Useful gifts for the wine enthusiast

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I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it every year: Just because someone loves wine doesn’t mean that she wants a wine gadget as a gift…or a cork doormat or a light-up wine bottle Christmas tree topper or a Rudolph bottle stopper, for that matter. The ideal gift for the wine lover is wine, but sometimes finding the right bottle for a connoisseur can be a daunting task. Here are some gift ideas bound to delight even the most jaded palate on your list.

For the foodie wine geek

Wine tastes so much better with food—especially if that food is prepared by Palladio’s Executive Chef Melissa Close Hart. Give your gift early and your beloved oenophile will feast on a five-course lunch at Barboursville Vineyards (with its wines to match) on Christmas Eve from 2-4pm. Call (540) 832-7848 to make your $65 per person reservations (price excludes wine, tax, and gratuity).

For the wine geek with lots of wine geek friends
Several board games that test wine lovers’ knowledge of grapes, regions, winemaking, history, food pairing, and blind tasting are on the market (Bouquet, Karafe, VitiVini, Wine-opoly, Winerd, and Wine Wars are just a few). Some involve drinking real wine while you play, but it’s still better to buy for someone with other wine-loving friends or else you’ll end up going glassy-eyed while recalling first growths.

For the Virginia wine geek
The Commonwealth boasts close to 200 vineyards and the majority of them offer a wine club membership that grants members discounts, early releases, and invitations to special events. Find out your recipient’s favorite area winery and sign him up there, or opt for more variety with a membership to the Virginia Wine of the Month Club. Choose one bottle a month for $15.95 or two bottles a month for $26.95 and it’ll be the gift that keeps on giving. If the wino on your list is also a Wahoo, there’s the UVA Alumni Wine Program, which offers five local selections each year based on alumni favorites tasted at Reunions Weekends.

For the well-read wine geek
Books about wine are a dime a dozen, but good ones are harder to come by. A few favorites? Jay McInerney, despite his pretenses and name-dropping, is undeniably entertaining in Bacchus & Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar, which compile his House & Garden columns. In The Widow Cliquot: The Story of the Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, author Tilar J. Mazzeo spins a riveting tale. For budding wine writers, Inspiring Thirst: Vintage Selections from the Kermit Lynch Wine Brochure, serves up pages and pages of literary inspiration. For a reference tome, you can’t beat Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine. Those fascinated by the winemaking side of the industry will love The Vintner’s Apprentice by Eric Miller. On the fiction side, Vertical, a sequel by Sideways author Rex Pickett follows Jack and Miles on another wine-soaked journey.

And, instead of giving a subscription to a wine magazine as a gift (All those ads! All those scores!), consider a digital subscription to a newspaper with great weekly wine coverage (like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal) or membership to an in-depth wine newsletter like Jancis Robinson’s “Purple Pages” or Stephen Tanzer’s “International Wine Cellar.”

For the sports-loving wine geek
Perhaps a bottle of former NBA player Yao Ming’s newly released Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will fit the bill for the fellow (or lady) in your life who loves sports and wine equally. It’s selling for the Chinese equivalent of $289 and should be available stateside for who knows how much. Nevermind that it’s made with juice purchased on the bulk market. With the big man’s name on it, it’s still likely to be a slam dunk.

For the wayfaring wine geek
I’d rather eat glass than go on a cruise, but a river barge cruise around the wine-producing regions of Europe sounds very appealing. They’re small (four to 22 passengers), scenic, and involve more wine and cheese than they do shuffleboard and conga lines.

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