No Need to Overthink Gift Ideas for Dad

By Jeffrey M. Kralik, Ph.D.

As I mentioned last month, after years of trying to get my father to appreciate wine, I gave up a couple of decades ago. There is little doubt that my last act before they put him in the casket will be to pry the can of Michelob Ultra out of his hand. This was underscored when I flew back to Detroit this past fall to help him clean out his house after his wife passed away unexpectedly. Several years prior to her death, my stepmother stopped inviting us all over for Christmas dinner.  My siblings and I assumed that the two of them, who were clearly advanced in age, saw the “tradition” as too much work, and they had decided to let “the kids” handle the year-end celebration.

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame champagne

That is what we thought, but after walking into their house that brisk November afternoon, I knew there was another potential reason: my dad’s wife was a hoarder. And there was stuff everywhere. Without delving too far into what we found in the house, here are a few illustrative items that we uncovered: several boxes of unused, still in cellophane photo albums (it took quite a bit of convincing to assure my father that I had no use for them). There was also at least one case (12 one-liter bottles) of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – all of which had a July 2013 expiration date. And there was a bottle of 1990 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame champagne, in its original box, with about an inch of dust on it.

Say what?

As I had mentioned, my father is not a wine guy, not even close. The only other bottle of wine I found in the house was a 2009 Italian Pinot Grigio, which clearly someone had gifted them back in 2010. So how on earth did they have a bottle of champagne that is likely worth close to $300 today? After about 37 seconds of reflection, it dawned on me:

I had given it to him.

Twenty-five years ago.

For Father’s Day.

With Father’s Day coming up this month, I thought I would provide a few suggestions as to what to do for your father.

First, as the above story hopefully underscores, before you drop a couple hundred bucks on a wine-related gift, make sure your father actually drinks wine (you would think that would be obvious, but . . . ).  Second, don’t get caught up in the myriad of products out there designed to get you to part with your hard-earned cash. For the true wine lover, they are concerned with two main things: getting the bottle open and pouring it into some sort of receptacle. Other than that? Superfluous knickknacks.

I open, on average, about 1,000 bottles of wine every year. Yes, on any given day, I open about three bottles of wine (of course, I don’t finish all those bottles, but . . . ) and I have just about every wine gadget known to the wine world: countless aerators, bottle chillers, wine preservation systems, decanters, even a Coravin, and I don’t use any of them on a daily basis.

So what do I use, and what should you get dad?

A corkscrew. I probably have 30 to 40 different corkscrews, and I use exactly two on a regular basis. Both are made by Château Laguiole. There are a ton of corkscrews with the name “Laguiole” on it (a region in France known for knife production and pronounced “La-Yole”), but the original and best is still Château Laguiole. They start north of $100 and can get pretty pricey, but they are worth it, and dad will love it (yes, even if he already has one).

Wine glasses. Most wine drinkers consider Riedel the gold-standard when it comes to stemware, but if your father is like me, he no longer buys them since they are expensive and break far too easily. But I would bet my bottom bottle that he would love to have a few more (90% of the wine I drink, er taste, is poured into Riedels). If this is the road you choose, buy at least two – four would be better – of the same kind (they run about $30 to $40 per stem) and don’t overthink it.  Get either the standard Cabernet or Chardonnay glasses.

Wine. Last, if all else fails, you could always buy him a bottle of actual wine, of course. My advice here? Buy him something you yourself might also want to drink someday, a wine that ages quite well. I don’t know, a bottle of prestige champagne, perhaps?

Happy Father’s Day and Cheers to Dad!