PUBLISHED: 2:57 PM on Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Wine: The ideal holiday gift
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air, there's a feeling of Christmas.

There's also that nagging little problem of what to buy for everyone on your list. May I suggest wine?

I mean really, who doesn't want to receive a bottle of wine as a gift?

Wine is a great gift, and people who receive it tend to truly appreciate the thoughtfulness that goes into such a personal item.

Of course, not everyone knows the preferences of the recipient, and some fear buying the "wrong wine."

Nonsense. Unless you are picking up a bottle of jug wine or spending less than 5 bucks on the bottle, you are going to do just fine.

Of course, If you know something about the tastes of the person you are buying for, use that knowledge to help you select your gift bottle. If you are taking a shot in the dark, however, let me break down some suggestions for you by price point.

In the under $10 category, use caution.

Choose something different, not just another mass produced bottle that anyone can buy in any store and probably already has.

Calina Reserve from Chile has a line that includes Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot with above average quality for the money. Alta Vista Torrontes from Argentina is a white that is very good as well.

Bodegas Norton Malbec, also from Argentina, is a good choice, as is almost any Argentinean Malbec, and most will be under $15, if not at the $10 price point.

I don't know if you can find Laurel Glen "Reds" for under $10 where you live, but if you can, this would be my choice. These are wines that won't break your budget, but won't make you look like a cheapskate either.

In the up to $20 range, things really open up and here, the category is so broad, it's almost unfathomable.

Again, let unique and personal be your guiding principles as you shop.

Prosecco is a dry Sparkler that serves as a meal starter in much of Italy and is just starting to catch on in the US.

These can be hard to find, but Martini and Rossi is widely available, as are others in the mid-teens such as Zardetto or Mionetto's Il Prosecco.

Michael-David Vineyards in Lodi California make a number of good gift wines such as the 7 Deadly Zins, a blend of Zinfandels, and the 7 Heavenly Chards, a Chardonnay blend, both of which are quite popular and easy to like.

You can't go wrong with any of Andrew Quady's selections either, including Electra, Essencia and Elysium, all sweet, sparkly, and made from Muscat Grapes.

The $20 to $40 range is where we begin to separate the serious wines from the everyday, and these should be for the true wine lovers who appreciate good wine and know the difference.

David Bruce Pinot Noir is appropriate here, as is Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an excellent red, vintage after vintage.

If you want to go international, choose E. Guigal Chateauneuf Du Pape from France or Ruffino Ducale Gold Label Chianti from Italy. You can also buy Champagne such as Moet & Chandon NV White Star, or a Sparkling Wine from California like Roederer Estate or Domaine Carneros.

On anything over $40, I will trust you to know what you are doing and the person you are buying for should be most appreciative. Remember, though, it's the not just the cost of the gift -- the thoughtfulness and uniqueness goes a long way.