Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It’s Exactly What I Wanted…
The beloved holidays are upon us. It’s my favorite time of the year! I get warm fuzzies just thinking about the smell of a decorated tree, the taste of our cul-de-sac cookie exchange or the tune of a soft holiday song. All of our senses are enhanced during the holidays. We want you to spend more time enjoying the holidays and less time trying to decide what to get your family and friends as gifts, so we’ve done the work for you and hope you can check everyone off your list with these amazing gift selections. And, as usual, we include the special WFF wine & spirits section.
By Marika Flatt

The Instant Wine Refresher by Ravi
If you’re like me, you always need to chill wine at a moment’s notice.  I have my reds in a wine cabinet and my whites in a wine cooler, but they don’t get as cold as we Americans like our whites. As wine accessory specialists, each of Ravi Solutions’ product lines is designed to maximize drinking pleasure while offering sophisticated style and flawless performance.  The smallest and fastest wine chiller on the market today, this unique tool transforms room temperature white and red wine to cellar temperature in seconds, for a smoother taste and enhanced flavor. The wine chiller can also be used to chill spirits. $39.95, http://www.ravisolution.com

Custom iPhone case
Whenever you go to an electronics store to get a new iPhone case, they are all the same. If you’re like me, you love a case with personality! All oenophiles will adore the wine cork case from Zazzle. 

It will be a great conversation piece and then you can tell the person your favorite wines. Zazzle can print literally any picture, graphic or design onto a case, letting you design something completely original. Custom Zazzle and Case-Mate mobile cases range from $34.95 to $39.95, www.Zazzle.com/cases

Cookies by Design’s “Aged to Perfection” cookie bouquet
Who doesn’t love to eat sweets during the holidays? This cookie bouquet is perfect for all of us oenophiles! This adorable design is great for hostess gifts or a gift you want delivered to someone. Check out this “Aged to Perfection” bouquet: http://www.cookiesbydesign.com/gift-baskets/birthday-gifts/aged-to-perfection-boutray ($90.99). And, for that hard-to-buy-for guy, Cookies by Design has licensing agreements with the NFL, NCAA and MLB to reproduce team logos and colors on cookies. It’s a great gift for the ultimate fan, especially with his name on a jersey cookie! Check out: http://www.cookiesbydesign.com/nfl-gifts/dallas-cowboys-gifts/dallas-cowboys-cookie-bouquet

Woozie wine insulators
The first time I saw a Woozie wine glass insulator, I was at my sister’s 40th birthday party and I was coveting her gift of this stylish and functional little Woozie. Just like using a koozie for your beer, you pull this fashionable Woozie over your wine glass and it creates an insulated and adorable glass of wine, not to mention you don’t need a wine glass charm. Now, Woozie has wine bottle insulators and glass insulators that come in holiday designs and even a Woozie to cheer on your favorite sports team! I just love this inexpensive gift idea for anyone who enjoys wine, www.woozie.com.


Foreverlily perfume
My favorite flower is the lily and I am a real girly girl with perfume so I was giddy when I heard about this! This is a wonderful fragrance from GoodTrueBeautiful in the most gorgeous packaging I’ve ever seen for a perfume bottle!
The recipient of this gift will be amazed and impressed simply by looking at the chic aqua and red box.  This is definitely an upscale fragrance – the Collector’s Edition (3.4 ounce eau de parfum) retails for $125 (www.mygtblife.com).

 Jockey Person to Person Convertible Cardigan and Ponte Jacket
The Convertible Cardigan is my new favorite piece of clothing! With a shorter back length and front panels that cascade into a longer length, this cardigan is the most versatile garment I’ve ever seen. There are literally a dozen ways to drape and wear this piece!
There is a video of one of the designers showing several ways to wear the Convertible Cardigan (http://jockeyp2p.com/DesignerCorner/ConvertibleCardigan). It comes in black/graphite stripe, pink scarlet, and Marrakech turquoise, $82. The Ponte Jacket is a denim-inspired look that comes in charcoal heather, black, true love, $95, www.JockeyP2P.com.


Sea Salt collection
I recently read a health article about how using sea salt is so much healthier for your body than the typical table salt. The Spice Lab offers over 150 sea salts from 30 countries. They have a unique gift item – Gourmet Sea Salt Collections that offer 5, 6 or 11 test tube sampler sets of exotic salts, all attractively displayed in a handcrafted wooden base.
Great for the foodie to keep in the kitchen and use in those tasty recipes! The sampler kits run from $24.95 - $59.95,  www.thespicelab.com.

