Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers, Minus the Eye Rolls

For the holidays, we do not want a T-shirt that says “NOVINOPHOBIA. The fear of running out of wine.” Just so you know.

We understand how difficult it is to choose a gift for your wine-loving friend or relative who already seems to have everything and likely knows and cares much more about wine than you do. That’s probably why catalogues, stores and online marketplaces are filled with, say, a 16-ounce insulated tumbler made to look like a prescription bottle for Pinot Grigio.

Here are some ideas that should not leave your giftees rolling their eyes, many based on our own wine moments this year. In most cases, we start with something specific, but each is meant to be a starting point for your search. Some of these will require a bit of work, and possibly shipping, but that’s often true of great presents. 

One important note about shopping for unusual and possibly expensive wines if you are not used to doing that: This is the time to visit a small, thoughtful local wine store with a knowledgeable, caring staff, which might turn out to be a present to yourself in the long run. In addition, a number of these wines are available from online retailers like Finally, while a giant chain might seem like a spot for industrial products, they also have the kind of buying power that sometimes allows them to get a small allocation from wineries that otherwise say they only sell direct-to-consumer, so visiting one of them might also be fruitful. One important warning no matter where you shop: If a salesperson tells you that this expensive wine is just as good as the one you are looking for, do a quick search on your phone to make sure it’s from a real winery. If you come up empty, it could be a “private label” wine that is, indeed, sometimes industrial, with heavy bottles and eye-catching labels. OK, with those caveats, here we are:

--Ice Cider from Eden Specialty Ciders in Vermont. We’d never tasted an Ice Cider or, in fact, knew it existed. Then we had a sip of this at an event and wow. It’s made from frozen cider and has such great balance and acidity that it’s stunning, especially with a wide variety of cheeses. This is about $35 for a half bottle at Eden Specialty Ciders is made from 100 percent Vermont fruit and was the first Ice Cider producer in the U.S.

--“The World in a Wine Glass,” a new book by Ray Isle. Every wine lover should have, and likely does have, the latest editions of Oxford Companion to Wine and the Wine Bible. This needs to sit next to them. It is very modern in its focus on wineries that are organic, biodynamic and sustainable. And in every case, Isle introduces the reader, briefly, to the people who make the wine and the regions where they make it. It’s an extraordinary achievement. It’s new, so your wine lover likely doesn’t yet have it, but, if so, check out “On Burgundy, from Maddening to Marvelous in 59 Wine Tales,” from the Academie du Vin Library. (P.S.: If you get the Isle book early, thumb through and if you see a story that especially touches you, try to get that wine and mark the page for your giftee.)

--A B-Ball Wine for the basketball fan in your life. We are highly skeptical of celebrity labels, but some basketball stars are making real wine and truly are involved in the process. It seems to us, and some players agree, that the NBA has embraced wine more than other sports. Look for Chosen Family Wines from Channing Frye, from Oregon; McCollum Heritage 91 from CJ McCollum with Oregon’s pioneering Adelsheim Vineyard; and Château La Mascaronne and Champagne Jeeper from Tony Parker and Michel Reybier, the billionaire hospitality entrepreneur and owner of Château Cos d’Estournel.

--Mvemve Raats MR de Compostella red from South Africa. Your wine lover already knows that South Africa is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world right now and this kind of explosive, complex wine is a good reason why. Longtime friends Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats only make one wine and it’s always a blend of classic Bordeaux varieties. This will likely cost about $90. Various vintages are available in good stores. 

--A high-end red from the U.S. Wine geeks are familiar with names like Screaming Eagle, of course, but we’re guessing that there are some outstanding, expensive reds that might be new to them because the wines can be hard to “acquire,” as websites often put it. You might be able to figure out how get these from the sites without joining the wine club, but this is also where some detective work at excellent local stores and online merchants might come in handy. Bella Oaks Vineyard is an up-and-coming star of Napa, with an outstanding pedigree. (The storied vineyard has been producing fruit for other impressive labels for decades, but now the rejuvenated vineyard has a new owner and its own label.) Simon Family Estate of Napa might also have flown under your wine-lover’s radar. Cain Five still makes wine lovers’ hearts race. Quilceda Creek from Washington is also hard to find and expensive, but a stunning wine that will show thoughtfulness and care in gifting. 

