Sommelier Emily Wines and New York Times Visit SF Store to Play in 2009’s Holiday Crop of Wine Accessories and Racks

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Master Sommelier Emily Wines and New York Times assess the best wine racks on the market. Other 2009 wine gifts also featured.

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Disneyland for Sommeliers.

The Wine Hardware Store, the Bay Area favorite of wine aficionados on the hunt for wine accessories, was recently visited by Master Sommelier Emily Wines and the New York Times when they stopped by the chain’s San Francisco headquarters to shop for “stylish, functional” wine racks.

Ms. Wines’ favorite? The inexpensive and eco-friendly Modularack wine rack(ranging from $39.95 to $159.95), made in Australia from sustainably grown plantation pine. ''This is the fastest way to turn your walk-in closet or office into a wine cellar on the cheap,'' she said.

It’s hard to fit the Modularack in a stocking though. Here’re other favorites in 2009’s Holiday offerings of wine accessories from Wine Hardware, the “Disneyland for Sommeliers” (New York Times).

Stocking stuffers

For the wine nerd with an affinity for bling (and let’s face it, what wine nerd doesn’t) the Laguiole corkscrew ($160-$214) is hands down the most gratuitously beautified cork puller in the world. Hand-wrought in the village of Laguiole France for generations, Laguiole solid handles come in such substances as deer antler, ebony and even petrified Mammoth tusk. No joke.

New for wine totes and carries are the Wine Pillow and Kool Vino. The inflatable Wine Pillow ($9.95) was created specifically for the airline traveler who likes to fly with a bottle in her luggage. And for those who’ve ever brought wine-soaked business wear to a trade show, the value of a product like this is self evident. Kool Vino ($4.95) is a refrigerated bag that keeps a bottle of white wine cool in transit to dinner party or picnic. (It also makes excellent gift wrapping in its own right.)

The Vinturi Wine Aerator($39.95) is the newest installment to the “instant decanter” lineup of products. Like all hand-held wine aerators, the Vinturi works under the same principal as decanting, exposing wine to oxygen for a period of time to soften its structure. Vinturi speeds the process. As wine passes through it, air is sucked in through miniscule holes to mix with the wine. It’s had all the breathing it needs by the time the wine hits the glass.

There’s breathing and then there’s red-wine vinegar. To stave off the negative effects of lengthy oxygen exposure, for the money Wine Preserva ($5.99 for a 6-pack) is the safest bet for simple wine preservation. Inserted into a newly opened bottle, this small disk of food-grade plastic floats on the surface of the wine, creating a nearly perfect blanket separating the liquid from the air in the bottle. Granted this product is a little odd sounding, and looking, but it’s one of the easiest to use and most effective preservation products available.

Big Wine Gifts

Being a countertop appliance that keeps three bottles of wine on tap, the Wine Saver Home ($595.00) preservation system is a bit more elaborate then Wine Preserva. As the Wine Saver dispenses wine through the tap, Argon gas is passed into the bottle to fill the vacant space. And because the bottle is sealed immediately after opening, the wine only comes in contact with oxygen for a few seconds.

There are a lot of wine cellars, cabinets and refrigerators on the market. Some are made for collectors and long-term wine storage, others for consumers who drink their purchases relatively quickly.

The Silent Cellar by Dometic ($1,780/52 bottle-$3,220/200 bottle) belongs to the former category. This wine cabinet cools through what’s referred to as the absorption principal. The science is abstract but the effect is simple: the cabinet doesn’t need a motor or compressor, which means it runs in complete silence, is vibration free and saves electricity

The front runners in the latter group are the Danby ($129.00/17 bottle-$698.00/54 bottle) and Haier ($99.00/12 bottle-503/26 bottle) range of fridges. For short-term, affordable wine storage these brands are the best value.

Riedel and INAO Extreme Wine Glasses. Riedel ($149.00/set of 6 Bordeaux) is the granddaddy of all high-end wine glasses. Riedels won’t turn plonk into first growths but they do make a strong aesthetic impression. There’s a Riedel for virtually every style of wine and even comes in a stemless version, the “O” series.

The INAO Extreme ($55/white-$64/red, sets of 4), the newcomer to the crowded market of wine glass brands, prefers a different approach to glassware. The original INAO glass, which has been the standard tool for professional tasters for 50 years, was designed on the notion that there’s a single, ideal bowl shape for the proper assessment of all wines. The INAO Extreme takes that idea to the dinner table with two elegant glass designs, one for red, and one for whites and sparkling wines.

2009 was a good vintage for wine books. Among the very best are: Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly ($27.95); What Price Bordeaux? by Master of Wine Benjamin Lewin ($34.95); Age Gets Better with Wine by Richard Baxter, M.D. ($19.95); WineSpeak by Bernard Klem ($29.95); and Gone with the Wine by the cartoonist for eRobertParker.com, Doug Pike ($12.95).

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