Category Archives: Gift Ideas

Yes, you CAN find great value Champagne

Champagne has its reputation for a reason. It crafts wine like no one else. You can think of the market in Champagne like real estate in Manhattan. There is only ONE Manhattan and it will always be a high-price market due to the small land size and the high demand for what it has. Champagne is similar. There is only one, it’s unique, and people are willing to pay a premium for what it has to offer. Read more here on Champagne 101.

The thing is, Champagne represents celebration and happiness. When we show up to a party with a bottle of Champagne, or give it as a gift, we bring a big smile to someone’s face. It brings joy. It warms the heart. But it also typically carries a very large price tag.

Good thing we have some value Champagne on hand for you! What makes a good VALUE Champagne? Well, it has to first, come from Champagne. Second, be under $50 and third, knock your taste buds off their socks. Or maybe the phrase should be knock your taste buds off your tongue? Either way, there needs to be a “wow” factor.  This is a tough find, but one that is well worth seeking out – after all, finding a good Champagne under $50 = big score.

We’re featuring some of our great value finds today, including one of my all-time favorites, the Canard Duchene Brut Rose. This wine is amazing. It’s a beautiful package, but the wine inside is absolutely delicious, too! At $39.99, totally worth it.

Another favorite happens to be the Pommery Brut Royal. We’ve got it today at $34.99. An all-around classic, it’s the kind of bubbly you want have in your hand for all holiday dinners and parties all season long.

One go-to for me every year is the Gosset Brut – this is one of those excellent non-vintage Champagnes that always lives up. It’s on the medium-bodied side and an ideal companion to the whole meal, from appetizer to main course.

And then there is grower Champagne… that refers to Champagne that comes from the actual grower of the grapes. Much of Champagne comes from Champagne houses, who purchase grapes from a number of growers. This means the grower has complete control, from vine to the final dosage. We have an incredible example of this in the Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve 100% Grand Cru. At under $50, you absolutely have to try this wine. It’s structured and seductive, layered and complex. Seriously a winner!

Other great Champagne winners under $50 include:

Nicolas Feuillatte Blue Label Brut
Laurent-Perrier Brut
Canard-Duchene Authentic Brut
Ayala Brut Majeur
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Cuvee
Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut


When to decant

From a question I recently received on when to decant, I thought I’d re-post my previous decanting story a few holiday seasons ago.

Decanters. Most of them sit on a lonely shelf, looking pretty, gathering dust, its owners occasionally looking at the empty container wondering, when am I supposed to use that thing, anyway? The answer? Often! You don’t need a 30-year-old wine full of sediment to use and enjoy a decanter. Even if you are drinking something as simple and youthful as Two Buck Chuck, a decanter sure does make it look nicer on the table!

There are two main purposes of a decanter

1. To remove sediment from a wine

2. To aerate a wine

For the first, as a wine ages, it can throw a sediment, which collects at the bottom of the bottle. The decanter allows one to remove the wine from its sediment by slowly pouring the liquid into the decanter, keeping the sediment in the bottle.

How is this done? First, a day before you plan to drink an older bottle, gently stand it upright (it should be lying on its side in the cellar) and let it stand for a day. This way the sediment will slowly fall to the bottom of the bottle. Then, open the bottle and carefully and slowly pour the wine into the decanter. Towards the end, you will want to carefully watch and stop pouring once you get to the sediment. In formal restaurants, sommeliers use a candle under the bottle to help see the sediment. For your purposes, I’m sure any good lighting will do. Some older wines should be drunk right away while others benefit with some more cellar time.

You will most likely have many more opportunities to utilize a decanter for the second purpose – aerating a young wine. We are often eager to drink a wine right away, even when it is very young. To help it loosen up a bit, you need to let the wine breathe. Opening the wine does not qualify – that one inch diameter of wine that sees air thorough the bottle neck doesn’t do much ! Pouring the wine into a decanter allows much more of the wine’s surface area to see air, opening up a young, tight wine. The air helps the aromas and flavors open up, allowing you to enjoy more of the wine. This is the way to enjoy a young Bordeaux or California Cabernet – or any big wine for that matter.

