Presents Perfect

Presents Perfect

This year’s gift guide celebrates wares that improve with age, just as wine does. We’ve tracked down a blend of century-old Hennessy eau-de-vie in a coffer of hand-wrought silver and glass, a retro shaving kit with an old-fashioned badger brush, and Andy Warhol’s arresting graphics transformed into a new label for Dom Pérignon. In a related design trend recently christened “repurposed,” we find artisans across the country transforming prosaic items like napkins into decorative fruit bowls, resurrecting spent wine bottles as coat racks, even reassembling a pile of surplus nuts and bolts into a beguiling android “sommelier” that brings a dash of whimsy to the holiday table. From a modestly priced portion control wine glass to the extravagant $200,000 Hennessy Chest of Secrets, here are our 29 gift picks for the 2010 holiday season.

Wine Cellars Made Simple: N’FINITY 170 Two-Temp Wine Cellar with Full Glass Door. Combining the most sought-after attributes in wine cellars, N’FINITY 170 has corner-to-corner UV-protected glass door, and Two-Zone Digital Temperature Control to accommodate both red and white for storage and service. Each of the fifteen 11-bottle shelves glides smoothly on ball-bearing tracks for easy access. $1,799, free shipping; 800.356.8466;

Modern Japanese sweets: Kyotofu pastries. To pass muster with their demanding patrons from Japan, including passengers on All Nippon Airways (ANA) flights, this New York baker pairs high-end Japanese ingredients with refined French techniques. Cupcakes are imbued with the citrus fruit yuzu (four for $23) and Nama, a Japanese fudge, is flavored with Matcha Green Tea (24 pieces $48). Gifts like the After Christmas Thank You Assortment ($35) are handsomely packaged in a brown box with pink ribbon. 212.974.6012;

Macallan 21 Crystal: Limited Edition Engraved Bottles of Macallan 21. Just 21 bottles of Macallan Fine Oak 21 have been etched with a soaring eagle by David Sugar and Carol Iselin of Inner Light Crystal, engravers whose work is collected by the likes of Mick Jagger, Miles Davis and the Forbes family. Individually numbered and signed by artists. $2,500; 845.704.2446;

The essential Whisky glass for quintessential taste: Glencairn Wide-Bowl Whisky Glasses. Decoratively etched with the Canadian maple leaf, the expansive bowl is ideal for serving spirits with ice, or neat. Machine-made of lead-free crystal and dishwasher safe. $49.95 (set of four); 800.356.8466;       

Medieval Charms: Demitasse Jewelry. Inspired by the Catherine de’Medici era when dining implements were precious as jewels, designer Rachael White creates fanciful baubles with royal roots: a miniature ceremonial Holiday Dagger $245, a tiny Ice Server like those used to chip away at the hunks dropped into 16th century cocktails $198, and a tiny likeness of the Fairy Absinthe Spoon designed for artist Henri Toulouse Lautrec $175; 310.310.8093;        

Artful Pairing: Wine and Cheese Pairings Tile Board. This painterly rendition of complementary wines and cheeses on four food-safe tiles is a fitting backdrop for the art of cheese making. $89.95; 800.356.8466; 

Whisky with a side of Scottish countryside: The Ardbeg Double Barrel Experience. A trip to Scotland for two comes with the purchase of this rare peaty whisky. Two bottlings of 1974 single-cask Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch in a bespoke leather gun case, part of a limited 250-piece release, is accompanied by eight solid silver drinking cups handcrafted by renowned Edinburgh silversmiths Hamilton and Inches, and an engraved Omas pen fashioned from oak barrels. The $20,000 price includes a $2,000 airfare credit for the U.S. to Glasgow flight, transport to the Ardbeg distillery on Islay, accommodation, two breakfasts, one lunch and one dinner. Book through LVMH Travel 212.251.8453;

Mood Enhancer: Rozendal Vinegars. Kurt Ammann of Rozendal Farms in Stellenbosch claims his vinegars are mood boosters and flavor enhancers: he sips them as a bracing morning apéritif.Made with Bordeaux-style wine grapes aged in oak barrels, the gift pack includes four 50ml bottles of Fynbos, a shrub native to the South Cape, plus Green Tea, Lavender and Hibiscus. $24.95; 206.285.0517;;

Ice Ball Mold: This clever gadget from Tokyo creates nearly flawless slow-melting ice spheres like those made by highly skilled Japanese mixologists. $194 plus $36 shipping. (Allow about two weeks for delivery.)

