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Happy SantaI appreciate any advice that makes holiday shopping easier so I thought I’d offer a list of the best of the best to help kick off your shopping season.

BEST WINE FOR THE HOSTESS

When I give the host or hostess a gift my intention is they will not open it in the stress of a dinner party but savor it at a relaxing moment. The best wine to give is one they normally wouldnt buy themselves but one you encourage them to enjoy and not save. I like to give champagne, sparkling wine or cava and persuade them to open it with pizza or the next casual occasion.

  • NV Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Extra Dry, France (about $45 retail)

BEST WINE ON A BUDGET

Quality inexpensive wines, such as those from Cupcake winery, are great for entertaining and giving. Cupcake offers great value (usually less than $15 a bottle) in each of its many varietals, not only those from California but other regions around the world too. With the many occasions coming your way, saving money is always a bonus.

  • 2011 Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $12 retail)

BEST WINE GADGET

When you dont know which wine to give, the wine gadget is an ideal gift for any wine lover. One accessory no one should be without is the Vacu Vin. It reduces oxidation in opened bottles of wine. The vacuum style pump pulls out air allowing wine to stay fresh for up to a week.

  • The Vacu Vin Wine Saver Pump and Stopper¬†(about $14 retail)

BEST WINE TO IMPRESS

I always enjoy giving a wine with a story and a connection to home and the Murphy family has one of the best with Presquile Winery, a prestigious California winery with Arkansas roots. The winery is in an ideal terroir for pinot noir production nestled in the Santa Maria Valley. An excellent bottle of wine vintage after vintage and an ideal gift to open during the holidays or save for a special occasion.

  • 2011 Presquile Pinot Noir, California (about $49 retail)

BEST BOXED WINE

With the many choices of wine in a box the Big House Red brand always offers consistent quality. And when youre entertaining a crowd, its hard to beat the convenience of and price of boxed wine. This wine can easily compete side by side with many $12 bottles.

  • 2011 Big House Red, Red Wine, California (about $20 retail)