Stocking Stuffers 

With my boys grown and out on their own, Christmas morning is a much more subdued affair than it used to be. No waterfall of packages under the tree, no aftermath of bows and torn wrapping paper littering the floor, and we can sleep in past sunrise if we want.

When the boys were younger, we told them Santa was probably bored with the milk and icing-laden cookies that greeted him at every house. We talked them into leaving a split of sparkling wine and almond biscotti instead. Santa reciprocated by stuffing a small bottle in our stockings: wine for my wife and me, juice for the kids. A split--half of a half-bottle or 187 ml--is the perfect item to top off your own wine lover's sock.

It doesn't have to be expensive. When it comes to bubbles, $3 will buy you either Segura Vidas Cava (bone-dry from Spain) or Lunetta Prosecco (just a hint of sweetness from Italy). For around $5, you can go French with the lithe and lovely Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean-Louis, an elegant blanc de blanc. You can even score a true Champagne without breaking the bank. Laurent-Perrier Brut LP is the real deal from a top house, and it retails for less than $12.

If you like things more on the sweet side, there are a couple of great choices. A split of Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port sells for less than $10 and is the perfect tipple to enjoy on a cold winter's eve. One of the more esoteric wines hails from Germany, where they let Riesling grapes freeze on the vine well into winter. The juice becomes extremely concentrated, and the result is an amazingly rich and complex dessert wine. At $20 a split, the 2007 Dr. Loosen Eiswein is a relative bargain that's sure to make for a happy holiday.

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