Wine Related Gift Ideas (eccentric wine enthusiast’s point of view)


Tis ‘the season to be jolly’, generous and kind to people around us, so why not give wine related gifts and make everyone happy? When it comes to wine gifts, there are many choices and venues to explore – one can give wine, wine related items or paraphernalia, tickets to a winery’s or local wine events, or give the gift of education in the form of books, seminars and lessons. Let’s explore each of these categories herein.
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‘Hot to Trot’ – the stakes

There are more wines entering the market today than ever before and with wines making it onto the Canadian turf from unexpected places like China or Brazil, it is not surprising that wineries and agents representing them are coming up with more and more ingenious ways of marketing them.  There are many strategies by which wines are featured to the wider public including:
– visual advertisements;
– direct targeting of customers at the LCBO – entrance tastings, Air Miles promotions, attached 1 oz liquor bottles, neat packaging (holidays), etc;
– paid venues ranging from expo style events (Food and Wine Show; Wine and Cheese Show; etc) to more intimate tutored tastings generally hosted by the owner or wine-master of the winery;
– structured lunches/dinners where media is invited with the intention to share the word around (my case here :-)).
Whichever strategy is employed, they all work and it is because we need to eat, we need to drink and we surely need to have fun.  The more senses are satisfied at the same time, the more successful the product – visually gratifying labels/bottles; touch pleasing textured labels, large glassware; appealing aromas – the more the better (complexity); satisfying mouthfeel – acidity, tannins, fruit sugars (not glucose), minerality (structure); auditory satisfaction coming from popping of a cork enclosure; lastly, though not a sense, sentient fulfilment that comes from discussion of the ever elusive aromas or the complimentary merging of the senses.
In this article, I want to share my experience at a recent event where quite a bit of thought and effort went into making of what ended up being a successful and memorable presentation of two products.


17th Annual Italian Wine Tasting

On November 5th 2012, Délégation Commercial d’Italie organized and executed the 17th Annual Italian Wine tasting event held at the Roy Thompson Hall. With clientele including agents, restaurant/hotel sommeliers, wine writers/critics, media (category under which GrapeSelections was granted entry) or private buyers, all of us totalling 4 to 5 hundred strong, one would think that the staff representing the 83 listed wineries featuring on average 5 different wines, would be completely overwhelmed. On the contrary, the open, circular layout of the foyer allowed for unobstructed movement and the atmosphere, though lively, was quite relaxed and the agents were attentive and ready to discuss their products even during the peak hour.


The young and the eager

On October 23rd, GrapeSelections was invited to a structured tasting of Rosewood wines matched with food pairings prepared by chef-trainees at the Chef’s House.

Rosewood Estates, a young winery and meadery established at the beginning of this century, has already made its name locally and globally by producing award-winning wines and meads. The Chef’s house, a restaurant operated by George Brown College, trains young George Brown chef-trainees and School of Hospitality and Tourism Management students to excel in their culinary talents. GrapeSelections, which just celebrated three months since conception, has already managed to secure a position in the wine-reviewer/wine-writer world; it was only fitting that all three parties, excited and eager to excel in our respective realms, got together in what in-my-opinion ended up being

Luxury-line Penfolds tasting


This is one of the greatest wine tastings there was and probably will be in this city” – David Lawrason


Last night, September 17th 2012, I was fortunate to participate at a Penfolds ‘bring your own bottle’ event, giving GrapeSelections lots of material to write about. The premise of the event was to appreciate Penfolds customers, by inviting them (us) to a free dinner where the patrons were to bring a luxury–line bottle from their cellar and share it along with stories behind each bottle. The event was held at the House of Moments establishment and was hosted by Peter Gago, chief winemaker, together with David Lawrason, VP of wine at WineAlign.


Tasting with Wolf Blass

On Monday, September 10th 2012, as ‘GrapeSelections’, I was invited to a dinner/wine tasting of Wolf Blass wines – presented by THE MAN himself, together with Chris Hatcher (the chief winemaker) and hosted by Natalie MacLean (the author of the book ‘Unquenchable’). The premise of this event was to promote the book ‘Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest For The World’s Best Bargain Wines’ together with Wolf Blass wines, as in her book, Mrs. MacLean wittingly shares her experience meeting Mr. Blass as well as other stories of her visiting ‘the wine country’.

Finca El Origen tasting


On August 29th 2012, I went to wine tasting luncheon with a winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen from the Finca El Origen winery located in Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. Together with me, other invited guests were wine enthusiasts Monica Janek, Tyler Philp and Jennifer Hart. Upon entering the Miller Tavern, we were led to a secluded section designated just for us and were introduced to the winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen and two Charton Hobbs agents Kristine Bach and Kevin Chisholm (the sponsors) by Bryan McCaw of WineAlign (the organizer). We gathered around a table set with glasses and wines to be tasted and were seated such that we were able to interact with Gonzalo most directly.  I myself sat right next to him, allowing me to have one on one conversation and to ask him specific questions.


Video Wine and Cheese Tasting Live on Google Hangouts – July 25th 2012.

With the team of wine enthusiasts, each an expert in one area or another, we joined Google Hangouts to see how live video tasting would work. At the beginning, technology was not cooperating and while we were waiting for Natalie MacLean to set it up, we were goofing around – trying out different cheeses with the wines (other than the sparking, which was to be opened live) and were just having a lot of fun. After a while Natalie fixed the issue and so the ‘Tasting bunch’ composed of (according to introductions) Allie Hughes, Bethany Harpur + Holly Bruns + Nita Boushey, Corinna Horton, myself, Dawn Montgomery, Gaby Israel, Jason Solanki and Nina Syas under the direction of Natalie MacLean proceeded with the live tasting of the three wines (see below) and six cheeses (listed in my previous post).


Twitter Wine and Cheese Tasting – July 19th 2012

The preparation

The logistics – first we had to receive the wine and the cheese, in my case I had them both sent directly to work as there are always people who can sign for it. The day when the wine came, the FedEx guy brought in this big box, and though we receive many parcels each day, some of my colleagues noticed that this one was different. I proceeded to open it, while anxious to find out which wines I am receiving, I got a nice surprise – I expected six bottles, but there were seven. Some of my colleagues (knowing what I do for fun) asked if there will be any leftovers that they can share. About a week later, I received another parcel, this one with the cheese. Now everyone knew what I was up to and so they gathered to see what cheeses I got. I must say, almost nothing like the actual visual sensation of wine or cheese on a weekday morning at work brightens up the day more.