An Adventure on the Vine

For every person who the subject of wine excites, there’s someone who it intimidates.  That’s unfortunate, as at the end of the day wine is all about enjoyment and sharing an experience.  Luckily, there are wine producers, mixologists and chefs who create wines, cocktails and foods meant to coax the fun of out of wine.  The following is a list of wines and wine-based recipes that will breathe new life into restaurant, bar and party menus.  Cheers!  And remember, don’t take it too seriously – it’s only wine…


Rosé Wine
Rosé wines (also known as blush) are a great alternative to full-bodied, fruit-bomb reds and delicate whites.  Rest assured, there are plenty of options out there beyond white Zinfandel.   Some of the most sought after rosés are from the Languedoc, Rhône and, most famously, Provence wine regions of France.  While beer pops into the minds of most when the word “barbecue” is mentioned, rosé wines pair wonderfully as they typically feature a grapefruit note that pairs well with rich, sweet sauces and smoked meats.  Try using rosé to make a margarita, adding 4 ounces of blush to the traditional cocktail recipe.

Some fantastic rosés are Cháteau d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Cháteau Miraval Côtes de Provence (the Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Perrin Family wine), Ninety Plus Cellars Lot 33 (big bang for very few bucks), Cháteau de Berne Côtes de Provence Grande Récolte (which features a tall, elegant, squared bottle) and Virage Napa Valley which is an American rosé of Cabernet Franc.


Tormaresca 2013 FichimoriThe Fichimori Fruit Julep Recipe
The acclaimed Antinori Family has been producing wine for 26 generations.  In 1988, the family founded the Tormaresca firm in Puglia and, 25 years later, Tormaresca created Fichimori.  This Italian wine, a blend of 60% Negroamaro and 40% Syrah, is produced with soft tannins and meant to be enjoyed chilled.  Serve Fichimori straight up in a martini glass, between 46 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit or give a Fichimori cocktail a try.

The Fichimori Fruit Julep is made by adding ice to a highball and adding chopped seasonal fruit.  In a mixing glass combine 6 parts Fichimori, 3 parts white rum and 1 part Passoà.  Stir and then strain.  To make a Fichimori Spritz add ice to a glass and then add 6 parts Fichimori, 4 parts Aperol and 2 parts soda water.  Top with an orange slice.


The Tincho
The Tincho (loosely translated, “young Valentin”) is a refreshing Argentinian sipper made by pouring 5 ounces of Bodega Valentin Bianchi New Age White wine (a semi-sweet blend of Torrontés and Sauvignon Blanc) over ice in a highball and garnishing with a slice of lime.  New Age White can also be used to make a delicious sangria.  Speaking of sangria…


Sangria is a Spanish and Portuguese beverage that generally consists of wine, chopped fruit, brandy and a sweetener such as sugar, syrup or orange juice.  While there are traditional sangrias, one of the best things about this drink is how easily it lends itself to experimentation; there are plenty of red and white wines, sweeteners, spirits and fruit combinations with which to play.  For a more traditional take on red sangria, use Tempranillo, Garnacha or a combination of the two wines from the Rioja region of Spain.

A simple sangria can be made by pouring a 750ml bottle of wine into a pitcher and squeezing in the juice from 1 orange and 1 lemon, both cut into wedges.  Drop the wedges into the pitcher (without the seeds if possible), add 2 tablespoons of sugar and throw in one shot of brandy.  If time allows, chill overnight and add 2 cups of ginger ale or club soda just before serving.  Again, sangria is all about experimentation.  Consider using white wine, a combination of white and red wine, sliced strawberries, nectarines, diced peaches, blueberries, gin, lemonade, triple sec, etc.


