Find it impossible to buy for the dad who has everything? Many well-intentioned sons and daughters run into that problem every Father's Day - this year, June 19. For many children, giving yet another tie rack or bottle of cologne may seem too generic year after year.
But if you're lucky enough to have a dad with special interests, gifting shouldn't be as hard. If not, here are a few libation ideas - not all alcoholic - that might help bring a smile to Dad's face.
Wine, not whine
To make up for all those years of kids' whining, a nice bottle of wine is partial compensation for the dad who likes the grape.
Downtown has at least one shopping option for the frugal Father's Day wine-shopper. Haskell's International Wine Room, 81 S. 9th St., is a store piled high with both liquor bottles and beer cases.
If you're not the wine connoisseur that you father is, don't worry. Head on down to Haskell's and look for the wine go-to guy who just might have more experience than your father when it comes vintages.
Leo Pappineau has been working at Haskell's since May 3, 1971, when he still had hair on his head. Now he's limited to a thick caterpillar of a mustache, and he will neither preach extravagance nor lead a customer to the cheapest wine.
His initial advice: "In my own opinion, if you are buying a present for your dad in this day and age, you can spend more than $10."
Thus, rule number one: spending a bit more than a 10-spot will give any customer "wiggle room" to buy some nice wine. With this in mind, Pappineau skated through Haskell's tight aisles and pointed to a good Merlot for under $20. (Just pray your dad didn't embrace the movie "Sideways.")
Vina Roble's 2001 Merlot is a Californian wine that Pappineau said is selling well right now because the producer's wines have had a consistent quality and richness over the years. "Especially for this vintage, 2001 on Merlots is just stunning. You might say it is the hot vintage out there right now in California."
Currently, the wine is on sale. When it isn't, it runs about $14 or $15, he said.
Burgundy, great with meat and potatoes
Pappineau moved to the back of the store - where fine wines up to $2,000 a bottle live - toward the Burgundy imports, his favorite wine category. Burgundy, he said "can go with stew dishes, red meats, game dishes, game birds and it is sort of the classic red with grilled salmon."
Pappineau believes the wine is easier to drink and not heavy like the Cabernets. It also doesn't need to be aged in the cellar, he said.
Pappineau held two 100 percent Pinot Noir imports from France. The first is the 2000 Savigny-Les-Beaune from Henri de Villamont for $23.99. Pappineau also suggests the 2002 Santenay from Jean-Claude Boisset for $36.99, because the year 2002 is the hot vintage in French Burgundies.
Waiting of wine
Next, Leo picked up a red Bordeaux for customers who can afford the $40 to $50 range.
The 2001 Chateau Beychevelle from Grand Cru Classe runs $49.99. Pappineau said that it is a great bottle of wine and something that is very drinkable now, unlike other wines that might have to be kept awhile before they peak. "You don't want a wine that you are going to have to wait five years for. You want to get a wine that you can drink now," Pappineau said.
People have to wait to drink the Grand Cru Classe 2002 vintages, he said. The structure has more acidity in it and the tannins are harder. The 2001 vintages are different. "You can drink it much sooner. Like maybe tonight," Pappineau said.
Pappineau has been in the wine business for 46 years, after he first drank the stuff as a bartender. Back then, however, the wines he was drinking deserved the kind of respectability that only a stomach pump could complement.
Then he discovered some French wines. He started to research and read up on the drink. France led to Italy, and Italian wines led to German wines.
Although Pappineau said he favors red wines, a great white wine from Germany just got him excited, something that customers usually don't think about purchasing.
"If you want a wine that is going to knock your socks off, this is a white German."
Pappineau held up Dr. Fishcer's 2003 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Auslese for $31.99. The 2003 vintage was a hot year in German wines, Pappineau said, because it was such a good growing season for big grapes full of quality.
A different kind of beer
If wine isn't Dad's chosen aperitif, Haskell's is also well stocked with other imbibing staples.
Manager Brian Farrell said that decent bottles of port sell for $30, while a $60 bottle of cognac makes a traditional Father's Day, conjuring images of "Dad's study" with bookcase, velvety chair and a dog at his feet. Adding to the picture are gift boxes that mock the reddish hue of mahogany wood.
There are also are alternatives for the non-alcohol drinker. Never mind the "dessert wine" when there's a dessert root beer. A festive keg of 1919 Root Beer harks back to black-and-white photos, elementary school days and soda fountains, making Father's Day a family affair. A quarter barrel (eight gallons) of root beer is $52.99.
"Just one and a half glasses is all you need to feel full," said Farrell, who's also indulged in the barrels for his children's birthday parties. Add scoops of ice cream for an instant old-fashioned root beer float party, and don't forget to bring a camera.
If you've always passed your leftovers to Dad, show your admiration with some epicurean snacks (before they reach "leftover status"). For a thoughtful extra touch, wrap things up at The Big Cheese Company, a small delicatessen with a lot to offer.
Include a hunk of four-year-old sharp cheddar from Wisconsin's Widmer's Cheese Cellars for $9.99. Besides a wide assortment of cheeses, meats and other snacks, the cheerful shopkeepers will specially prepare a gift basket that includes your handpicked drinks along with wine glasses, crackers, cheese, knives, chocolates or fruit (according to your directions).
You may also order themed baskets that feature a full array of cheeses, vegetables, desserts and plenty of condiments at all price levels. Customize your gift basket for a minimum of $25-$30 (you can spend as much or as little as your budget allows on these big or bite-sized packages since contents are optional and you can always mix and match).
Pack a picnic lunch with sausage, sharp cheddar, Wasabi-flavored peanuts, bulk salads sold by the pound, watermelon boats, or trays of meat, fruit and vegetables. Be sure to request your organic fruit variety two weeks in advance so that it can arrive on time.
For the "Cucina Italiana" enthusiast, a line of organic pasta, olive oil, French bread and Italian meat brings the ristorante home to accompany your choice of vino.
Last-minute shoppers should note that delivery service is available throughout the metro area, and gift certificates are for sale for any amount.