On a Surprise Gift

I recall that day in December 2013. As my wife and I were returning from errands, I noticed a package on our doorstep … and we both confirmed that we weren’t expecting anything. But as I approached the box, my brain pulled out the file card with the answer, then I smiled and my heart rate increased in anticipation of what was inside the box. After all, I had never done anything like this before.

Jeff, (@The Drunken Cyclist) has a passion for wine … and there’s no doubt, I would love to be his neighbor. Nonetheless, several weeks earlier he tossed out the parameters of an idea to his readers, and some (including me) proclaimed, “Why not!”

I sent my name, address, and wine preference (red, white, or either) to him. After gathering the information from participants, his wife developed the plan … which meant I received a name, address, and wine preference of a person (and they don’t know it will be from me), plus someone received my information. So there it, inside the box on my doorstep … a wine from my Secret Santa.

Envisioning a delight that would be a highlight to a dampened holiday spirit (as my mother-in-law had passed away a few weeks earlier), I was eager to open the box. Would it be a single varietal or a blend? Would it be from vineyards of Spain, Italy, France, California, Australia, or Argentina?

Image from vinfolio.com

Image from vinfolio.com

As I reached for the bottle, my excitement continued to build, then like a ton of bricks … POW … I crashed when I noticed the wine was from a vineyard in Arizona.

Alright … I knew that every US state has at least one winery, so Arizona didn’t surprise me, but my mind raced with questions and thoughts:

  • Huh?
  • Where is the Arizona wine region?
  • Given the location, a blend has to be better than a single varietal.

I examined the bottle, and on the backside … YES … it’s a blend! Then I gave myself the wake-up call … Hey … wine lovers read Jeff’s blog, so they aren’t going to send lousy wine … so relax and trust the sender!

Tom, my Secret Santa, included a wonderful write-up about the wine, the vineyard, and himself. He gave a quick overview of Arizona wineries (over 50) being at the high elevations (thus cooler) in primarily three regions of the state. In this case, the owner and winemaker is Maynard James Keenan, a metal/alternative rocker who has won awards with this wine.

Sometime in January we hosted a friend for dinner. Knowing that he’s willing to try different wines, this would be the perfect time to share a taste of Arizona. After the first taste, all three of us looked at each other with open eyes saying, “Wow … what a pleasant surprise!”

Caduceus (the winery) is also the staff carried by Hermes …. the staff that is the common symbol for medicine Winery’s homepage: Here’s what we discovered about this wine.

  • Easy to drink
  • A Super Tuscan style of blend: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Sangiovese
  • Smooth (not tannic), yet rich with complexity
  • Not overpowering, but cherry with spice are obvious
  • Excellent with our food for the evening (that I can’t recall)

Although this post is very late, I salute Jeff for organizing this fun activity (the rules), Theresa who received my wine, and Tom – my Secret Santa .. and hey Jeff … I hope you do this again.

Here’s  a short video of the winemaker discussing this wine. Cheers!

44 thoughts on “On a Surprise Gift

  1. I’m glad that surprise turned out to be truly pleasant for you, Frank. But, I would have initially felt shafted, too, receiving wine from a part of the country well known for wildfires. Having watched the video, maybe you followed Maynard’s suggestion and had it with pasta?


    • Lame,
      I had to be fair, thus share that initial drop in enthusiasm … and I proudly say that we also kept the bottle.

      On a side note, we heard that tickets still exist for the local theater production that caught your eye … then we heard not … will determine the answer today.


    • Pauline,
      A happy ending is a good way to describe the story. On the other hand, I don’t think I could find any Arizona wines in my area. However, I’ve always been one who enjoys trying different wines.


  2. I love surprises…my cuppa tea…or glass of wine 🙂 What a cool way to make new friends. You would be my friend for life if you sent me a bottle of E. Guigal La Landonne 1992. That bottle drank like a smooth, liquid-cherry chocolate. Never been able to match that.


  3. Oh what fun, I love secret santa, and with wine too! How great that you got to try a wine that
    you would probably never have bought, and enjoyed it. When it comes to wine, I think we tend to stick to what we know most of the time, and rely on others for an introduction to something different so that secret santa idea is perfect.


    • Vanessa,
      Definitely lots of fun. Meanwhile, you are correct that the major of wine buyers stick with what is tried and true to them. Personally, I’m the opposite, thus prefer buying wines I don’t know, but I know that’s not the norm.


  4. My wine tastes have changed quite a bit over the years, but I always seem to revert back to a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t mind a Merlot in the summer, and the only time I enjoyed white wine was when we made our own years ago.


  5. Secret Santa, surprises and wine; what could possibly be better? I love that it was something you might not have ever tried but for the Secret Santa. Add to this, the wine was lovely and the bottle too cool for words.


  6. I’m glad you were open-minded about the wine, Frank. Sounds like it was a lovely red! Interestingly, New Mexico has some wonderful wineries – apparently it was the first place in the now continental U.S. – where grapes were planted for wine. The arid and mountainous soil in NM and AZ makes for good wine country.


  7. Hey Frank! Thanks for the shout out and glad you had such a great experience! Tom is a great guy—I just spent some time with him in France and Spain and it looks like the wine was great, too!

    We are doing it again, but this year, I decided to get the ball rolling a little bit easier since I was not able to send my wine to Minnesota until April!

    The deadline to enter has passed, but would gladly extend it for you (or any of your readers)!

    Here is the post announcing this year’s “event”:


    Maybe this year, I should publish a list of what everyone received?


    • Jeff,
      Glad you saw this post, a bit late from my end, but the move was quite daunting and time consuming … but I knew I wanted to do this.

      I think people should at least notify you of what they receive (or sent .. that would cover bases) … then list them in a post.

      You should have received my email response about my entry for this year … and I will say something on my Monday post about your invitation with a link and a respond ASAP.

      Thanks for doing it again!!!!


  8. Pingback: On a Charlie Monday | A Frank Angle

    • Debra,
      Yep … who knew … and seems that you were even surprised from a relatively short distance away. Meanwhile, FYI … the organizer can handle a few more if you respond asap (See current Monday Morning Entertainment with Charlie in the title).


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