--Mencia from Alvaredos-Hobbs winery in Spain. Wine geeks everywhere know about the important global winemaker Paul Hobbs. This is a partnership between Hobbs and Antonio López Fernández and his son Eric and our guess is that even many of the geekiest among us have never had this, which is made from a rare grape called Mencia that’s seems to be having a moment. It’s about $75. More broadly, this is an awesome time to introduce your wine friend to a newly rediscovered grape, because there are so many of them, from País in Chile to Palomino in California. This is where the great little wine shop will come in handy. In addition, if you simply Google “rediscovered indigenous grape,” you will get a whole bunch of ideas where you can then start a search online.

--Trefethen Dry Riesling from Napa. You’re going to have to trust us on this: Even long-time wine-lovers and Riesling lovers, like us, have trouble these days finding a truly dry Riesling. It seems like too many winemakers everywhere have thrown in the towel and make even “dry” Riesling sweet to appeal to consumers. This is the Dry Riesling your wine lover is looking for: prickly and spicy, with notes of papaya, orange zest and white flowers that blossom right out of the bottle. This is about $30.  

--Durand opener. This opener is designed for old, fragile corks. It’s kind of a combination of prong opener and corkscrew. We first saw it used by sommelier Yannick Benjamin at his yummy restaurant Contento in New York and we were so amazed we asked what it was. Then we saw it again when we took an old bottle to Keen’s Steakhouse in New York, which has a great BYOB policy. Later, when we opened an old bottle at home, we wished we had one. Truth is, we’ve never actually used this because it’s too expensive for us to buy ($145 at But that’s why this would be good if you are looking for a high-end present.

--A subscription to a magazine like Full Pour. Your wine lover is likely already familiar with Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits and Decanter. But there are so many new voices in wine and other beverages now. Some of them are online, like Karen MacNeil’s WineSpeed (, SevenFifty Daily ( and Grape Collective ( Full Pour ( is actually printed quarterly and has a fresh take on, well, just about everything. Wine can be stodgy; this is not. It’s a gift that really will keep on giving. It’s $76 for an annual subscription. Also check out Imbibe magazine (, which delivers features about wine and drinks culture in a range of formats and prices. 

--Bergström Chardonnay from Oregon. Your wine lover surely already loves Oregon Pinot Noir, Oregon’s signature. Chardonnay has had its ups and downs there but is on the upswing, with tighter, more mineral-driven and food-friendly tastes than many California Chardonnays. Oregon Chardonnay is so exciting right now that it will share pride of place next year with Pinot Noir at the Grand Seminar of the renowned International Pinot Noir Celebration, which takes place July 26-28 in McMinnville.  Bergström’s Sigrid Chardonnay, around $120, is a leading-edge example of what the region is achieving and it appears to be slightly more widely available than some. 

--T. Berkley Wines Rosé of Cabernet Franc from California.  One of the wonders of great gift-giving is confounding expectations and this would certainly do that. From a Cabernet Franc specialist, this small-production rosé lets that grape shine. It’s nicely herbal with bright acidity and the kind of edginess we certainly don’t expect from rosé. How good was it? After we tasted the first one, sent by the winery, we decided we should have had it warmer and decanted it! So we bought three more to experiment. The first of those three changed with each sip; we’re saving the other two – what fun. You’d probably have to get this from the winery. It’s about $25 and we’d suggest getting three so your giftee can experiment, too. Or maybe you’d like to keep one for yourself.

Happy holidays.

Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010. Dorothy and John have been tasting and studying wine since 1973. In 2020, the University of California at Davis added their papers to the Warren Winiarski Wine Writers Collection in its library, which also includes the work of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Dottie has had a distinguished career in journalism as a reporter, editor, columnist and editorial writer at The Miami Herald, The New York Times, and at The Journal. John was Page One Editor of The Journal, City Editor of The Miami Herald and a senior editor at Bloomberg News. They are well-known from their books and many television appearances, especially on Martha Stewart's show, and as the creators of the annual, international "Open That Bottle Night" celebration of wine and friendship. The first bottle they shared was André Cold Duck. They have two daughters.

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