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Wine for Parties & Gifts

Ray Isle answers common holiday wine questions.

Q: What's a good approach to wine when you have a large dinner party? Pick one wine (or one red and one white), or try to mix it up?

A: I'd pour one white and one red throughout the evening, as people tend to have strong preferences between the two. That allows you to refill glasses without worrying about whether you're combining different wines.

Q: For the holidays, I'd like to buy some bottles of wine with a personalized label. Are there any decent ones available?

A: A number of wineries produce personalized labels. Washington state's Northwest Cellars ( northwestcellars.com) makes a wide range of good wines that can be labeled with your own artwork ($85, plus cost per bottle of the wine, from $14 to $32). The Fusebox program from San Francisco's Crushpad lets customers blend their own wine from a set of samples, then design a custom label for it (crushpadwine.com/blend/fusebox; $336 for 12 bottles). And tequila producer Corzo will custom-etch metal labels on its tequila bottles for free. Corzo's smoky reposado, aged in wood for up to a year, is particularly delicious ($53 for 750 ml; corzo.com).

Q: Are there any great wine deals that I should be aware of as I'm looking for gifts?

A: Wine wholesalers have recently been offering sale prices on many high-end wines, a boon for gift buyers. Some of the best hunting is in premier and grand cru Burgundies, top Australian Shirazes and pricey California Cabernets. Wineries also seem to be offering more "library" bottles (older vintages they keep in their own cellars). At press time, Napa's Freemark Abbey, for instance, was selling a beautifully aged 1991 Sycamore Vineyards Cabernet for $110—an extraordinary deal considering that many current-release Napa Cabernets cost more and aren't nearly as compelling.

More Wine Tips & Gifts Ideas:

Published December 2009
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