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The Savvy Traveler

Retail Therapy

Wine Merch Worth Traveling For

It’s inevitable: come to wine country, will purchase stuff in winery gift shops. Like honeycomb to a bee, the umpteenth winery gift shop was pulling you – hard – into its depths to make that last purchase. Although it sounds strange now, you really believed at the time that you absolutely needed the logo-emblazoned hot pad. I mean, how could you not?

Sounds familiar, right? We’ve all been here before. After all, it’s the way of wine country: the retail way. No matter how hard you try, you usually just can’t resist making at least a purchase or two (or three or four) while sniffing and swirling your way through the countryside.

Sending out an SOS
Not that it’s a bad thing! In fact, I’m probably one of the last people who’d ever dream of bad-mouthing shopping. With its therapeutic qualities (well, at least until the Visa bill arrives), shopping can be a wonderfully restorative and energizing activity. These qualities certainly apply to wine country shopping.

Problem is, most of the time the benefits stop there, when the trip ends.

Back home, just as you toss the twentieth tricked-out logo corkscrew into your already overflowing drawer of wine gadgets the thought crosses your mind, “what if I actually came home with something I might really use?”

Well, good news travelers: I’ve compiled some suggestions for you for just this sort of wine merch that’s both useful AND guaranteed to bring back all sorts of warm fuzzy memories of the good place with each and every use. That’s right: you’re likely to actually use these things, and not just out of sheer retail guilt.

Because savvy travelers should never have to go through that.

The Entertaining Wine Country Cookbook
Ah, the wine country cookbook - possibly the most frequently purchased-and-then-never-used item from winery gift shops. What a travesty! With the girl and the fig: More than 100 Recipes from the Acclaimed California Wine Country Restaurant, the award-winning cooking tome from standout Sonoma chef Sondra Bernstein, you’ll actually want to cook up the many recipes inspired by her eponymous Sonoma restaurant of the same name. Delightful topics covered include “From the Garden to the Stockpot,” a chapter on using fresh, local ingredients to add flair to your cooking, and “the girl & the fig cheese experience,” which hardly needs explaining. With practical information on delicious French-inspired California cuisine doled out with plenty of heart and humor, the girl & the fig cookbook brings you back to wine country, each and every time. Now that’s reason to cook.

The Practical Wine Tote
Wine merch is notorious for being ego-driven – meaning the goods more often serve to inflate your ego than to help you get anything particularly useful done. That top-of-the-line, stainless steel monogrammed wine bottle carrier, inlaid in velvet? Never used it, right? Ditto for the elaborate picnic basket-inspired wine bottle/flatware/cutlery/ stemware/provisions carryall. What you really need, in the end, is a practical wine tote that matches up looks and utility and isn’t tricked out with all sorts of useless embellishments. In a word, you need a neoprene wine tote from Built NY. Made from the same stuff as wetsuits, the colorful totes come in an array of colors, patterns and sizes (check out the cool cami pattern!), giving you lots to choose from. Plus, they lay flat when they’re not in use, which means they’ll fit easily into your suitcase for the trip home.

The Gourmet Getaway tote may just be the best tote of the bunch, with ample room for food items and an array of different bottle sizes (e.g. beer, wine, bottled water). And because the neoprene material both insulates and protects, your goods are guaranteed to stay cool and intact. So you can worry about something else – like fitting in one more tasting room before your flight.