toast with RED!

A nice gem to bring to red wine afficianados is the Australian 2005 Castagna Sparkling Genesis. This Shiraz offers a not-too-sweet, balanced, and sophisticated taste to the sparkling red category. Happy toasting!


tips from the top

The Bryant Family Vineyard, known for their extraordinary wines by collectors, has gathered top chefs from around the country to create dinner recipes with matching wines suggestions (by the grape) in their new cookbook, The Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook. See what Thomas Keller or Eric Ripert have to recommend for your next dinner party.

the nose knows

This beautifully boxed kit is designed to hone your olfactory awareness and develop the right vocabulary when describing wine. Nez du Vin contains tiny vials of the essences of fruits and flowers, and some odd items, like cut hay, roasted almonds, and leather. To reinforce learning, it’s best to test your knowledge with wine itself, remember, practice makes perfect! The 54 kit is a little on the pricey side, but might be a good excuse to form a wine group, so everyone can pitch in.

tasteful how-tos

The Tasting Club is the handbook for throwing all types of tasting parties: wine, chocolate, cheese, even apples. Author Dina Cheney guides you every step of the way—to help you assemble ingredients, show you what to serve as accompaniments—with recipes and hints on how to educate your palate. What a great way to learn.

define wine

Become a wine expert in nine weeks with Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. Kevin Zraly has updated his best-selling book for its 25th anniversary edition. A fantastic gift for someone who is ready to learn about wine, and great reference book for the wine fanatic. Its straightforward manner is immediately engaging, as are the lists of fascinating facts throughout.


holiday PARTY

Derek and I managed to pull together a last minute party for Dietl, an art import company. This Mexican Chili Cheesecake with Mango Salsa topping was a huge hit, and made for a great entry into our half vegetarian offerings. Seen behind are the chocolate mousse profiteroles. I wish there were still some left. See more pics from the party food and decor here.


double duty: wine bottle carrier

Stylishly transport a bottle of wine, and keep it cold, in this sophisticated felt carrier from Gräf & Lantz. Quiver is made of luxurious merino wool felt with vegetable-tanned leather adjustable belts. Other styles feature red, olive, and black felt, or you can go with the duo, which holds 2 bottles (for those who like to plan ahead).


R.W. Knudson Sparklin Essence: get your juices flowing

R. W. Knudsen, known for their natural and organic juices, has come out with a line of pretty little cans of organic sparkling water infusions. My favorite, the cucumber, is a natural in cocktails. I have been adding about a third of a can to a mix of vodka, apple juice (or pineapple), and fresh lime juice—a great way to stretch the drink without adding calories, yet still providing a complexity of flavor. Sparkling Essence also comes Organic Lemon, Organic Blueberry and Organic Mint. Play around with your own mixes and tell me which one is your favorite...



No matter what you decide to give this season, think about re-usable gift wrapping. Living Ethos offers a line of bags, designed to last for years, so the bags can change hands again and again. They come in four sizes, and some very tasteful patterns. I like Deco Maze in black and white, or the Dottie Red, for holiday gifting without succumbing to the usual motifs.

ufo: ultra functional object

Sci-fi lovers will get a kick out of this woody space ship. Station it on a sideboard, then put it to use for cradling fruit, candies or bread. Comes with either a metal base, resembling the legs of a space ship, or the wooden base, shown. The Museum of Robots has lots of other responsibly designed products.

instant hang-ups

A lot of guests means a lot of coats. This coat rack from Desu Design acts as a subtle work of art when not in use, but can accommodate up to 9 garments in a flash. Available in white with metallic color accents or for the true minimalist, in all aluminum.