Tarantas Wine Slushie with Melon, Pimm’s and Crystalized Ginger One SPICY cocktail!

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comFor about the last month or so you guys may have noticed I’ve been promoting a contest by Tarantas Wines where I’ll be judging all of the wine-based cocktails. I feel that sometimes saying “wine-based” for cocktails confuses people, like, they only imagine taking the wine and mixing it with club soda and maybe adding a mint leaf to it. Or, in one kinda sad case online I recently saw some wine cocktails that were just a bottle of wine blended with a basket of strawberries and ice. It looked pretty in the picture, but I wouldn’t warrant it an innovative cocktail.

I’l take a step back here though and not get on the soapbox about what IS and ISN’T a cocktail, because quite frankly that’s not a debate I want to get into. (Although, side-note, according to David Wondrich the first usage of the term cocktail has to do with horses and ginger placed in their, um, well, butts to make their tails perk up.)

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comSo let’s talk about how I like to make wine cocktails, or rather, since the weather is getting HOT again in my neighborhood, wine slushie cocktails. I don’t bat an eyelash over frozen cocktails as evidenced here here and here. In fact, book publishers- if you want a cocktail book on this subject, go ahead and contact me; I’m taking meetings.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comThe wine I’ve chosen as my base is Tarantas Monastrell, an inky, tart and not-too-sweet red from the Jumilla region of Spain. Because it’s so dry, I added in some sweetness with honeydew melon and Pimm’s No. 1. The Pimm’s also adds in some spices and subtle earthy flavors. I wanted to finish this on a spicy note so in went crystalized ginger. (You can get crystalized ginger in a speciality grocer, online, or can make your own too.) I wanted to add a touch more sweetness and have some of the ginger chunks actually present in the drink- think of them as your chewy spice bombs. Otherwise I could have gone with fresh ginger infused in some capacity.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comTo minimize watering the drink down with ice, I pre-freeze the mixture the night before. Because there is a low alcohol content, the mixture actually becomes solid overnight but not completely frozen. This way I can add the pre-frozen mixture directly into the blender and only add ice to it as needed. Yes, it’s an additional step that requires some thought beforehand, but it makes for a better frozen drink. If you don’t have the time to freeze overnight, you should at least chill the mixture a few hours beforehand, and if you need this IMMEDIATELY, then go ahead and throw it into the blender with crushed ice, just taste and adjust as you go.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

The overnight mixture makes for a refreshing and light cocktail. You get honeyed ginger flavors with subtle spice and some grassiness; overall it’s quite balanced. If you like your drinks even spicer, I’d up the ginger by another tablespoon, it gets quite zingy.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

15 ounces honey dew melon (about half a melon), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
36 g or 1.2 ounces (about a quarter cup) chopped Crystalized ginger
2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ration)
4 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1
8 ounces Tarantas Monastrell wine*
crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals for garnish

  • The night before, combine the honeydew melon, crystalized ginger, simple syrup, Pimm’s No. 1 and the Tarantas Monastrell wine into a gallon size ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.
  • When ready to make the cocktails, add pre-frozen mixture to a blender and blend to desired consistency (should be smooth, not too chunky). Add ice as needed.
  • To serve, pour into double rocks glasses and garnish with crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals.

Remember, you have until THIS FRIDAY to enter your own wine-based cocktail on the Tarantas website! Happy Wine Wednesday everyone!

The Not-Your-Ordinary Valentine’s Day Wine (Report) with Robin Watts!

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comYou’ve got options for Valentine’s Day folks. Sexy, sexy wine options.

Robin Watts is back this month and he’s gone and picked an impressive line up of wines for your weekend. Pop open a few of these for a loved one, or do what I did: get thirsty reading these descriptions and finish them yourself. It’s going to be hard to pick just one…

-Elana



When I set out to pick a few wines for the impending Valentine’s Day weekend I thought I would end up going a possibly cliche route and selecting only French or Italian wines. So “romantic” and European! Truth be told, I was seduced by some domestic stuff as well and I think you, and maybe someone else in your life, might be too.

 

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Broc Cellars Love White
California
Retails apx. $20

This is a California white that I would recommend to any white drinker who doesn’t usually, or won’t, drink California white wine. This blend of Marsanne (85%), Roussanne (12%), and Viogner (3%) has some very distinctly European sensibilities about it. Aromatic and floral with overtones of pear and bit of honey I think that this wine works well as a starter or even accompanying an entree of lighter fair. And lets be honest, this holiday places a lot on aesthetics and this is nice looking bottle with a couple hearts on it. It’s called Love White!!! This wine will help you fit in with the cliche and trite parts of the holiday while its corked but surprise you and spoil you once it’s uncorked.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Gragnano from Poggio delle Bacanti
Italy
Retails apx. $15

