Five unbeatable epicurean combinations that redefine the ordinary gift set, plus perfect bottles for wine experts, hosts and more.
A Decadent Nightcap
CocoaVino’s Bacchanal Bonbons ($35 for a box of 12; 646-418-7634 or cocoavino.com), with their dark chocolate–Malbec ganache filling, are luxurious with Fonseca’s luscious 2005 Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port ($53).
A Sushi Lover’s Taste Test
Sushi pairs well with both sake and wine. Give fanatics a copy of Sushi: A Pocket Guide ($8.95; amazon.com) with a bottle of sake—Rihaku’s Wandering Poet Junmai Ginjo ($35) is very good—and the 2006 Poet’s Leap Riesling ($20).
A Perfect Dessert Set
Chocolate artist Michael Recchiuti’s dark chocolate–covered pear crisps ($20 for 4 oz; 415- 826-2868 or recchiuti.com) are outstanding with the honeyed 2003 Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes ($35) from France’s Barsac region.
A Spanish Duo
Bodegas Roda makes terrific olive oil and Riojas. Pair one of each for a taste of Spain. Roda Dauro de L’Empordà ($28 for 500 ml), a blend of Arbequina, Hojiblanca and Koroneiki olives, has a grassy scent and a light, peppery bite; the 2002 Roda I Rioja ($67) offers pure cherry notes.
An Italian Excursion
Fra’ Mani’s superb, artisanally crafted Salame Nostrano is seasoned with sea salt, garlic, spices and white wine ($64; framani.com). It’s even better when served with red wine, especially a top Tuscan red like Castello Banfi’s sublimely spicy 2001 Brunello di Montalcino ($71).
Gifts to Impress the Host
Anyone can bring a big-name bottle of California Chardonnay to a dinner party, but bringing a bottle of absurdly good red or white, made from lesser-known Rhône-variety grapes by the much-praised American spin-off of one of France’s most hallowed Rhône producers? Now that’s inspired gift-giving. The 2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas Blanc ($22) combines Viognier, Marsanne and several other varieties to appealingly spicy effect; the 2005 Tablas Creek Vineyard Côtes de Tablas ($22) blends Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Counoise into a voluptuous red wine that tastes of black cherries and plums.
The Perfect Bottle for...
Someone with almost no wine knowledge. A dry Australian Riesling that will make anyone forget he or she ever heard the word "Chardonnay": 2006 Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling ($20).
Someone with way too much wine knowledge. A little-known but insanely delicious grape variety—Sagrantino—vinified by a mad-genius Italian winemaker: 2003 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco ($90).