When giving the white elephant wine gift to golfers, here’s how to know good from bad.
It’s that time of year when many givers and receivers favor prettily wrapped liquids. Among golfers, there are always reasons to celebrate, which makes gifts of bubbles and birdie juice welcome and appropriate.
At GottaGoGolf, we’ve played with enough industry folks to know that you probably can’t go wrong with bottled gratitude for your favorite golf professional, teacher or club captain.
Oops, we take that back, you can go wrong. So follow these three tips for giving imbibable holiday gifts, and then let us help you with your shopping.
Gifts to pour over
- Find out what your recipient collects or likes to drink (wine or vodka? red or white? domestic or imported?), or even what he or she likes to eat. Liquor becomes so much more personal with a note on the card that says, “This should be delightful with those barbecued ribs you love to make.”
- Make your bottle beautiful with some of the wine-specific gift wrappings that become more widely available this time of year. Yes, it’s clearly a bottle, but you get to choose between making your gift boring or making it festive.
- Make sure your recipient is not in the middle of a 12-step program, has not taken a vow of abstention and does not have an intervention by friends and family on the 2016 calendar. Tis better to give a bad-tasting gift than a gift in bad taste, and you do not want to give a bottle of Ernie Els’ Proprietors Blend to someone who should be sticking with Arnold Palmers.
First decide how much you want to spend, and then follow these guidelines for finding value in any price range. A good rule of thumb for brands and countries not listed here: Taste it. If you likey, you can givey.
I don’t sell wines in this category so I don’t drink them. Call me a wine snob, or take the advice of my friend Susan, who likes to shop with her man at a store called Grocery Outlet. It’s a place where even popular labels have been known to dump inventory at crazy low prices.
“We’ve learned to read labels discriminatingly,” Susan says. “We’d buy a $5 anything if the label says the grapes are Napa Valley grown. That’s rare though, so we look for grapes from favorite regions – Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia/Monterey Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles. We also look for ugly labels – sometimes even the best wines won’t sell under those – and oddly named blends.
“We do try to avoid vintages older than two years, and if we like something, we go back in a hurry and buy a bunch of it for guests and hosts.”
$10 – $25
You can buy a copy of Wine Spectator and read about the latest rising star winemaker and how to jump on their mailing list for one of 100 coveted cases that will set you back a paycheck. But how do you choose an amazing bottle from the countless selections that are readily available and average about $15 or so?
Go with a solid, well-known brand that will disappoint neither a novice or the country club connoisseur. You will see these names on countless wine lists across the country because of their consistency and great prices. Gift anything by Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Ferrari-Carano, Hess and Bogle with confidence.
$25 – $50
In this price range, you could have fun with fancy brands that produce a second label. The “second label” was created during a recent recession and became a phenomenon.
A few favorite examples: Casaeda Wines (second label for Culler Wines), Faust (second label for Quintessa), Bridesmaid (second label for Pam Starr and Drew Neiman), Decoy Wines (second label for Duckhorn Vineyards). These “second labels” have become so successful that they are now bona fide brands in their own right.
Where and how would you find these? Depending on your location, you’d shop in a Bev-Mo, a wine shop or online. If that fails, well-known small to medium producers (less than 10,000 cases total production) in this price range also make great gifts. Think Mount Veeder Winery, Whitehall Lane Winery and Hall Wines.
$50 – $100
Look for wines that, as we say in the trade, “over-deliver” for the price. Your clue: High scores from critics who happen to mention that what’s in the bottle “drinks like a wine that is double the price.” Some of my favorite producers in this price range include Terra Valentine, Chappellet Winery, Pride Mountain Vineyards and Lail Vineyards.
This is also a good price range for upgrading the recipient’s usual cocktail from house/well vodka, gin, bourbon and whiskey to Bainbridge Legacy Organic Vodka, Williams Chase Gin, Benchmark Old No. 8 Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and Glendronach 15 Year Revival Scotch. The recipient will think you’re stylishly hip.
And since ‘tis the season’ is the time for celebrating and a bit of (over)indulging, a spectacular bubbly or decadent dessert wine in this price range is always welcome.
$100 – $250
Go back to the $25-$50 category and buy the first labels of the second label recommendations or purchase the personal wines of famous winemakers.
Heidi Barrett, Phillipe Melka, David Ramey, Paul Hobbs and Thomas Rivers Brown all make terrific wines for high-end clients. Presenting a bottle with the name of one of these superstars on the label guarantees the wow reaction.
Most people I sell wines to in this category are collectors or want to buy a gift for someone special – a wife shopping for hubby’s milestone birthday, an executive looking for a gift for a CEO, or a sales star picking out something for an important client. The more cult-y, the better.
Here, it’s hard not to appreciate bottles from Opus One, Insignia, Shafer Hillside Select or Hundred Acre Cabernet Sauvignon.
A word of warning, however: True cult wines cannot be purchased unless you are on the exclusive customer list or you buy from a broker at an inflated price. At this time, I have only one true cult wine in my shop. That one, the Bryant Family Bettina Napa Valley 2012, retails for $725. Yes, per bottle.
I would try to give wines in this category to someone who likes me enough to share them. Cheers!
Cheryl Stotler is Wine Director and Retail Buyer for the Napa Valley Wine Train