Sparkling Wine CocktailsTed Haigh’s French 75 Recipe
The mimosa is likely the cocktail that pops into most people’s minds when thinking about bubbly and mixed drinks.  And, of course, this cocktail conjures up one word: Champagne.  When it comes to Champagne, there are plenty of famous houses from which to choose: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Moët et Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Laurent-Perrier, Taittinger, Bollinger (007’s favorite) and G.H. Mumm.  A fantastic and lesser known (for now) house to add to that list is J.M. Gobillard et Fils, grown on the same hallowed ground as Dom Perignon.  However, there are plenty of other types of bubbly to choose from when creating cocktails.  Asti, Prosecco, Lambrusco, Franciacorta and Trento are the best known sparkling wines from Italy, Spain produces the increasingly popular Cava and America has sparkling wines from Chandon, Mumm Napa, Roederer Estate and Piper Sonoma (to name just a few) on offer.

Two classic sparkling wine cocktails are the aptly named Champagne Cocktail and the French 75 (supposedly named for the French 75mm field fun used during WWI).  To make the Champagne Cocktail, place a sugar cube on a small saucer and douse with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters.  Next, place the sugar in the bottom of a flute and fill with sparkling wine, keeping in mind that the sugar will create a lot of foam.  Add a twist of lemon to garnish.  The French 75 can be made by following Ted Haigh’s recipe.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and shake 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of sugar until well chilled.  Strain the mixture into a flute, top with sparkling wine and stir gently.  Garnish with a long and thin lemon spiral and a cocktail cherry.  Feel free to play with glassware as many sommeliers now recommend replacing flutes with larger wine glasses.


Red Wine Granite/Granita
A granite (grah-nee-tay) or granita is a simple but delicious slushy treat and Jessica Rothschild, owner and pastry chef of Miami-based Rock Star Pastries, has a great recipe.   All it requires is a half-bottle of red wine, 1 cup of water, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and a few drops of fresh lemon juice.  Pour the wine into either a glass or ceramic dish measuring 13 inches by 9 inches or larger.  In a saucepan, heat the water and granulated sugar until the sugar has dissolved and then add in the lemon juice before pouring the contents of the saucepan into the baking dish with the wine.  Place the baking dish into a freezer and allow the mixture to set for roughly 2 hours.  Remove the baking dish from the freezer and scrape the sides with a fork in order to break up the crystals, then return it to the freezer.  Repeat the scraping process every 30 to 60 minutes until the entire mixture is frozen.  When ready, spoon the granite/granita into shot glasses and serve immediately.


Sabayon and Summer Fruit
A sabayon, or zabaione, is an Italian dessert that features sweet wine.  This recipe, also from Jessica Rothschild of Rock Star Pastries, serves 6 to 8 people.  The ingredients required are 6 large egg yolks, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, 3/4 cup of Moscato wine, 2 or 3 ripe peaches (halved and pitted), 2 pints of fresh raspberries and 1 tablespoon of Chambord liqueur and 1/2 cup of toasted almonds (coarsely chopped).  The first step is to prepare an ice bath in a large mixing bowl with ice and cold water.  Next, slice the peaches, place them in a mixing bowl with the raspberries and drizzle with Chambord.  Toss the fruit lightly to coat, spoon into serving bowls and set aside.  Set up a double boiler by bringing about 2 inches of water to a simmer over medium low heat.  Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a small mixing bowl and then add in the Moscato.  Set the bowl over the double boiler, reduce the heat to low and whisk continuously to heat the custard and incorporate air.  Keep in mind that the water in the double boiler should not touch the bottom of the bowl as only steam is required to cook the custard.  Keep on whisking for around 5 to 6 minutes until the mixture triples in size and becomes very pale.  It’s easy to tell when it’s done as ribbons will form when the custard is drizzled back into the bowl.  Remove the bowl from the heat and either drizzle the sabayon over fruit to serve warm or set it over the ice bath, stirring to cool it down.  Cool for about 5 to 10 minutes; it will thicken as it cools.  To serve cold, spoon the sabayon over the fruit, top with a small handful of chopped almonds and serve immediately.

*French 75 photo credit: Maggie Hoffman and Fichimori Fruit Julep courtesy of Fichimori