Grafton Village Cheeses
During the holidays, we’re all entertaining and looking for yummy goodies to bring to dinner parties. Handcrafting world-class artisanal cheeses for over a century in the quintessential town of Grafton, Vermont, Grafton Village Cheeses are perfect for the holidays.
Pair these signature cheeses with crackers from the deli and a bottle of red wine. Grafton Village Cheese offers a variety of gift baskets that feature their award-winning cheeses along with an array of specialty Vermont goodies. Holiday flavors like Sage Cheddar and Garlic Cheddar make these baskets a delicious and welcomed change to the foodie gifts that friends and family have been sending for years. $39.99 - $59.99, http://www.graftonvillagecheese.com/.

Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolates
First of all, we all know how decadent fine chocolates and red wine are to our palettes. During the busy holidays, sometimes we just need to slow down with a truffle and a glass of cabernet in the evening. So, forget about purchasing this gift for someone else, just go ahead and purchase it for yourself and hide it away in your favorite decadent hiding spot.

This is truly a new chocolate experience (think hazelnut filled praline seashells). Guylian Chocolates are small treasures that are only sold at specialty, artisanal chocolate stores (2 piece $0.99 to $1.49; 6 piece $2.99 to $3.99 and 22 piece ranges from $7.99 to $14.99, www.GuylianBelgianChocolate.com)

McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil
Those of us who enjoy cooking from fresh ingredients find ourselves using olive oil on a regular basis. Whether you’re sautéing veggies or following a yummy winter soup recipe, EVOO is almost always in need.

Grown and produced in Northern California, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil has been written up a variety of national print publications and holds many culinary distinctions. A blend of six early-harvest Italian varieties—bottled immediately, without filtration—in the traditional Tuscan style, McEvoy Ranch Olio Nuovo has a distinctly vibrant green color, rich fruit flavor and peppery finish. McEvoy Ranch Olio Nuovo retails for $22 (375mL) / $42 (750 mL) www.mcevoyranch.com and Whole Foods.

GLOB Paint Kit
Most arts & crafts paints stink. GLOB is a new line of all natural botanical paints made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices.  With colors like lemon verbena, pomegranate and basil green, (and they all smell like the color) GLOB paints are delightful for projects. Using non-toxic, food-grade ingredients, GLOB paints are all natural and biodegradable. Each kit includes 6 color packets, 6 compostable jars with lids & 2 bamboo brushes. $15 www.globiton.com

Funky Junque Accessories
For girls, we know it’s all about the accessories!  This online site is a great location to shop for the young girl in your life (no matter the age). Some of this season’s great finds are the Silicon Wrap Watch, which comes in Black, Hot pink, light pink, purple, $26.00; and the Kitty Cat Fold Over Glove in assorted colors, $24. Either of these would make a great gift or stocking stuffer. www.Funky-Junque.com

Soulo Karaoke
The vocal performance/karaoke application and microphone developed for the iPad, Soulo transforms iPads into cutting-edge personal karaoke singing machines that you can bring anywhere and have non-stop singing fun. Soulo is a really cool mic/accessory and super easy to use - just plug it in, launch the app and start singing.

The Soulo App is available for free at the App Store and integrates with your iTunes account.  The Soulo Digital is available at Target and the Apple Store for $99 and a wired microphone is available for $69.

Happy Napper
This plush goes from a soft comfortable pillow to a cuddly companion with a simple zip - and back again. Eight total designs are now available including Bug Bungalow to Lady Bug, Doghouse to Dog, Igloo to Penguin, and Castle to Dragon.  Each reversible Happy Napper lives in his Home Sweet Home complete with sleepy sound doorbell.  Kids ring the bell to wake up their Happy Napper, and then unzip the door to invite their friend to come out and play. Designed for preschoolers to teens, a portion of sales proceeds for all Happy Nappers goes to the Home Sweet Home Fund benefitting the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (www.cbtf.org). www.happynapper.com, $20  

Mario’s Pizzeria game
It’s amore!  If the parent is a foodie, sometimes the child is too! Children will “cook up” tons of fun with this fun game. The 8-piece play set has all the ingredients of a perfect pizzeria – three pizza pies, chef, delivery boy and vehicle, along with a very special oven that “fires-up” when the button is pushed.  www.ravensburger.com, $40


Cakebread wines, i.e. the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
I was lucky enough to tour the famous Cakebread vineyard and winery in August and was completely overwhelmed with how amazing their operation is, how they utilize modern technology in their vineyards and how amazing each and every pour tasted! 

I now have my souvenir Cakebread glasses and enjoy their wines whenever possible.  The grapes for their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon come from terrific vineyards in prime locations in the Napa Valley. With fruit sources from multiple, diverse microclimates, they craft a sumptuous, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon that melds the opulent black fruit character and firm tannins typical of the valley’s warmer northern microclimates with the bright fruit tones and crisp acidity characteristic of its cooler southern precincts. Enjoy with a great steak!