Botanical Sweets: Garden Bon Bons. Dump this candy right into the dirt. These luscious-looking truffles designed by landscape architect Anne Dowell are actually seed balls rolled in red clay: a century-old planting technique. Herbal Tea seedlings will sprout Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Borage Blossom and Stinging Nettle; the Italian Herbs selection will blossom into Basil, Parsley, Chive and Winter Thyme. $14.95; 888.365.0056;; or

Coat du Rhône: Recycled Wine Bottle Coat Rack. Guests can doff their cloaks onto a hedge of multihued wine bottles graced by your own memorable corks. Sturdily affixed to a glass plate, this unconventional household fixture holds four heavy coats. $75; 888.365.0056;

 A toast from your barrel: Algodon Wine Estates Barrel Ownership Program. Of course you’ll want to taste before putting your personal label on the bottle, so Algodon Wine Estates in San Rafael, Mendoza, offers Barrel Ownership Program participants two complimentary nights at its guest lodge, where they may wander 2,000 acres of vineyards and play 18 holes of golf while shaping their release. Buyers can purchase half a barrel or share with friends, and refill each 290-bottle barrel up to 3 times (second time’s the charm, they say) with Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Bonarda or Chardonnay. Prices start at about $6,000/barrel including shipping and tax. Refills run about $2,600. Beyond the two gratis nights, high season rates at the lodge (Dec. 1–April 30 and July) start at $ 220 plus tax, including breakfast, tennis, golf cart and wine tasting at the estate.

Sweets packing heat: Poco Dolce Chocolate. These artisanal chocolates are carving out a niche as a sidekick to wine and spirits. Sesame Toffee Tiles are paired with reds and rosés at San Francisco’s Yield Wine Bar, and Burnt Caramel Tiles are appearing at whiskey and Scotch tastings. Our favorites are varieties like Aztec Chile that add heat to the sweet. 16 tile box, four of each style $34; 415.255.1443;

Restraint without Pain:  Wine-Trax® The Measuring Wine Glass. For effortless portion control, this 11-ounce glass with a universal shape to suit all beverages has three frosted rings to mark 4, 6 and 8 ounces. Tubes of two $35, cartons of twelve $120; 541.680.9557;

“Chill” Whisk(e)y rocks:  Whisky Rocks. “On the rocks” is no longer a euphemism with these hunks of Vermont soapstone that cool spirits gently without imparting taste, odor or closing down flavors. 9 stones $19.76; 845.704.2446;

The love child of Bacchus & Wall-E: Merlot-Bot. Metal sculptor Fred Conlon recycles wrenches, bolts, even industrial widgets into a knee high ‘robot’ that does—okay nothing, to be quite honest, except proffer a wine bottle, rouse a laugh and stir the conversation. $90; 888.365.0056;

 Open, preserve and save: Quicksilver EZ-Grip Corkscrew & Wine Saver 7-Piece Gift Set. This 7-piece set in a wooden gift box includes the synthetic cork friendly EZ-Grip Lever Corkscrew, a Steel Seal Wine Saver, plus an extra worm, foil cutter, pourer and two stoppers. $39.95; 800.356.8466;

Balms away: Om Aroma Skincare. Compelled by a zeal for organic living, concert pianist Angela Jia Kim took three years to formulate this line of face and body creams using the purest extracts of luxury foods and wines. Her eye cream contains essence of caviar (1 oz. $58), face balm made from truffles (2 oz. $72), body lotion from Chardonnay grapes (8.5 oz. $42), and her Champagne face cleanser exfoliates with crushed grape seeds (4 oz. $38); 888.433.4885;

“Eat your wine”: That’s the motto at Blackmarket Bakery where indie chefs fold flour made from dried grape skins into jammy Cabernet brownies (12 pack tin $37.50) and Burgundy-hued Pasta Caberneti (12-ounce packs of penne, fettuccini or spaghetti $8.50). Adventurous home cooks can buy the wine flour itself to boost the flavor and nutritional value of pancakes, breads and cakes. (10 oz. sack $13.95); 949.852.5122; or

Worth wrangling with Rover: Happy Birthday Pup-Pie. You’ll be tempted to tussle with your pooch for this confection—packed with molasses, organic rolled oats, pumpkin, peanut butter and ginger, then showered with rainbow sprinkles—even if the package does say “not for human consumption.” These eco-friendly pies, wrapped in recycled paper and printed with soy ink, also come in Deep Dish Pizza, Home Style Pumpkin Cream, Banana Nut Brownie, Old Fashioned Apple and Carob Peanut Butter. 6” Happy Birthday pie $8.99, other flavors $7.99; 518.309.3732;

