Dine with Kathryn Hall in her Rutherford Estate wine cave, stay at the fabulous Auberge Resorts Calistoga Ranch and learn organic artisanal winemaking while creating an exclusive personal vintage under the tutelage of Hall winemaker Steve Leveque. After your personal vintage cellar ages in French oak barrels, it will be bottled and shipped to your home.
If $2,200 is more attractive than $22,000, closer to home, Kim Wilkin, CEO of Pinnacle Wine Imports in Birmingham, leads trips to both Oregon and California through her travel business, Winelover Adventures. Kim's longstanding professional relationship with top wine producers in these regions gains participants entrée to venues and vintners not generally accessible to the public. The all-inclusive package (excluding airfare) includes immersion in all aspects of the wine business, dining at fabulous restaurants and estates with vintners, and luxurious accommodations. Contact Kim at email@example.com or (205) 428-8378.
If wine travel is not in your future but wine gift-giving is, wine accessories are abundant locally — a testament to the popularity of wine in our area.
Tyson Art and Frame in Golden Springs is overflowing with all manner of wine paraphernalia. Check out the latest lead-free Schott (shot) Zwiesel stemware containing strengthening titanium and zirconium in its crystal composition.
These glasses are chip- and break-resistant and dishwasher-safe, according to the manufacturer. I have seen stainless steel ball bearings suspended from chains crashed into the sides of these glasses, and they did not break. (Do not try this at home.) $12.95 a stem, buy five and receive the sixth free.
Tyson also prepares wine gift baskets filled to the brim with wine and gourmet treats, starting at $35.
Also available is my current must-have corkscrew, the Cork Pop. It's great for arthritic hands, because a miniature gas canister powers the thing. Place the needle-like end into the cork, press the button and the cork pops out with ease.
Bed Bath and Beyond at the Oxford Exchange is also stocked with interesting wine items. My favorite is the Red Rabbit Wine Tool Kit by Metrokane for $49.99. This seven-piece kit contains a Rabbit corkscrew, foil cutter, pourer/stopper, wine/champagne sealer, wax whacker, wine thermometer and an extra worm for the corkscrew.
BB and B has two space-age gadgets by Sharper Image: a rechargeable wine opener that operates like the Cork Pop but without the gas canister, and a rechargeable vacuum-sealing device for preserving wine. $29.99 each.
Target at the Oxford Exchange carries a budget line of Riedal (rhymes with "needle") stemware. The Riedel Vivant line comes in an array of shapes and sizes in the $30 to $40 range for sets of four.
Dillard's at Quintard Mall once again has a selection of gifts from Wine Enthusiast, though not as many as in previous years. There is an interesting white wine carafe/decanter with a space in the middle for holding ice cubes. For $40, this thing instantly cools white wine.
Also check out the Fusion Stemware in all shapes and sizes, $49.99 for a set of four. Fusion, like Schott Zwiesel, is manufactured to be more durable than competing brands.
Garfrerick's Café or The Victoria. Consider gift certificates for a wine dinner prepared by Chef Dave Garfrerick at his establishment at 655 Creekside Drive in Oxford, or by Chef Alan Martin at his new restaurant in Victoria in Anniston. Prices vary depending on the event, but are usually in the $75 to $100 range.