Jeez, it’s almost mid-December — time to thinking about doing some Christmas shopping. Here are a few gift suggestions for the wine, beer or spirits lover in your family. I tried to include every price range and find something for everyone, from the casual fan to the dedicated geek.
Babcock Pinot Noir
Walt Babcock started growing grapes in the Santa Rita hills back in the 1970s, when it was a lonely place for winemakers. Now the place is a respected pinot producer, and the Seal Beach restaurateur and his son Bryan are producing world-class pinot noirs and other decent wine for reasonable prices. “Pinot grapes from this area, especially the western side (of the valley), produce wine that’s very dark, very extracted; the yields are small,” Bryan Babcock says. “You get dark, boysenberry, underbrush-y qualities, with notes of juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender.”
Cost: Babcock’s pinot noirs start at $25 per bottle
The Bruery Preservation Society Membership
The Bruery’s Preservation Society is a club for fans of the nationally known Placentia craft brewer. Every three months, members receive a package of three different limited-release beers: a strong barrel-aged brew aged in bourbon or other spirit barrels, a sour ale aged in wine barrels, and a limited-release beer, likely from The Bruery’s Preservation Series of experimental beers.
Cost: $58.50 for three months
EdgeStar 34-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler
Tired of watching your loved one opening the closet door and catching the wine bottles as they fall? Why not get them a state-of-the-art wine cooler? At a shade under $400, the EdgeStar 34-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler gets the Wine Cooler Review’s top honors. Its compressor-based cooling unit will do the job even in regions with a higher ambient temperature, cooling your wines to as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit – better than many more expensive models.
Here’s an inexpensive way to taste the potential of the craft-spirits trend. L.A.’s small Greenbar Craft Distillery makes a line of vodkas called Tru, and it comes in four flavors – plain, lemon, organic garden and vanilla – that exemplify the craft movement’s embrace of natural ingredients. One batch of Greenbar’s lemon-flavored vodka uses the zest of 2,000 lemons. Its vanilla vodka soaks up flavor from 5,000 vanilla bean pods. The distillery’s Tru Organic Garden vodka is infused with a savory combination of celery, dill, fennel, coriander, mint, pink peppercorn and other aromatic herbs and spices, then rounded out with vanilla.
Find it: BevMo stores
Vinturi spirit aerator
From the folks who brought you the Vinturi wine aerator, here’s a similar gizmo that’s made for spirits. You doubt that spirits need aerating the way some wines do? In several blind tests it definitely improved the complexity and depth of expensive small-batch bourbons, peated and unpeated whiskey and some high-end single malt Scotches. It’s marked for accurate bartender’s pours and comes with a pour switch so you can measure, then aerate.
Whiskey stones beverage cubes
Don’t you hate it when the ice in your spirits melts to the point where it dilutes the taste? Whiskey rocks solve the problem ingeniously. Made of soapstone, they’re square, a bit beveled at the edges, and about the size of a small ice cube. Keep them in your freezer and plunk them into your favorite whiskey glass when ready. A little swish, a two- or three-minute wait, and voila! Your drink is slightly chilled – just enough to take the edge off, but not enough to make the flavors disappear, the way too much ice can do. And the temperature stays fairly constant for 15 minutes or more.
Cost: $20 for a set of nine