So take the decanter off the shelf, and use it. It will enhance your wine drinking experience and always look pretty on the table.

Also, remember that a beautiful decanter makes a great gift for the wine lover – either to use, or just look pretty on the shelf.

Gift Guide by Personality

Finding the right wine for the right person is easy… if you just know what kind of wine “personality” they have!

The collector
For the person who loves good wines and loves to collect them, here’s what we have. These folks are the most easy to buy for since there are so many great bottles to give.  What do we like to give the collector? Champagne and big reds!
Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Limited Edition Gift Box ($199.00)– It’s the Cris. Three 97 point scores. Gorgeous package. Incredible wine. Think that’s enough said…
Il Poggione 2003 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ($89.00)–For those who want to hold onto a wine for a while… this will prove to provide the most pleasue in about 10 or more years.
Jordan 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.99)– A classic in the world of California winemaking, this Cabernet delivers an elegance highly sought after in the region.

The adventurer
For those who love to travel, we have nothing better to offer than our Tasting Room Travels – these are gifts that not only give wines, but give experiences! These are truely incredible gifts – they provide three wines from some top-notch wineries, as well as tasting passes for each winery, for up to 4 guests, that expire in December 2013. Great way to give something unique for the adventurous traveler.

The do-gooder
We all love to give-back, but some people on our list are so much happier to give than to receive. For those we recommend the Penfolds RED Wine Trio or the Penfolds RED Gift Basket - both of these gifts contain wines from Penfolds, who donates 15% of profits from each bottle of Thomas Hyland or Koonunga Hill wines sold (both of which are in the gifts) to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa.

The chocolate lover….
We all know them – perhaps we are one of them – those who love chocolate and wine and the pairing of the two. We’ve got some hot gifts for those folks, like one of my favorites, the BRIX Chocolate and Wine parings - a box of BRIx chocolates (that’s 4 bricks of chocolate), two of which pair perfectly with Bordeaux and Pinot Noir, which is why the gift includes a bottle each. Great package, great wines, delicious chocolate. We also have the gift with Zinfandel and Port. Yum!

The traveler
Take them to France, Spain, Italy our Australia with our pretty fantastic Worldly Wine Gifts. We have trios and 6-packs, wine collections and wine with food. You’re sure to find something special for the worldly traveler. nominated for best Wine Gift Basket

GiftRocket Gift Cards Gift Basket Competition
GiftRocket, an online gift card service that helps people send gifts to any local business in the country, has been accepting nominations for great gift-baskets and has been nominated in the Best Wine Gift Basket category. The gift basket selection at ranges from wine trios to super grand gourmet collections and a little of everything in-between. We take care in selecting the perfect wines to match up with an array of gourmet foods. You won’t find private labels or cheap mass-produced wine here – these are the kinds of baskets you’ll want to give to the wine loving friends on your gift list.

So, if you love our gift baskets as much as we love putting them together, please vote for our baskets!

Discover the Gems of Small Production Pinot Noir

At we love working with wines like Schug 2008 Sonoma Cost Pinot Noir. While this wine has garnered great praise – 90 points from PinotReport - and can be seen on many top winelists around the country – the winery itself is a still family run operation focused on keeping production small and winemaking excellent. And, wow, at under $20 we consider this one of the wine steals of the year!

So what makes small production Pinot like Schug so great? Just like the great wines of Burgundy, the best small production Pinot Noir from around the world focuses on hand-crafting, small case quantities, and loving attention to detail. In general, Pinot Noir as a varietal does not lend itself to the large production winemaking techniques typically used in crafting other red wine varietals. And so, it has only the most committed of winemakers, like the Schug family, who have the patience and passion to produce great Pinot Noir. For the wine aficionado getting to know and love these small production wines is a lifelong affair. While small production creates a challenge to source and acquire the good stuff, the journey is filled with many tasty rewards. Get started now with this “hand-picked” selection of some of our favorite boutique small production Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon and beyond.