Merry Good Gear: Top Wine Gifts of 2009

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By Courtney Cochran

fishnet-wine-tote-two-bottle-R-2[1].jpgWith the holidays already upon us, many of us are wondering: what in the world will I buy for the wine lover on my list this year?  Please, allow us to suggest: At the conclusion of a year that can only be described as tough, let loose with gifts that embrace the adventurous, offbeat side of wine.  Because what we can all use right now is a healthy dose of humor - packaged, of course, in stellar style.  

Bonny Book
Santa Cruz wine scion Randall Graham's zany new book, Been Doon So Long ($23), is being hailed as the best new thing in wine reads since Gary Vaynerchuk's manic wine Tweets first hit the web.  Graham - founder of the trailblazing, troublemaking (in a good way) Boony Doon brand - peppers the pages with hilarious literary parodies, song lyrics ("Born to Rhone", anyone?) and more hilarity, but at the heart of it all are some serious questions about the future of New World wine. Score it here.

Tote Tease
Built NY - which first brought us their stylishly minimalist neoprene wine totes several years ago - has only continued to riff on their original concept since, with great success.  And though their well-crafted line of picnic and computer accessories charms as well, we still love their basic wine tote design - updated for '09, of course, in a very cool new "fishnet" design.  So let your bottles AND your style shine through with this terrific new tote, available in two-bottle style for a rightly reasonable $17.

Rack In Style
Innovative Michigan design firm MuNiMulA burst onto our radar several years ago with their smartly designed wine accessories, which deftly pair functionality with visual whimsy.  Their SPORADIC Wall Panel Mini wine rack ($160) - which stores up to 6 bottles horizontally, on your wall - does so with impeccable moderne flair, ensuring you'll enjoy looking at your wine as much as drinking it.  

Decanting Dangerously
For the objet-obsessed wine lover on your list with a hankering for the subversive, pick up this skull-inside-a-decanter creation ($995) from Esque Studio in NYC. Called the "Morte" decanter (how's THAT for an apropos name?), this extremely limited item requires a glassblower to first craft the skull then make the decanter around it - a task so tricky that two out of three break before they're even done. Props to the folks at Food & Wine for the heads up on this one. Available here.

Tray Time
Also from MuNiMulA, the eye popping UU22 wine tray ($98) lets you serve four glasses and a bottle to guests in high industrial chic style.  Available in green, deep red, basic aluminum or orange, it also makes a stellar visual addition to your kitchen, wine room or office (for those Friday afternoon cocktail splurges).  Note that tray fits stemmed wine glasses only; 3 ½" diameter opening fits most standard wine bottles.

Club Privée
Vegas nightclub this gift item is not!  Rather, it's a personalized wine club that will ensure your giftee receives only those bottles that truly resonate with her palate.  Like a Netflix for wine, newbie wine retailer Uncorked allows members to build their own wine clubs, setting up bottles they'd like to receive in their queue and choosing when they'll arrive.  And with its stylish interface, video tips and social perks, Uncorked offers members a lot more than just what's in the bottle (prices vary).

Frommage Find
Got a cheese lover on your list?  Then send your frommage fiend a gift that keeps on giving - a cheese club membership from Nor Cal's critically acclaimed Cowgirl Creamery.  Your pal will love receiving monthly shipments of unique, hard-to-find artisan and farmstead cheeses - and you'll prove your gifting mojo is deliciously offbeat - in a really tasty way.  Prices for the Iconic California, Around the World and other themes begin at $199.    

Antique Chic
Located in downtown Napa's smartly redesigned waterfront district, the Oxbow Public Market  is a mecca of food and wine-cool products and accessories for the discerning gourmet on your list.  To wit, we're particularly big fans of Heritage Culinary Artifacts, as sophisticated purveyor of vintage objects your vintage-loving wine giftee will adore (prices vary).  Think antique corkscrews from France, cut crystal decanters, bone handle bottle openers and more.  It's all there, and available for order, too:

Culinary Cool
Healdsburg's Relish Culinary Adventures may be a school of sorts, but there's nothing stodgy about this innovative new culinary center in the heart of Sonoma wine country.  With Top Chef cameos (include link to piece I Just wrote about Top Chef event there), cool classes (we love the Mini Pickling Workshop, $89) and a charming owner in Donna del Rey, Relish offers just the sort of nouveau culinary experience your giftee will love. Gift certificates available here.

Chill Out
For the style savvy wine lover who's always short on time, consider the Rapid Chiller from Cooper Cooler ($60).  It takes just 6 minutes to chill a 750mL wine bottle to service temp with the touch of a button AND looks great while doing it.  In a word, it's fabulous - which is exactly how your pal will find YOU upon receiving it. 

Cheers to good gifts, good friends and good holiday cheer to all!  Warmest, WineCountry 

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Another GREAT gift - truly the only thing like it in the world - Crushpad's FUSEBOX wine blending kit (now only $79.99) - provides all the wine and equipment for 4 people to blend for hours - then get online, enter your blend, design your label on the online label maker, and order as many cases as you'd like of the exact wine you blended!

For more info, go to:

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