different brands in California, and together they partner under the Shared Notes label based out of Sonoma. But when Bibiana (who drinks up to 20 cups of coffee a day) told me that she’s also importing single-farm coffee beans from her native country of Columbia and roasting the beans, I immediately signed up for a subscription. From the first delivery, I was hooked. This is rich, flavorful coffee, and though I’m normally a latte drinker, I enjoy this coffee pure and black. Subscriptions come in 12- and 32-ounce bags and at various frequencies, from weekly to monthly, with the selections always from small farms and grown at high altitudes.—M.W.
Olive and Poppy Wine Barrel Jewelry
Olive and Poppy have been my go-to source for clever, beautiful Napa-based gifts for years (including gifts for myself). They are masters of turning used wine barrels into must-have accessories. I have multiple colors of their bangles made from used wine barrels and colorful lucite (starting at $24), and I’ve given away dozens to my friends—there are always fun new colors to consider. Some of my friends will be getting the wine barrel earrings (starting at $42), others the hexagon cuff bracelet, yet others the sunglasses ($80) or cufflinks made from barrels. Check out their hostess gifts: tea towels, photo frames and tote bags, all with a touch of Napa flair.—M.W.
Barnel Professional Pruners B303
A vital tool in grape growing is a pruner or secateurs, as they are known in French, which vineyard workers use to sculpt the vines throughout the growing season, but especially in late winter when the long canes are cut back. A good pruner is key to managing your garden as well, from cutting fresh flowers or vegetables to pruning roses and trimming shrubs. Recently, I lost my favorite pruner, but I quickly homed in on replacing it with this beauty from Barnel, the B303 8 1/4-inch model, which can cut plant material up to 1 inch in diameter. Don’t forget to add a leather sheath to clip on your belt so you won’t misplace it.—K.M.
Essentials for Wine
Barvivo Wine Opener with Rosewood Handle
A few years ago, I worked as a bartender at a busy Manhattan wine bar. On my first day, the wine director handed me this wine key. It got me through 50-table nights, daily happy hours and crowded holiday parties where bottles of wine had to be opened in seconds. It has a double-hinged fulcrum for lifting long and fragile corks and a sturdy corkscrew that can also handle the most tightly sealed synthetic and natural corks with minimal effort. Whether you know a passionate wine collector or a young waiter at a busy restaurant, this affordable and simple-to-use wine key is a gift that will help uncork great memories.—Shawn Zylberberg
Coravin Sparkling Wine Preservation System
Introducing the NEW Coravin Sparkling™ Wine Preservation System that allows you to open a bottle one weekend, then preserve the fresh effervescence for up to four weeks. Whether it’s a pre-dinner glass of bubbly, celebrating the end of a long day or kicking off the holiday season, now you can pop any bottle of sparkling wine—half bottle, standard or magnum—without hesitation. The Coravin Sparkling™ Wine Preservation System uses 100% Pure CO2 to guarantee that the last glass will taste just as amazing as the first.
Riedel Performance Champagne Glass
Celebrating during the holiday season often involves raising a glass of sparkling wine, so why not do it in style with glasses that show the wine at its best? This tulip-shaped glass from Riedel is designed to enhance the enjoyment of fine sparkling wine by increasing the wine’s aromatic profile in the glass and then delivering the bubbles and flavors more evenly to all of your tongue’s tastebuds. The more common Champagne flute, tall and narrow, dramatically diminishes the wine’s bouquet before shotgunning the bubbly onto your palate, aggressively hitting more or less one spot. The entry-level price point for many bottles of sparkling wine, particularly Champagne, is very high—usually $40 to $50 per bottle or more. That’s an investment in both the quality of the wine and the occasion for which you’re drinking it. Take that experience and your enjoyment of it to the next level and serve a fine bottle of bubbly in the glassware it deserves!—Alison Napjus
Give The Gift of No Wine Headaches—The Phoenix® Reusable Wine Purifier
This holiday season's must-give wine gift! The Phoenix® is the one and only reusable wine purifier and aerator designed to remove both histamines and sulfites from wine as you pour. It alleviates wine headaches, stuffy nose, skin flushing and next-day hangovers without affecting the natural taste, aroma, or color of the wine. Eco-friendly and cost effective! You can use The Phoenix® on every bottle of wine as you pour. Simply replace the Bio-Pod™ cartridge after enjoying each bottle of wine. Whether it's Ladies Night Out or a cherished glass of Pinot after a long day, PureWine allows you to enjoy life's celebrations and feel great tomorrow! After five years and more than 8 million single-use products sold, PureWine has embraced the eco revolution and created a bio-renewable way to eliminate wine headaches and bring back the pleasures of wine.
