I think I have more suggestions on “what NOT to buy” than anything.
Wine is always a thoughtful hostess gift, just don’t expect the host to open it that evening. The wine you brought may not go with the menu your host has planned or they may want to save it for another occasion.
I think the safest gift is a nice bottle of NV Brut french Champagne. Everyone needs that this time of year.
Another decent gift is wine and stemware carriers. Folks like me are always lugging bottles to friends houses, BYOB joints and events. Even though I have two of these things, I can always use another one that may be a different size or color. Its like a purse or a briefcase for folks in the wine biz and other officianados. IWA is a good spot to try for these.
If you’re wine loving pal is new to wine, a subscription to The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate is a nice idea. However, if they are hard core wine nerds, they may scoff at or disdain these publications.
Likewise with glassware and decanters. If your pal is a new-ish cork dork, Riedel glassware or a nice decanter is great. Old school wine fans are very particular about these things and will only want the partcular “make and model” of glassware and such that fits their table setting.
The best thing for a hard core wine nerd, is to find out where he buys his wine and ask the employees there for a suggestion. They more than likely know the person and their taste and can find something in your budget. A lot of these folks belong to tasting groups – if you know someone in their group – ask them as well.
I think the worst wine gift in the world is wine tchotke – T-shirts and hats and crap with stupid wine sayings like “Life is a Cabernet”. Avoid these at all costs. They are totally stupid and make the giver look like a moron. Would you wear a T-shirt with some lame-ass bumper sticker slogan like “Drink No Noir, Pinot Noir”? If so, ask a friend to smack you upside the head with a magnum of something until you change your mind. Please.
Of course, the BEST gift is a private tasting and lively lesson from The Winediva! I do gift certificates and can send them to you asap. Even in a PDF via email if we have to. Perfect for last minute shoppers who want to look like they’ve been extremely thoughtful. Just send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll get you the info. No need to have a specific date or theme in mind just yet, we can do that in the new year. Plus, chances are you’ll get invited to the party. Its a total win-win.