Two gentlement bottle their drinks at a Fermentations branch

The Terroirist: Giving Great Gifts

Part six in a continuing series

It's nearly Chanukkah, and I've not even started my holiday shopping yet. (Fortunately, Purim is the major gift giving holiday in Judaism, but it's become traditional to give gifts for chanukkah as well.) Doubtlessly, there are others reading this in the same boat; so in lieu of a Vintages release, I'll be doffing out some gift ideas - also, freed from the barage of wine I need to taste, I'll be exploring other - to steal a phrase of Mr. Trebek's - potent potables.

For the Beer Geek
Any beer lover worth the title knows about all of the great stuff that comes out of Belgium. Unfortunately, oftentimes it doesn't get much past its place of birth - for all the variety we have in our shops, there are hundreds of others that don't make it to our shores. Happily, December often corrects some of that with plentiful gift-packs of Belgian beer. There are a few of them, but perhaps the most gifty one is the Petrus Gift Pack(Belgium, $15.95, #902106). It's a six pack of Abbey brewed beer, in three different styles. The Triple is just gorgeous. Light in colour and delicate, with some floral notes; the Oud Bruin is ligher in alcohol, but darker in colour with notes of oak and berry; and the Speciale is an amber ale with full bodied, hoppy notes. And it comes with a glass!

For the Crafty Kid
For anybody who enjoys the act of creation, a trip to Fermentations (276 Danforth Ave, and other locations) is always a treat. A brew-your-own specialist shop, with options for beer, wine, or cider (although sadly, they don't have an option for a scrumpy cider yet), they eschew the use of grape concentrate and kits, and actually source their own fresh ingredients. With scores of options to choose from, there should be something for everybody - and if there isn't, you can create your own recipies with their help. Expect to pay between $65-$150, but it'll net you a good supply of liquid libations to tide you through January. The only real downside is that they don't offer delivery, so you may need to sacrifice a few bottles in order to bribe a friend with a car to help you get them home. Really and truly a great personalised gift for that special somebody - either make it yourself and surprise them, or make them fermenting the drink into part of the gift.

For the Luxurious Lovers
One of the great things about living in Hogtown is having wine country right on our doorstep - rows and rows of vines, over five dozen wineries large and small, all with winemakers and staff who genuinely enjoy showing people around and talking about the process. While there isn't much growing in the Toronto hinterland at this time of the year, there are still a few grapes on the vines - those that are destined to become icewine once the weather gets cold enough. In celebration of this, between January 13th and 22nd the Niagara Peninsula plays host to the Niagara Icewine Festival. With gala dinners (prepared by some of Niagara's top chefs), educational seminars, and vineyard tours and tastings, there's something here for everybody. Prices range from $25 (for a festival passport) to over $600 (for a two night upgraded hotel stay, two seminars, two tours, a winemaker's dinner and a lunch - plus being chauferred to all of those events).

Happy Holidays!

The Terroirist is published every other Thursday.

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