Tomato sauce and red wine on a white linen skirt? It was a clear sign that I shouldn’t play chef and sommelier while wearing white linen, but it might also have been a lasting reminder of my first day of vacation at a villa in Provence. Instead it was an opportunity for me to be wowed by products from The Laundress, a company founded by two scientifically-minded fashion-lovers who attended my alma mater, Cornell University. Following the company’s materials, I mixed the Stain Solution with the All-Purpose Bleach Alternative to first pretreat, then machine wash my skirt, successfully removing both the tomato sauce and red wine a full 3 weeks later; the skirt looks even brighter and better than before. Since then I’ve attacked other dingy and stained whites (my husband’s gym shirts!), as well as stains and grease spots on colored and fine fabrics. This is the gift I keep giving myself, as well as anyone I know who loves their clothes or spends a lot of time in the laundry room.—Alison Napjus
Tools for the Home Cook
Miroco Milk Frother, Stainless Steel Milk Steamer
taotronics.com, $42, on sale for $26
At the start of the pandemic, it was clear that trips to my favorite espresso bar weren’t going to be possible for a while. So I dusted off my New York apartment–size espresso machine and returned to very unprofessionally making my daily double-shot at home. Soon enough, I knew I was going to need to up my coffee game if I was going to be my own barista for the foreseeable future. The answer was clear: “Make your own cappuccinos.” Of course, that meant I needed foamed milk. By the time my second handheld milk frother broke (way too soon), I had to admit defeat. My search for a more substantial model led me—after reading countless product reviews—to Miroco’s stainless-steel frother. I was instantly hooked. This is a plug-and-play, low-maintenance appliance. With one push of a button, your milk quietly goes from plain and cold to rich and comforting. It warms your milk too and does amazing things to heavy cream (a delicious topping for ginger-lemon tea, by the way). It truly turned my apartment into my own personal coffee bar, and it’s sure to do the same for the cappuccino, latte and cortado lovers in your life.—Collin Dreizen
Weber Spirit E-210 Gas Grill
I have owned several Weber gas grills over the years, from a luxurious Genesis II to the compact Spirit E-210. Old-school grill masters may scoff at gas, but when I was growing up in Canada, it was ideal for efficient grilling on the coldest of winter days. If space is an issue, consider the Spirit E-210. I love it because it fits nicely on my Upper East Side terrace, has folding side tables and reaches 500 degrees F in about 10 minutes. The two burners are suitable for grilling items for up to four people. Weber offers excellent customer support, and replacement parts are easy to find online or at your local hardware or outdoor/garden store. Just remember to have a spare canister of propane on hand!—Bruce Sanderson
surlatable.com, $29 for 9-inch size
Tired of burning your fingers or dropping food while you are cooking? Tongs are the one kitchen item I can’t live without. I have at least a dozen different sizes and styles, but my favorites are the locking tongs from Rösle. They open in the down position and lock closed in the up position, requiring only one hand to operate. Both dexterous and solid, they are strong enough to even use for lifting light pans from the oven. Three different sizes—9 inches, 12 inches and 16.8 inches—make them versatile enough for the most delicate and detailed uses, from flipping shrimp or scallops to handling that bone-in tomahawk steak on the grill.—B.S.
Lodge 10.25-Inch Classic Cast Iron Skillet
You can spend hundreds of dollars (if not thousands) on cookware, but to my mind there are few kitchen items more useful, versatile and well-priced as a cast iron pan or skillet. The go-to producer for reliability and range of offerings is Lodge. Why cast iron? It’s virtually indestructible and, once seasoned properly, it’s almost as slick as Teflon—and it gets better the more you use it. There’s no faster way to sear a steak than the high heat conducted by cast iron. I also use my skillet on a covered grill for cooking vegetables, baking cut-up potatoes or even roasting a whole chicken. You can buy pre-seasoned pans for a few dollars more.—Kim Marcus