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Great ideas for the wino on your Christmas list
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Wine of the month

The wine: Rosenblum Cellars Viognier Kathy's Cuvee 2008

The grapes: 100% viognier (vee on YAY)

The source: California

The verdict: The viognier grape is believed to have originated in France's Rhone Valley. It was produced there almost exclusively - and very expensively - until about 20 years ago. Then American winemakers discovered how good a wine viognier can be. And this lovely little gem is really good. It has all the classic character this kind of wine needs: Take a sniff and you get a rich, fruity aroma. Think about peaches and apricots scaled back. Your brain prepares your taste buds for something semi-sweet and fruity. But ... surprise! Kathy's Cuvee is lightly dry and a wonderful wine to accompany spicy dishes. Rosenblum suggests it is a great wine with "... frogs legs in cream sauce." So just trot on down to the lake and get you a mess. You may want to stick with Thai or Japanese cuisine. Or sip it, nicely chilled, all by its lonesome.

The price: About $15



It's holiday time, with Christmas just a little over three weeks away. If you're still trying to come up with a nifty and useful gift for the wino in your life, read on. In addition to actual gifts, I'm suggesting some wine-related events you could attend.

One of the great wines of winter is Port, also called Porto or Oporto. Three names, same beverage. Port is a classic dessert wine from the Douro River region of Portugal. Generally made using red grapes indigenous to the region, Port is a fortified wine; one in which brandy is added during fermentation to keep both sugar and alcohol levels high.

The perfect holiday picture: a cold winter evening, a roaring fire and a glass of Port ... or maybe two.

Two of my favorites are Graham's 10-year-old Tawny and Dow's 20-year-old Tawny. This Port is unlike traditional Ruby, Late Bottled Vintage or Vintage Port. Because of its long exposure to oak barrels, Tawny, as the name implies, has more of a reddish brown color.

For less money I like the Kopke Tawny, Morgado's Ruby Port or Graham's Six Grapes.

And for a different Port adventure, look for white port. It's lighter and not so sweet as traditional red Ports, and is a lovely sipping wine. I like either Dow's or Taylor Fladgate.

If you decide you really do crave the Port experience, grab a copy of Ben Howkins' readable paperback treatise "Rich, Rare and Red: A Guide to Port."

Winos generally are foodies, too. I know I am. And to impress the wino/foodie in your life, think about a gift basket from Don Waara at Vine and Cheese on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville. Don makes up each basket individually and will custom tailor one to fit your needs.

The standard basket contains cheese, sausage, crackers, cookies, candies, condiments, and a beverage, usually wine or a non-alcoholic. Want a better bottle of wine? Just ask ... but, of course, the price gets adjusted accordingly. Basket prices range from about $30 on up.

The new year always beckons us to do new things, take up new pastimes. Craig Cook of My Brew Heaven, in the Big Lots plaza at Jesse Jewell and Pearl Nix parkways in Gainesville, has something for you.

My Brew Heaven is packed with wine-making stuff ... and beer- and cheese-making kits, too. I've sampled some wine that Craig has made and it's impressive. With just a little help and a relatively small investment, you can trot out 30 bottles of your own hand-made cabernet sauvignon or pinot grigio from one of his kits.

"I'm a big pinot noir fan," says Cook, and he'll sell you a kit to make just that - or about 40 other kinds of wine. Initial investment for equipment - a one-time cost - is about $120. Juice kits range from $150-$170. And to save money, pick up a bundle that includes gear and juice for about $249.

Said it before and I'll say it again. I'm impressed with the quality of Georgia wines. For a holiday gift, wrap up a bottle of Frogtown Cellars' light and fruity dessert wine, Cachet. It's made from the French-American hybrid grape Vidal and offers a mildly sweet finish to a meal.

Now for events.

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Winegrowers Association of Georgia will hold its second annual Winter Wine Highway Weekend. Buy a $20 "passport" and you will be able to visit nine wineries in northeast Georgia. Passports will be available at each participating winery.

Formats will differ at each stop along the highway, but expect wine tastings, food and entertainment at most of them.

As I was putting this column together details were not available. Check for updates.

Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Rabun County is holding its Holiday Open House, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 11. Guests will enjoy tasting Tiger Mountain's fine wines, appetizers and hot mulled wine. Appalachian Christmas music will put you into the spirit of the season.

Don't forget to check out the gift selections, too. For more information, call 706-782-4777, or visit the web site,

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. He can be contacted at