I had a birthday recently. It wasn't a major milestone, but it was a large enough number that going out and getting hammered didn't actually sound all that awesome. Because it was a fairly unremarkable year, big-ticket gifts weren't part of the plan.
Still, one of the nicest presents I received was a three-month subscription to California Wine Club. In the past, I've often eschewed monthly shipments from wineries because I don't like to lock all my wine-buying money into one outlet. This club, however, is a bit different, because Bruce and Pam Boring, the husband-and-wife team who run it, source from a variety of smaller wineries.
You don't get anything that's mass-produced, and the monthly price for two bottles, with shipping and tax, is something like $50. You expect to get something good, but you don't know where it's going to come from, and if you really like it, there's usually a discount on ordering more bottles.
Not two days after my birthday, there was a knock on the door, and soon I was unpacking a pair of bottles from Napa's Truchard winery. Included was a 2006 Pinot Noir, which I have yet to open, and a 2007 Syrah, which I broke out almost immediately. This was a thick, dark wine with a gorgeous color that looks lovely in the glass. It was intense and strong on first taste but quickly opened up, offering an earthy taste of blackberries and pepper and a nice, long, lingering finish.
As gifts go, this was a good one, and the club makes it easy to set up a temporary membership as a gift, if someone you know is having a birthday.
Or if, say, someone you kinda know just had one.