There is not a lot of information to be found on this wine but for around $15, and sometimes less, you’ll be drinking this so fast you probably won’t care. Mildly effervescent, it pours and froths like a lambrusco but drinks relatively still (and dry!). I prefer it with a decent chill on it and think its versatility lend it to any day part but, if pairing it with food, go heartier. Being from Napoli, and for some reason very mysterious, I have to assume this is Aglianico and Piedirosso which explains the earthy, leathery quality. There is something satisfyingly vegetal about this, almost as if an olive and a cranberry had a baby but it was raised by a beet and an eggplant. I recommend finishing this savory dry surprise the day you open it but I doubt that should be a difficult task.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comL’Unique Gaz de Schiste
France
Retails apx. $24

Just go buy this. I should just say that and tell you to trust me. Pink? Check. Bubbly? Check. Delicious? Check. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day. I think its perfect for any time, any place, and probably any person. 50% Grenache/50% Mourvedre and six month of bottle maturation make for one elegant bottle of bubbly. A little bit sweet, this sparkler is a tart, minerally, grapefruit-y, creamy treat. At first, it smells like you’ve opened the most exquisite bag of gummy worms (I mean that in the best, most respectful way) and the first sip conjures up images of the most impressive fruit trifle and leaves you with a macadamia kiss. Yeah. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to say any of that. This stuff is that good and functions perfectly as an aperitif or dessert. Get a bottle for someone you love, especially if that person is yourself.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Bow & Arrow Gamay
Oregon
Retails apx. $24

Bow & Arrow knows what they’re doing. This Willamette Valley Gamay is soft, luscious, velvety, and just the slightest bit dirty, but in a good way. A very good way. Valentine’s Day appropriate for multiple reasons, the label, covered in tiny arrows, will help you play up holiday Cupid motifs while impressing your sweetheart with a wine that is reminiscent of a dark chocolate bar filled with cherries and almonds. Perfect for someone who thinks they’re afraid of tannins, though be warned, they are there, this wine just gets better as it opens up. Halfway through your first bottle I’d suggest opening a second if for no other reason than to smell that luscious mulberry aroma one more time. Great acidity makes this a lovely food wine but its just as satisfying by itself. This is a wine you can proudly pour with confidence in hopes to impress a special someone new or remind a longtime partner that you can still enjoy the good stuff without breaking the bank.

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts and find all his wine picks here at Wine Wine Wine

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The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts!

The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com

This time of year there is a golden quality to the light that I just love. I always associate it with the end of Fall, even if winter is still a few weeks away. It reminds me of gilded tables and pies and the anticipation of family gatherings. Thanksgiving is this week and as you plan your final meal details, let’s help you check off which wines to get.

Robin Watts is back with your wine picks for this week’s feast of feasts. If you’re looking for not only some tasty wines, but some BOLD graphic bottles to grace your table… here you go.

-Elana


Thanksgiving is coming and that means another opportunity for drinking! Y’know, among other things. My favorite holiday, and meal, of the year can bring as much excitement as it can anxiety. One thing I’ve always found at large group meal functions is that finding a wine everyone can agree on is near impossible. There is always the one person who ONLY drinks this or the other guy who NEVER drinks that. This is why I’ve tried to pick four wines that at least offer something unique enough that they will appeal to someone and maybe even convert a few skeptics.

The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts- Populis // stirandstrain.com2014 POPULIS WHITE
California
Retails apx. $20-24

Coming from just outside Napa this fuller bodied white is great for Chardonnay drinkers and non Chardonnay drinkers alike. Roughly 75% Chardonnay to 25% Colombard this wine stays big but with a brighter more crisp and refreshing acidity than just your average California Chardonnay. Done in neutral oak it isn’t big and oaky but rather heavier on the melon notes and honey notes that are quickly followed by something much more interesting. This is why I love it. Its kind of funky. Those bright notes are quickly followed by more savory flavors. Artichoke, Brussels sprouts, damp hay, hint of pear, and in all honesty, fried chicken. I was initially caught off guard by this wine and couldn’t stop drinking it because each sip revealed something unexpected. It was like having a savory sorbet. Any “sweetness” that you get is like that from caramelized onions rather than juicy fruit. This wine is great with food but can easily be enjoyed before anything substantial is finished cooking.

The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts - Clarine // stirandstrain.com2014 LA CLARINE “JAMBALAIA ROUGE”
California
Retails apx. $20-24

This is another great versatile wine that I think acts as a great transition from white to red. While predominately Mourvedre and Grenache this wine is 14% Marsanne with a smidge of Fiano and Arneis thrown in. Red AND white. This wine drinks like a rose’s juicy baritone cousin. Think berries but smokey berries. This isn’t to say that the 48% Mourvedre doesn’t provide fantastic structure and soft tannins. You’ll find that out on the finish which is why I think this wine could appeal to people who say they like only reds and people who say they don’t like tannic wine. It is a softer tannic finish than, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon, think more like that of a Nebiolo. (Note: this doesn’t taste like a Nebbiolo!) If you find yourself enjoying Rhone blends maybe have a glass of this first. This is great wine to serve to people who may not know what they want. A versatile crowd pleaser that drinks well chilled or at room temperature this wine could be a great red for those afraid to leave the easy drinking safety of their whites.