Alex Elman Wines
This summer, Alexandra Elman, entrepreneur and wine expert, launched a collection of accessible, organic wines. The inaugural offering is made up of four varietals from Argentina—a Chardonnay, a Torrontés, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Malbec, and are representative of what the collection aims to deliver: hand crafted, sustainable, honest wines that are truly emblematic of their terroir.

Alex's story is an inspiring one. The self-dubbed "Blind Wine Chick" lost her sight at age 27 and instead of slowing her down, Alex discovered that her palate had become even more focused and her passion for wine even more intense. She now travels the world seeking out sustainable fine wines to bring to the U.S. market, accompanied by Hanley, her seeing eye dog.

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon
Rarely do you find a winery that exists to produce just one variety of wine. But how refreshing is that! Make what you know and focus on making the best in that variety and exceed your customers’ expectations!

While the 2007 Silver Oak cab is great for the holidays, be it a holiday meal or as a gift to your holiday party hosts, what really stands out is Silver Oak's ability to etch their bottles of wine. The etching takes the classic bottle of wine and turns it into whatever the customer would like; messages, pictures, logos...the bottle's can be completely customized and etched however they would like. The etchings can be done on either of the two most recent Silver Oak vintages, the 2007 Alexander Valley as well as the exquisite and ever popular 2006 Napa Valley Cab (www.silveroak.com)

 Rutherford Hill Merlot
At just $25, Rutherford Hill Merlot proves that you don’t have to spend a lot for great, quality bottle of wine thus making it ideal for a holiday host or hostess gift.

Rutherford Hill’s Merlot is an elegant, refined blend of classic Bordeaux varietals that create its rich aroma and flavor. Bursting with notes of cherry and plum, this silky, full-flavored wine is balanced, firm and the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates fine wine.
To learn more, please visit:  www.rutherfordhill.com

2009 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay
Stumped on what wine to gift to your foodie friend whose typical Monday night menu sounds something like this -- Caramelized, balsamic-glazed heirloom figs and parmesan crisps with Chanterelle Mushroom tapenade?

With a rich and round mouth feel, this well-structured wine will pair well with anything, from crab cakes with saffron aioli to roasted rabbit. Your foodie friend will appreciate the versatility of this food friendly Chardonnay. http://www.landmarkwine.com/, $28

2009 JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon
For the friend who always knows everything on the up and up, give the gift of wine from one of California’s up and coming wine regions, Paso Robles. Only 14 miles from the coast, the limestone soils, hot days and cool nights in Paso give birth to elegant, high caliber wines.  JUSTIN Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception.

Made in a classic Bordeaux style, showcases the universally appealing flavors of delicate ripe raspberries, currant, and vanilla. http://www.justinwine.com/, $26

Herradura Añejo
Casa Herradura is one of the oldest and most respected producers of tequila, which many believe delivers the world's highest quality, most authentic tequila experience because of the expertise and leadership it has developed since 1870. 

Tequila Herradura is 100% blue agave tequila carefully crafted using traditional methods, such as cooking the agave in clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast. Herradura Añejo is aged for 25 months, which is 13 months longer than the industry standard. Its deep copper color hints to its oaky, spicy taste, which is apparent at the sniff of this refined expression and lingers on even after the first sip. Enjoyed like a fine Cognac or bourbon, Herradura Añejo is a great gift. $59.99 – 750 ml bottle

Sandeman Founders Reserve Collector's Tins
Sandeman, the world's leading port and sherry company, has released Sandeman Founders Reserve Collector's Tins ($20). The tins are decorated with images from the company's iconic poster artwork that makes Sandeman recognizable worldwide, and contain a bottle of Founders Reserve, Sandeman's signature and most versatile port. It is a memorable present for everyone from a cocktail novice (as six tasty cocktail recipes are included inside) to a Sandeman fan.  Sandeman's aged tawny ports come in 10, 20, 30 and 40-year old vintages ($40-$137), are the top rated imported ports in the United States and represent the quality that Sandeman has demonstrated for over 200 years. The rich yet elegant flavors of these tawny ports are sure to please and impress anyone who takes a sip. Of course, they can be given as a collection, representing a whole century of quality ports, but are also great when purchased individually to commemorate any special occasion or anniversary.

Marika Flatt has been a freelance writer since 2002, writing for publications such as: GoodHousekeeping.com, Austin Lifestyle, Austin Woman, FamilyTravel.com, ChickVacations, and several others. Her writing has also appeared on NPR.org. She is also the founder of PR by the Book, www.prbythebook.com. She lives with her husband and 3 children in Austin.

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