Buying gifts for wine lovers is notoriously difficult. If you don't know much about wine, you end up giving German Riesling to the guy who only drinks French reds. Or you buy the latest trendy gadget--like a complicated straw that wraps around your head and is supposed to aerate the wine, but makes you look like a hospital patient. How about a t-shirt with Miles from Sideways screaming about Merlot? It's actually worse if you know what you're doing, because the two of you have tasted a lot of wine together and you have to dig deeper to find something he or she doesn't already have.
I get a lot of offers to review wine gifts, but I mostly don't. I always think, "Would I be happy to receive this, or would I be proud to give this to someone I care about? Will the gift actually be useful and enjoyed, or will it be awkwardly hidden in the back of a closet?"
Here's a real winner that's fun, serious, appeals to multiple levels of experience, and isn't very expensive. DeLoach Vineyards produces a Pinot Selections Tasting Kit for $25. Six different Pinot Noirs from six different vineyards. It's similar to the experience you'd have at a wine tasting or winery visit, except you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
Each bottle is 50mL/1.7 oz. Going through the entire kit is just 300mL, or the equivalent of two standard glasses of wine. This means that you can run through the whole tasting in an evening without going overboard. The kit does not include a tiny corkscrew, but fear not, these are all screwcaps. (The full size bottles are enclosed with corks.)
I've also included the prices of the full bottles just for the sake of completeness. Also note that the current lineup of wines is slightly different from the kit that I tried. The pencil and quarter were placed here for size comparison.
2007 Green Valley
Russian River Valley
$45, 14.5% abv.
Strawberry and brambles, a solid Pinot Noir with a firm presence.
2007 Masút Vineyard
$45, 15% abv.
Stewed fruit, fig, dark aromas, a little lighter but with a hearty nose.
2007 Maboroshi Vineyard
Russian River Valley
$45, 15% abv.
Light cherry, with a touch of rosemary. Cries out for lamb.
2007 Le Roi
$60, 15% abv.
Wild strawberries, a little earthy, silky smooth and light, restrained.
2006 Van der Kamp Vineyard
$42, 15.5% abv.
Cherry aromas and flavors dominate, with the firmest tannins out of the whole batch.
2006 Sonoma Stage Vineyard
$60, 14.5% abv.
Prunes and stewed fruit, with a hint of spice underneath. Oh this is luscious. Very mild and delicate, with a finish that gently melts in your mouth.
The kit includes an information card--on one side is a map showing where the grapes were grown, and the other side provides tasting notes and detailed information on each wine. I never look at preprinted notes before I try wine, but others may prefer to read along while tasting.
This would be a fun gift for someone that is getting into wine but hasn't made it out to California for a tasting. Or for someone that's interested in how one grape can be made by the same company but have six different flavors and profiles, but hasn't studied wine formally. It's an elegant enough gift to give as a housewarming present or for a company Christmas party. Keep a few on hand in case you need one of those last minute gifts for an unexpected occasion.
I even think this would be great to buy for yourself if you do a lot of traveling. Sometimes you're by yourself in a strange hotel in the middle of nowhere, and instead of having an overpriced cocktail in the lobby, you could set up your own little wine tasting in the room. A little touch of civility and wine appreciation while you're far from home.
Note: This kit was received as a sample.