“Happy Christmas!” I said kissing Kari on the cheek under the mistletoe.
“Merry…Hanukkah?” I whimpered.
Ahhh, December, that Most Wonderfully (Hectic) Time of the Year, when we attend an endless string of parties celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and—according to the Mayan calendar—the complete destruction of the world. My all-girl wine group didn’t usually meet during the final month of the year because: 1) It was too crazy busy; 2) It saved us from giving gifts to our fellow wine group members; 3) We were shoppers and none of us liked forfeiting a night of shopping. Even for wine.
But this December we’d made time to meet because we’d found a useful theme: “Shopping for Wine Presents.” Whoever had this idea (Kari), it was a stroke of genius!
The parameters of the evening were simple: 1) Bring a bottle of wine; and 2) Think outside the usual bottle.
We began with Nina’s bottle of Veuve Cliquot, immediately recognizable by its canary yellow label. Its bright packaging was as classy as Tiffany’s blue boxes and twice as expensive. The ladies in the group loved this Champagne and looked for any opportunity to bring a bottle, pop it open and suck it down. I supported this initiative and we all toasted to Nina for bringing the “Bubbly Widow.”
“Who doesn’t love champagne?” Kari said sipping from her flute.
“What a bloody great gift for me,” Meredith said in her throaty Australian accent.
“It’s the gift I love to get,” Nina said.
But not everyone on my Christmas list was as nice as Nina and therefore didn’t deserve “the Veuve.” So we moved on to to Kari’s bottle—a Sofia Rosé by Coppola’s Monterey Vineyards. The wine was fruity, made from Syrah and Grenache grapes and the Rosé gave the clear glass bottle a happy pink hue. It was the perfect gift for a woman who lived in a hot climate or who liked pink. A lot.
“Sweet,” said Kari.
“It’s a bloody good gift for a girl,” said Meredith.
“It’s a gift I’d like to give,” said Nina.
But not everyone on my Christmas list was young and female. What about the men in my life? My colleagues? Or my vino-drinking gal pals? So we moved on to Meredith’s bottles from Rob Mondavi, Jr. The offspring and heir to Napa’s Robert Mondavi had created a line of wines called ONEHOPE that donated a portion of the proceeds to specific charities. The bottle of ONEHOPE Zinfandel gave money to support the troops, a Cabernet Sauvignon gave monies to children with disabilities and the Chardonnay donated money to breast cancer research. Again, women and their Chardonnay! But what a fabulous idea! We could drink wine while simultaneously helping charities. Those Mondavis were always thinking.
“Delicious and who doesn’t love helping charities?” Kari said.
“What a bloody good gift for the needy,” Meredith croaked.
“It’s a gift I’d like to get,” Nina smiled.
Seeming like we’d covered all the people on our wine gift lists I suddenly felt self-conscious about the present I’d brought. It was an Italian blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio by Gaetano D’Aquino which came in an oversized, blue bottle. The bottle was massive, holding 1.5 liters of wine as opposed to the usual petit 750 milliliter size and the bottle’s color was a unique blue. Brilliant blue. Lapis lazuli blue. Look at Me Blue!
“We shouldn’t drink mine,” I said self-consciously.
“Nonsense,” Kari said opening the long-necked blue bottle and filling our glasses. In unison we sniffed and drank. Silence fell over our merry group. Time stood still. After a full evening of imbibing delicious wines, mine tasted…flat. It was as if after the Three Magi gave baby Jesus gifts of gold, franchincense and myrrh, I schlepped into the stable and gave him my canteen of luke-warm spring water.
“The wine is underwhelming,” I said hurriedly.
“But…the bottle is gorgeous!” Kari said admiring it on the table.
“The bottle! What a bloody great gift for a candle!” Meredith crooned.
“It’s the gift my mother would love to get!” Nina said lifting the blue bottle up to the light for closer inspection.
In unison we decided maybe it wasn’t the best of the evening but everything has a redeeming factor. Once empty, the bottle became a vase, a candleholder or a stunning conversation piece catching the light in a sunny window.
“For some folks,” Meredith said “wine drinking is about more than what’s in the bottle. And for some it’s just the bottle.”
How we laughed! It was getting late but we continued on for several more hours telling stories and chortling with each other.
Of all the holiday parties in the busy month of December, that was the best because no one gave or received a gift. Who among us needed another trinket? No, what made it so special was we were present, spending time together and drinking wine. That night I realized in December, like the rest of the year, the greatest gift you can give your loved ones is your time.
© Alicia Bien
Alicia Bien is a comedy writer and wine drinker who lives in Los Angeles with her director husband and adopted cat. You can catch more of Alicia at her blog New House Girl and follow her at Twitter @aliciabien. She is Head Writer for the sketch comedy show Top Story! Weekly.