A page from Warhol’s diary: Dom Pérignon Tribute to Andy Warhol. Inspired by this artist’s unconventional treatment of icons, Dom Pérignon has commissioned London’s boundary-pushing Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design to reinterpret labels for its timeless bottle. The result is a small run of three sleeves for the 2002 vintage in Warhol-influenced metallic blue, yellow and pink. $150/bottle; 212.251.8432;

Napkin Bouquets: Imaginative artisan Carole Shiber transforms everyday table linens into extravagant bouquets of textile roses and lissome cloth bowls ideal for showcasing bread, fruit and pastries. DIY’ers can purchase napkin ‘cuffs’ with instructions for creating flowers from their own napery. Completed napkin bouquet $40, hand-painted linen bowl 18” $35, Leafy Bouquet Cuffs alone, set of 4 $20; 845.339.4646;

Whisky glasses fit for royalty: Glencairn Whisky Glasses. Winning the 2006 Queen’s Award for Innovation, this vessel with a full bowl tapering at the rim to enhance color, body, aroma, taste and finish is considered the “official” whisky glass by experts. Machine-made in Europe by Glencairn from lead-free crystal. Dishwasher safe. $49.95 (set of four); 800.356.8466;

Free your inner barista: Illy Francis Francis X7. Fire engine red with jet age curves, this capsule coffeemaker presses barista-quality espresso topped by a fruity, chocolaty crema. The powerful steam wand foams rich lattes and cappuccinos. IperEspresso coffee capsules come in two roasts and decaf $15.95 for a 21-serving set. Coffee machine $395; 877.469.4559; Illy Coffee Shop

Four functions, one amazing invention: Nuance Wine Finer. Danish designers have cleverly combined an aerator, filter, non-spill pourer and stopper into one do-it-all instrument the size of a fountain pen. Wine flows through 32 aeration vents while an inner stainless-steel screen filters out sediments and cork. Stand your bottle upright and the pourer catches drips. $29.95 (free carry case); 800.356.8466;

Help for the hirsute: Eco-Friendly Shaving Kit with Beer Shaving Soap. In a vintage cigar box that bespeaks Edwardian-era pleasures are the accoutrements for an old-fashion shave: a supple badger fur brush, a sturdy glass jar filled with soap made of rhassoul clay and Guinness Extra Stout, citrus aftershave with soothing organic aloe leaf and a 4-ounce hunk of soap, your choice of Cypress Wheat Ale, Blueberry Oatmeal Stout or Guinness with Lemongrass and Cardamom $35;

18 pieces of ecstasy: Party Girl Gourmet Chocolates & Truffles. Classical French confectioners have created nine forms of nirvana including Dark Ganache, Bailey’s Irish Crème whipped with milk chocolate, French caramel truffle covered in toffee, and toasted hazelnut in a creamy praline center. 18 pieces in a windowed gift box with bow, $49.95; 800.356.8466;

Silence is golden: Wine Enthusiast Silent 12-Bottle Two-Temp Touchscreen Wine Refrigerator. This thermoelectric CFC-free wine cooler holds 12 bottles ready to serve at two temperatures. Affordably priced and energy efficient, this stylish countertop device has a reflective smoked-glass Thermopane door, an exterior digital touchscreen temperature display and four pull-out chrome shelves dramatically illuminated by LED lights. $199.95; 800.356.8466;

Objet de curiosité: Hennessy Beauté du Siècle Cognac “Chest of Secrets.” Like a fairytale trunk filled with marvels, this mirrored coffer responds to the touch of a bronze key; created by an assemblage of master craftsmen such as the last French artisans trained to produce cathedral stained glass, the key unlocks just the first layer of wonders. A concealed switch releases a gilded Guerlain lattice bearing four Murano glasses embellished with gold leaf and a Baccarat crystal decanter. The flask is filled with a rare Hennessy blend never intended to be sold: 100 exceptional eaux-devie, the oldest from 1907. A final hidden drawer reveals an engraved silver box filled with belle époque fashion portraits from the Talbot collection. 100 pieces have been created, each numbered edition $200,000; 212.251.8343;
Published on November 22, 2010