You could buy your father another tie this year. Maybe you buy him some golf balls — again — or bake him a cake. Or, you could buy him a bottle of wine.

Go for the wine.

Choosing a wine can be as personal a gift as you want to make it. Perhaps it was from a winery you recently visited, a favorite you just discovered, a wine with an unusual story or grape variety, or a prestigious wine your father wouldn’t buy for himself.

You can spent as little as $10 for a decent bottle of unusual wine or as much as a $100 for a prestigious bottle of reserve cabernet sauvignon. No matter what direction you take, wine is always appreciated.

Does your father like to barbecue? Zinfandel is a great accompaniement to most smoked foods, like pulled pork and ribs. It also does well with grilled hamburgers. Among our favorites are Cline, Quivera, St. Francis Old Vines, Dry Creek Vineyards, and Rosenblum.

Has he tried ros?The new vintage of French ros?has just arrived and can be purchased for less than $15. Buy three: one each from France, Spain and California and let him taste the difference. Some we recommend are Mas Carlot from southern France, Marques de Caceres rosada from Spain and Etude rose from California.

At Italy’s Ruffino. several generations sof winemakers have a favorite wine that reminds them of their father’s wine accomplishments. Adolfo Folonari, one of the CEOs, likes Romitorio di Santedame 2004 ($80) because it represents the rediscovery of colorino, part of the blend and a relatively forgotten Tuscan grape variety. His brother Luigi, the other CEO, thinks of Modus 2006 ($26) — a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot — as a representative of new traditions.

If you want to get a good laugh — and a decent wine — you can buy Bad Boy Red 2007 ($32) for that father who knows how to have a good time. It is a masculine blend of cabernet sauvignon (40 percent), cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot.

MERLOT DISCOVERIES

Talk to most wine producers in California and they will tell you that merlot is taking off again. All those rumors about its demise are untrue — consumers still love merlot for its soft texture.

In fact, a recent study by The Nielsen Co. shows that more American households buy merlot than any other wine variety and that it enjoys the highest repeat purchase rate of any wine variety in the U.S.

Merlot got a bad rap in the hit movie, “Sideways.” Like any grape variety, there are some bad versions on the market. But made well, a merlot is still a pleasing drink.

Here are a few we recently tried:

Blackstone Winemaker Select Merlot 2007 ($12). This great value made by winemaker Gary Stitton has lush black cherry flavors, soft mouth appeal and a dash of toasted oak.

Estancia Central Coast Merlot 2007 ($12). Using grapes from Monterey County and Paso Robles, Estancia continues to make a decent merlot for the price. Blended with some cabernet sauvignon and syrah, it has black cherry flavors and hints of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla.

Simi Winery Sonoma County Merlot 2006 ($19). Firm tannins, cinnamon and clove aromas, ripe red berry flavors and a long finish.

Clos du Bois Merlot 2007 ($15). Plum and blackberry flavors dominate this wine with hints of cocoa, currants, tobacco and mocha.

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Merlot 2007 ($25). Blended with cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot, this interesting merlot has plum and blackberry flavors and coffee, chocolate aromas.

Duckhorn Vineyards Three Palms Vineyard Merlot 2006 ($85). Dense black cherry flavors and full in the mouth with fine tannins and flowery aromas. A very nice merlot with good pedigree and depth.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have visited vineyards all over the world and have been writing a newspaper wine column for more than 20 years. Contact them at:

[email protected]

— Relishmag.com