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A well-written, informative wine book makes a thoughtful gift for wine novices or grape nuts

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November has come and gone, meaning holiday shopping is in full swing. If you're the proactive, organized type, chances are you may be well into (or done) your shopping, and can now simply sit back and enjoy some festive sippables.

The rest of us, however, will be sweating over just what to get our friends and family. And while there are plenty of wine-related gadgets out there of varying degrees of usefulness (more on them soon), a good book on wine is a gift that can truly enrich wine lovers, from the novice to the full-blown wine geek.

John Schreiner is one of Canada's best-known and well-published wine writers, and the fourth edition of John Schreiner's Okanagan Wine Tour Guide (Whitecap; $19.95) is a must-add to your wine book collection if you want to learn about B.C. wineries or have a hankering to visit the region (highly recommended) sometime in 2013.

Schreiner's tome provides up-to-date information on over 160 Okanagan Valley wineries, as well as insights on the people that own and work at each of the wineries. The Okanagan is a diverse region, and the guide profiles each of the Okanagan's sub-regions (Skaha Lake, Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls, Naramata Bench, etc.), detailing the grapes grown in different spots and the wineries making wine throughout the valley.

Wine for Dummies (Wiley; $27.99) is now in its fifth edition, and continues to be a valuable resource for wine lovers at every level -- regardless of what you think of the Dummies series. When I started in the wine biz in the mid-1990s, the first edition was a key component of my self-directed wine education.

The book remains as pertinent today as it did then -- the fifth edition includes tips on storing wine, Old World and New World wine labelling, great tips on getting the best bang for your buck, maps, definitions of important terms and more. The new edition includes an additional focus on South American wine (as it has increased dramatically in popularity since the fourth edition), updated wine websites/blogs, vintage reports and more.

Equally comprehensive yet an entirely different animal is Wine Simplified, an app/ebook for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). It's written by Philadelphia-based (but Winnipeg-born) sommelier Marnie Old, who has written a couple of other great books, including He Said Beer, She Said Wine with Dogfish Head brewer/owner Sam Calagione.

Wine Simplified will run you $9.99 via your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch's App Store, and is certainly worth the investment. The interface is intuitive, leading readers to a choose-your-own-adventure experience down any number of engaging, educational paths. Extensive, approachable content is accentuated with helpful videos, slide shows, valuable tips and much more.

If you're looking to give the Wine Simplified app/ebook as a gift, you'll have to go the route of buying a gift card for the App Store, which you can get at the Apple store and/or most grocery/department stores.

New Harbor 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand -- around $17, private wine stores)

This is quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; the telltale lemon-lime, grapefruit, herbal and grassy aromas are out in full force, but the New Harbor thankfully avoids the acrid cat-pee component. It's light-bodied and tart (but not sour), with lime candy, grapefruit, grassy and herbal flavours and a healthy spot of acidity that gets the mouth watering. 88/100


Mission Hill 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia -- $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)

I reviewed the '09 vintage of this wine just over a year ago and while the price has crept up by a buck, so too has the quality. Tropical fruit and ripe red apple aromas mingle with lighter vanilla and spice notes on the nose. It's a rich, full-bodied Chardonnay that delivers big red apple, peach, butterscotch and tropical fruit flavours with modest vanilla and spice note from oak aging. The Mission Hill shows good balance and finesse. 89/100


Wolf Blass 2009 Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet (Robe/Mount Benson, Australia -- $40.08, Liquor Marts and beyond)

Deep black cherry, dense cassis, black pepper, licorice and anise are intense on the nose of this blockbuster Aussie red blend. It's a massive, full-bodied wine that delivers black and red berry flavours by the shovelful, with a black licorice/anise note that's jammy and delicious. There's light acidity, medium tannin and a long, warm finish that's a hat-tip to extensive oak aging and the wine's cellaring potential of about five years. It's on sale for $36.58 at Liquor Marts until the end of the day Sunday, and would be a fantastic gift for anyone who likes big, rich reds. 91/100 Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 E4

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