Loving a Wine Lover
A gift guide that addresses your grape-nut valentine's other passions
By Tiana Kahakauwila
You’ve accomplished the easy part: You’ve found yourself a special valentine, and you’ve decided to buy a gift that shows how much you care. But the hard part is still ahead. What do you get someone who is forever looking for great legs, a full body, and mushroom notes? Rather than show off your gams and tape portobellos to yourself, might I suggest you go another route: Buy a gift that satisfies your wine lover’s other loves.
It may seem obvious—what wine drinker doesn’t love food?—but true foodies want surprise and intrigue in their wine-and-food pairings, and you can give it to them. With artisan chocolates and terroir-driven cocoa blends easily available at large grocers such as Whole Foods, small boutiques like the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory (OHCF), and online, the pairing opportunities are endless. Wrap a colorful ribbon around a Vosges’ Red Fire Exotic Candy Bar (a blend of 55% cocoa and chili peppers) and a bottle of Blanc de Lynch-Bages, a Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine from Bordeaux’s Château de Lynch-Bages. Or, buy the dark criollo chocolate bar from OHCF and pair it with a bottle of Kaena Hapa, a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blend from Santa Ynez, California. If you’re unafraid of ordering chocolate on the internet (and paying for FedEx to ship your delicacies overnight), try Michel Cluizel’s terroir chocolates from plantations in locales as far-flung as Tanzania and Venezuela. I’ve found that milk chocolate pairs well with off-dry sparkling wines, bars with 60% to 70% cocoa love Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, and bars with 75% cocoa or higher beg for Scotch or an excellent Anejo tequila.
The Art Aficionado
For wine lovers who celebrate visual beauty as often as they do the gustatory, then a glass decanter is an obvious choice. Riedel recently released the new “Eve” decanter, which coils upward like a snake stretching toward heaven, while Ravenscroft Crystal offers a similarly religious experience: the Omega carafe and decanter, with their “O”-shaped motif, are the end-all, be-all of modern design. Looking for something a little more affordable? Target carries the Spiegelau Pisa Decanter that is built to lean provocatively forward; pair it with a bottle of Italian Aglianico and you’ll impress the artist looking for the next new thing.
For the bookish types, a number of online courses and hardcover tomes are available. Wine Spectator magazine offers courses via its online school (www.winespectatorschool.com); the classes range from basic tasting instruction to wine-and-food pairing primers to region-specific, in-depth classes on areas such as Bordeaux and Tuscany. If your main squeeze is unlikely to complete a course, then increase his or her book collection: Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course is a perennial favorite for those still figuring out the difference between Old and New World, while Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine is a compendium for experts. Include a bottle of Burgundy and Oregon Pinot for comparison purposes, or a cult favorite, like super-Tuscan Sassicaia, and let the education begin!
The Local Scene-ster
For the person who knows what’s hot in Hawai’i, a gift certificate to a local wine tasting or wine dinner is a must. On O’ahu, Brasserie du Vin in Chinatown, Town in Kaimuki, Formaggio’s Grill in Kailua, and Vino at Restaurant Row all offer opportunities to drink, taste, and see and be seen. If you’re looking beyond O’ahu (and who can blame you?), then the bi-monthly Winemaker Dinner at the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea on Maui and the weekly Food and Wine Pairing Menu at Hukilau Lanai in Kapa’a, Kauai are divine experiences.
The Outdoorsman (or woman)
For those on the go—and in Hawai’i, who isn’t riding a wave or running a marathon?—neoprene sleeves that insulate and protect one to six bottles of wine are a must-have. BUILT, a company once primarily known for their laptop sleeves, makes bottle holders that range in price from $20 to $30 and include Hawai’ian prints, fishnet, and other colorful designs. Available at Red Pineapple and Executive Chef in Ward Warehouse (among other locations), the totes have a neoprene handle and are the easiest to carry. I recommend buying a two-bottle tote and a couple of plastic, stemless wine glasses. Pack a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé Champagne in one half of the holder and the glasses in the other; then, scale your favorite ridge and toast to another active year together.
When your sweetheart is as sweet on Grenache as he is on gadgets, then it’s time to help him invest in serious wine storage. And while Costco is a reasonable source for relatively inexpensive, stand-alone units, Techies who want the latest and greatest should consider the Sub-Zero 424 Free-Standing Wine Storage unit. With room for 46 bottles, a stainless steel exterior, a UV-resistant glass viewing door, shelving that accommodates half-size bottles and magnums (along with the usual 750mL bottles), and two independent temperature zones (one for white wines and one for reds), this storage unit would impress any wine lover. But the Techie will appreciate the dual evaporators that maintain ideal humidity and compressors that eliminate all mechanical vibration. Oh, and the fact that you can link the unit in with your home security system is pretty cool, too.