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The right beverage can solve a Christmas list dilemma

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With the holidays looming, it's high time we all start thinking looking over the gift list of loved ones. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun wines and beers out there to be given as gifts, regardless of what people are into (they just happen to be pretty tasty, too).

Here are a few gift ideas in case you're stuck...


The gardener: Watering, pruning, picking -- they're all key components of making great wine. They're also important for those out there with a green thumb. Whether your special someone spends most of their time tending to a flower garden or harvesting fruits and veggies in the fall, the Vinos Guerra 2012 Armas de Guerra (Bierzo, Spain -- around $12, private wine stores) is a great option.

With a big pair of pruning shears on the front label, this tasty red (made from the indigenous Mencia grape) will slip nicely under the tree for the gardener in your life. Raspberry, toffee, cherry skin and white pepper aromas are pleasant here, and this medium-bodied red delivers all of the same on the palate. There are a couple whites in this range as well, all of which feature a gardener's weapons of war (or armas de guerra). Available at The Winehouse, G.J. Andrews and Calabria Market. 3/5


The finicky hipster: Obscure bands, out-of-print books, art films, vintage clothes... what do you get for the finicky cool kids in your life? Whether they look the part of your typical hipster or not, the Charles & Charles 2011 Red (Columbia Valley, Washington -- $14.95, Liquor Marts and beyond) should leave you're your pickiest friends or relatives impressed.

A 72/28 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Washington, Charles & Charles is a joint effort between Misters Bieler and Smith -- the former a maker of many small, cooler wines from the U.S., and the latter of the bold black-and-white-labelled eponymous wines (Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Boom Boom Syrah, etc.).

This red delivers cassis, mint, eucalyptus, plum, blueberry and cherry notes on the nose -- it's big and ripe but not overly jammy. On the medium-plus bodied palate it's fresh, with loads of ripe chewy fruit that works well with mocha, black tea and mint notes. It's not one-dimensional like many California red blends, but rather retains some character that helps it over-deliver for the price. Both producers and the region are outside the mainstream, but making tasty wines. 3.5/5


The music lover: There are a number of drinks-related options for the music lover in your life -- no matter what their taste in bevvies or tuneage. From Dave Matthews to Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) to the Rolling Stones, there are plenty of rockers who dabble in wine.

But beer and rock 'n' roll has long been where it's at. And while you may have missed (like I did) Iron Maiden's The Trooper Ale when it was in Manitoba, there's plenty of the AC/DC lager (France -- $2.98/500ml cans, Liquor Marts) to go around. These Aussie rockers have put their name on a French beer, and like the band, the brew delivers straightforward, rocking good fun.

Medium-gold in colour and with a light white head, the AC/DC beer is a pretty typical lager, with malt, toasted oat and light corny notes on the nose. It's light and crisp, and manages to keep the creamed corn notes from tasting too sweet thanks to a touch of hops. Your palate won't be "thunderstruck" by this brew, but it's a serviceable lager that's a fun sipper to use as a stocking stuffer. 2.5/5


The sports fan: There are plenty of wine-related options out there for sports fans. Duffers wil appreciate wines with golfers' names on the label: Mike Weir, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and more.

But this is Canada, and until wines featuring curlers come along (make it happen!), hockey is our game. Since there's never been anyone as good as the game as Wayne Gretzky, why not grab one of the Great One's wines for the sports fan in your life? Gretzky's relatively new Okanagan wines are showing really well, and the Wayne Gretzky Okanagan 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah (Okanagan Valley, B.C. -- $17.99, Liquor Marts and beyond) is among the best of them.

Raspberry, cherry, chocolate and light herbal notes show well on the nose of the Great One's red. On the medium-plus bodied palate, there's plenty of red berry notes -- raspberry, cranberry and cherry, in particular -- as well as mocha and spice components to it as well. Tannins are light and there's a definite juiciness to this wine that makes 99's wine more approachable now than many burlier Cab-Syrah blends from the Okanagan Valley or otherwise. He shoots, he scores. 3/5

Next week: Wine/drinks accessories as stocking stuffers.
Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2013 D14


Updated on Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM CST: Tweaks formatting.

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