Gifts From The Vine

By Jennifer Elliott –

I love giving wine as a gift, but I am frequently unsure and overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the perfect bottle. So, we asked two experts for advice this holiday season. Amy Gross and Chuck Jenkins shared some great tips.


Amy Gross is the author of, the wine blog for casual wine drinkers who are looking to have fun, learn more and enjoy delicious wine.

Chuck Jenkins has been in the wine industry in Houston for over 15 years, has certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Society of Wine Educators and was Texas’s first scholarship recipient/graduate from Napa Valley’s Wine Educators Academy. He is currently the wine liaison for members at Nos Caves Vin.



If you don’t know a person’s preference, is it better to give red or white wine?

Chuck Jenkins: If I have no idea, and the wine is not going to be paired with a food item, I always go with bubbles. You really can’t go wrong with bubbles!

Amy Gross: When you have no idea of a person’s preference in wines, consider giving sparkling wine or Champagne.  Two sparkling wines I especially like to give are J Cuvee 20 Brut from Sonoma County and G.H Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne.

Do you have any specific white wines you recommend for gifts?

CJ: A California Chardonnay for around $15 and $30 should both be welcome. Ask someone at your wine shop what they’ve had lately for “unique” selections.

AG: Naia Verdejo, a crisp wine with a nice, long finish that sells for about $15.  GreyWacke Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand sells for about $15, and Laurenz V Singing Gruner Veltliner sells for about $14.

Do you have any specific reds you recommend for gifts?

CJ: I’d go with a nice Pinot Noir from Sonoma for under $20, and perhaps a Pinot from Oregon for something over $20. Your wine shop staff is your ally here. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions!

AG: Rodney Strong’s Symmetry. It’s a Meritage or Bordeaux-style blend that I enjoy both with food and without.  The price is about $50. Etude Pinot Noir is full-bodied, but not too full, and sells for about $45.

What is your opinion of the screw cap versus the traditional cork? Is it okay to give a bottle of wine with a screw cap?

CJ: Screw caps are our friend! There is zero percent chance the wine can be spoiled by a bad cork if a screw cap is used. Bring ’em on!

AG: It’s definitely okay to give a wine with a screw cap! There are some fantastic wines which use other closures than corks, and a screw cap is not any indication of lesser quality.

How do you feel about wine of the month clubs?

CJ: Clubs from wineries can be a fun activity, but I’m wary of clubs that send you unfamiliar wines. However, you can generally cancel a club membership any time if you’re not happy with the selections, so it’s worth a try if you want an easy way to expand your wine knowledge.

AG: Wine of the month clubs can offer variety and help to explore new wines, bringing fantastic new options to your door, but they can also bring wine you may not enjoy. I am a member of one, but I also don’t mind trying a few wines that won’t be my favorites.