“Wine Shop At Home”—The Art of Wine “Gifting”

It’s that time of year again, when all of us curmudgeonly folks have to think about that tired old ritual of gift giving.  Each year I try to figure out what to give—a thoughtful gift which will be enjoyed, something original or unexpected.  But, I think I am the world’s worst gift-giver.  I love any gift given to me, and I have very idiosyncratic taste so the conventional advice to give what you yourself would most like as a gift usually doesn’t work for me.

Last year I discovered the online wine merchant, WineShop At Home, because our daughter, Maya, is so passionate about wine and loves discovering new, lesser-known vineyards.  So, she signed up to be a wine consultant throwing parties (a new take on the old-fashioned Tupperware) in her spare time for friends and family as well as referring people to order from her online. The website is www.wineshopathome.com/mayapaul–please order through our daughter, if you can.  (I know I am a shameless commercial for her!)

I thought I should try it, to help our daughter and see what the wines are like.  I was delighted to find out that I could order wine with a personalized label, either a jpeg file of one of my art works or a photo of a special event.  Since I am a printmaker, I loved the idea of having a miniature reproduction of one of my prints on each bottle of wine I would give for Christmas and throughout the year.

I really like the merlot and ordered a case last year, to much appreciation (or so my friends said).  But, you can also choose from cabernet, chardonnay, champagne, and gift packages.  I do think that they should expand to some foreign, little-known wineries from Argentina, Chile, and Spain, where great wines are made at a reasonable price. For those of you who are getting increasingly worried about what to get for someone you love—check out the art of wine gifting!  I have posted the two wine labels I have created so far—last year’s “Lotus Sutra” print on the Napa Valley 2007 merlot and this holiday’s “Hot Stuff” print on the Sonoma 2009 merlot.  Enjoy shopping!  And, I’ll bet at least a few of your friends won’t throw out that personalized wine bottle, once it is empty, unlike the sweater or tie from last year’s holiday gift giving.

What’s not to like? Post Ranch Inn’s Wine and Food Event

On Saturday afternoon, our daughter Maya and her boyfriend joined us for an afternoon at Post Ranch in Big Sur, for part of the Big Sur weekend wine and food extravaganza.  What makes this event different from other wine and food events is that you can sip wine, eat and then work some of it off walking from one station to the next on the Post Ranch’s spacious 100-acre grounds.  Guests wander the ranch’s picturesque paths while visiting seven stations in which there are at least four boutique wineries pouring their finest wines paired with a  delicious assortment of small plates prepared by the executive chef of Post Ranch’s Sierra Mar restaurant. Although the day had started out as a harbinger of drizzle and fog, the weather forecasters were proved wrong (again). The sun came out as we drove through the gatehouse and we were not disappointed! With map in hand, the four of us enjoyed a beautiful day of eating and drinking.  At the first station, we were treated to both French and local California wines.  One of our favorites was the Adelaida white (Version 2008), a combination of Rousanne and Grenache, which we happily sipped along with nibbling on mushroom crostini, fresh sardines topped with an herbal breadcrumb topping, and two types of cured, smoked salmon.  And that was just station number one!

Along the way, approximately 200 guests were scattered around the tables so  we never felt as if we were in a crowd.  It was so refreshing, compared with other wine and food festivals, to walk around the grounds, including a sustainable vegetable garden and beautiful sculpture, as we worked up an appetite and metabolized the alcohol (or hoped we did).  The eclectic range of wines from less well-known vineyards, some of which were poured by the winemakers themselves, was truly superb as well as very personal. Wine professionals, including importers and distributors, were on hand to discuss their favorites so for us it was a mini-seminar on wine and pairings.  This was our second year attending this event, and we were so happy that some of the vintners remembered us from last year (the inaugural event).  We think we will make this an annual celebration!

There were orange wines as well as rose cavas, including one we had first tasted in Spain three weeks ago:  Raventos i Blanc.  Sparkling and delicious!  We had the cava at station number seven, the last station,  on the crest of the hill –a 1200-foot cliff– on the patio of the Sierra Mar restaurant, overlooking the ocean with its panoramic views, next to the infinity pool. With our cava paired with raw oysters on the half shell, a buffet of pates (which I never wanted to stop eating) and platters of chocolate truffles and other scrumptious morsels of dessert, we all waddled down the hill to our car, content and waiting to return next year for more!