Unique gifts for Northwest wine lovers

Wine Press NorthwestDecember 20, 2012 

Wondering what to get the Northwest wine lover on your list?

A gift certificate to a Corks and Canvas event -- which combines an art lesson with a glass of wine for inspiration -- may just provide the perfect solution.

The Seattle-based company is the brainchild of Lisa Cryder and Stefanie Hare, who wanted to drive traffic into wineries, tasting rooms and wine bars in order to introduce more consumers to Washington wine.

"We don't offer painting classes, we offer painting parties," says Hare, who has worked in the wine industry and wine tourism for the past seven years. "The company lets people explore their creativity in a casual social setting."

Cork and Canvas parties feature gentle, step-by-step art instruction from a local artist and the opportunity to taste and purchase local wines. There are even door prizes and music to add to the ambience.

Corks and Canvas launched its first event in September 2010 and now offers regular monthly painting parties at 11 sites, including Urban Enoteca, the Pan Pacific Hotel Lobby Bar in Seattle and Matthews Estate Winery in Woodinville, Wash.

Cost is $45 per person, which includes a blank canvas, brushes and acrylic paints, step-by-step art instruction and a first glass of wine. Everyone goes home with their own Rembrandt or Picasso to hang on the wall and an indelible memory to boot.

Northwest wine lovers will never "whine" when they open a gift box full of Chukar Cherries. Produced in Prosser -- the heart of Washington wine country -- the company's perfectly plump, locally grown cherries are dried and enrobed with the highest-quality milk and dark chocolate.

Good news is that owner/founder Pam Montgomery (aka Ma Chukar) has created several flavors especially for oenophiles.

A package of Chocolate Cherries 4 Wine includes Pinot Noir (with a Bing cherry center, ultra-dark chocolate coating and natural wine flavor), Cabernet (tart cherry, dark chocolate, natural wine flavor), Chipotle (Rainier center, ultra-dark chocolate, pepper heat) and Dark Chocolate Classic Cherries (Bing center with artisan dark chocolate).

Montgomery founded Chukar Cherries in 1988, when she and her young family moved east of the Cascades to escape the big city. The large cherry orchard on their property produced a lot of fruit, so the family came to the Pike Place Market to sell on the daily farm tables.

But the enterprising Montgomery wanted to sell her wares throughout the year. She experimented with drying the ruby fruit, developed an award-winning product line and her successful company was born.

Today, Chukar Cherries three locations are open seven days a week for sampling at a permanent stand in the Market's Main Arcade, the Prosser headquarters/manufacturing plant/retail store and the newest location on Front Street in Leavenworth, Wash.

Finally, if you want to devise a unique gift basket -- either ready-made or design-your-own -- you'll find one-stop shopping at Seattle-based Wine World and Spirits. Opened in late 2010 by David LeClaire, a longtime Seattle resident, sommelier, wine promoter and man about town, Wine World sells wines produced from Argentina to Uruguay and 10 states in the U.S.

On the shelves, you'll discover bottles from 500 Washington wineries, as well as Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia; a large selection of microbrews and spirits from every local distillery in Washington state as well as aperitifs, digestives and bitters.

In his 23,000-square-foot, locally owned superstore along Interstate 5 near the University District, LeClaire also stocks seven stemware lines and a head-spinning collection of wine decanters, accessories, tools and books and magazines (including Wine Press Northwest), chocolates, charcuterie and cheese.

Recently, when my brother landed a new job, LeClaire devised a gift basket that included a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, Domaine Serene Pinot Noir, Chaleur Estate D2 and a handful of Fran's Gold Bars. Shipping to Florida was simple, the package arrived in perfect shape and everyone was happy.

With so many great gift ideas designed for Northwest wine lovers (and all of them easy to order online), you'll soon have your holiday shopping all wrapped up.

Braiden Rex-Johnson is a Seattle-based cookbook author, food-and-wine columnist and blogger. Visit her online at www.WithBraiden.com.

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