Wine — Rewarding Your Support Staff
Rewarding Your Support Staff

By Tim Protzman

Don’t forget gifts for those who make your life easier

This is the time of year we remember all the people who do the little everyday things we take for granted, with a tip or gift.

I was talking with Vinnie, my mailman, and I said:

“Since we’re on a first-name basis, I’d like to do something different this year, something that’s a little more personal than cash, something that requires a bit more thought. What do you think?”

To which he replied, “We’re really not that close Tim, so cash will be just fine.”

Vinnie is truly a man after my own heart. But it does raise the question, what does one get for the people who perform the sometimes thankless tasks we depend on the other 51 weeks of the year?

I’ve put together a little gift guide for those dedicated service personnel, which goes beyond cash and shows that you’ve put a little thought into their work. Of course cash is still a nice gift, so these suggestions are frugal enough that one could give a little gift and gratuity combined, a combo sure to guarantee that you won’t sit around the doctor’s office too long, or be woken up at 5:30 a.m.  by the crash of your empty trash cans being heaved back on your front lawn.

Your hairdresser. This is a tricky one since you usually tip them for every haircut. But a nice bottle of Australian wine is a fine token of your appreciation this season. I suggest Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Chardonnay, $8.99. Full of lemony fruit and a touch of oak with hints of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s from vineyards in South Australia’s famed Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions where the hot, dry weather conditions infused the ripening grapes with a great combination of acidity and sweetness.

Your personal trainer. A nice red wine would be appropriate, especially since the latest studies indicate that red wine contains chemicals that are actually beneficial for your health. The polyphenols, anthocyanins and resveratrol in the wine have been touted to prevent cancer, heart disease and cholesterol. I make no promises on this but a tasty red, on its own, is a nice gift even if there are no health benefits. Something from France would be cool and if your trainer is a little sophisticated, I’d go with a wine from the Rhone region. M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone, $12.99.  It’s 50 percent Grenache, 50 percent Syrah from the large Cote du Rhone appellation, which produces great everyday wines with a toasty, smoky flavor and a touch of dried fruit.

Your therapist. If you’re like me, you have to pay someone to listen to your anxieties and problems. You don’t want to spend too much, or they might increase their fee, so I’d go with a Californian Zinfandel. It’s yummy, inexpensive and says you put some thought into the gift. Try Ravenswood Zinfandel from the Lodi AVA, $12.99. Lodi is east of the Bay Area and in the Delta country and the rolling foothills of the Sierras. The region is coming on strong as a major producer of good to great wines. Ravenswood is spicy, with cherry and tart cranberry flavors and a nice slightly tannic structure that adds the right backbone to stand up to roasts and barbecued meats.

Your dry cleaner. Definitely go with a white wine, because they’re sick of removing all the red wine spots from linens and silks. Since your relationship is a little less personal, they’ll be tickled you remembered them at all. Dona Paula Chardonnay from Argentina’s Mendoza region costs $9.99 and is an easy drinking, fruity wine with green apple flavors and a touch of cantaloupe. And it doesn’t stain.

Your mailman. These unsung heroes of the American Working Class deliver the mail six days a week, through the cold of the winter and the heat of the summer, in rain and snow. My mailman is a tad nosy and he always asks about wine, probably because of all the wine publications he delivers. He’s interested in Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio.

I’d recommend a nice American Pinot Noir; they’re consistently good and full of bargains. It’s something he wouldn’t buy for himself and will present a new avenue of wine discovery. Bouchaine Buchli Station Pinot Noir, $12.99, is a wonderful introduction to the wonders of Pinot Noir. With hints of cherry and strawberry and a slight raisin taste in the finish, this wine is elegant and well crafted. Easily the equal of a $25 French Burgundy, Bouchaine is located in the prestigious Carneros Region which straddled lower Napa and Sonoma Valley. The 2003 vintage is a blend of Carneros and North Coast grapes from the Hendricks Ranch Vineyard.

My sanitation engineers. They’re hardworking Mexican Americans who arrive before dawn and remove my refuse, which includes lots and lots of wine bottles. I opted for a cash gratuity and a six-pack of Tecate Beer to honor their heritage.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

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—Tim Protzman

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