The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts - Perra // stirandstrain.com2014 SAN ESTEBAN “LA PERRA GORDA”
Spain
Retails apx. $15

Just so we aren’t exclusively drinking domestic wines I think Spain is a great consideration for this fall. Less prestige than that associated with French, and to a certain extent Italian wines, with Spanish wine there are some real bargains to be had. This is a great example. At $15 this wine drinks like a much more expensive and impressive wine. While this is the biggest wine of the group, this inky curious blend of grapes gives you all the leather, black currant, and white pepper you’d want from a bigger wine but does it with a lighter softer touch. Incredibly dry finishing these grippy tannins are preceded by a soft round mouthfeel. A great red for your “I only drink red wine” guests on Thanksgiving that won’t overshadow or overpower any dish on the table. As an added bonus on the conversation starter front, the name of this wine has at least one translation that, given the working knowledge of Spanish many Americans have, can seem a little cheeky and fun on a holiday centered around eating.

The Thanksgiving Wine Report with Robin Watts - Presto // stirandstrain.comDOMAINE SEAILLES “PRESTO” COTES DE GASCOGNE
France

Retails apx. $13

Years of waiting tables and bar tending has taught me that people love to drink wine but don’t necessarily love to be bogged down by knowing more than a few varietals. White drinkers, more often than not, automatically ask for one of three varietals with sauvignon blanc leading the pack. Why not serve a wine that satisfies that crisp, clean, bright white craving but exceeds the expectations of your casual sauvignon blanc drinker? This 50/50 sauvignon blanc/sauvignon gris gives you that great melon and white peach flavor on the front end with subtler notes of lime, lemongrass, and green apple on the back end. This is an acidic, and organic, crowd pleaser that is perfect to drink while preparing your thanksgiving feast. A welcome cool down in the heat of the kitchen for under $15.

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts and find all his wine picks here at Wine Wine Wine

Follow Stir and Strain on Delectable too!

The Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts!

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comSummer wiiiiines… make me feel fiiiiiinnne!

Well folks, we are fully into summer now and the outdoor parties/concerts/star gazing/stoop sitting events are going strong. With all these gatherings I’ve started to realize that, while cocktails are fine and dandy, many of my friends (and their friends) also want a glass of wine when they’re out and about. And sometimes I do too. This week I’m introducing a new quarterly column on here with my pal and wine lover Robin.

Robin loves wine. And he thinks you’ll love these wines. Why? Because these wines are made for cocktail lovers. They’re unique and flavorful and best of all… cheap. Time to stock up! But first, here’s Robin with a little intro about himself and the Summer Wine Report!

-Elana


Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comI am a freelance illustrator and wine hoarder living and working out of Los Angeles. I fell in love with wine right around the time I turned 21. The restaurant I worked in had a separate wine bar and I was able to start attending tastings and winemaker events. Having access to great wine at such an early age spoiled me. Having a small budget at that same age made me get resourceful. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to befriend some really fantastic wine makers, shop owners, and sommeliers that have helped me further my wine education. Cooking and gardening have always played an integral role in my life and I have found that few things can enhance a good meal/afternoon/evening/morning/camping trip/barn raising/what have you like a nice bottle of wine. I love sharing my latest wine finds over a good meal and love even more finding a way to remove the pretense and intimidation from the experience for the people in my life. With some many great (and affordable!) wines out there there is no excuse for drinking bad wine and I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorite picks with the Stir & Strain audience each season.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comLa Boutanche Gamay
France
Retails apx. $17

This gamay is funky but that funkiness lends itself to some real versatility. It has a blackberry shrub meets cauliflower meets smoked meat thing happening on the nose that gives way to a surprisingly light and tart taste that could easily be enjoyed with tacos, Asian foods, seafood, or really anything grilled. Its not too heavy for seafood but the cherry/chorizo notes and soft, subtle tannic element on the finish would make it appropriate for meatier fare. I would say this affordably priced liter with a twist off cap would be welcome at any table, picnic, or cookout this summer. On a side note, I recommend throwing a little chill on it.

tocai-bottleFolk Machine Tocai Friulano
California
Retails apx. $13

Summertime is perfect for drinking light crisp wines and I’d be hard pressed to find another bottle that epitomizes that more this season than Folk Machine’s Tocai Friulano. Subtle citrus elements like lemon and grapefruit play a harmonious second fiddle to the striking minerality this wine presents. You can almost taste the crisp salt air of Mendocino where these 40 year old Friulano vines grow. Super lean and only 11% alc this is a wine you can, and will want to, drink all day.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comRed Car Rosé
California
Retails apx. $28

I am a sucker for a dry rosé. This rosé of 100% pinot noir is more than that. The first time I had this wine I was shocked it wasn’t from Provence. Incredibly dry and elegant this true vin gris is what I imagine wine made from the palest pink grapefruits might taste like. Steely and just the tiniest hint of cherry make this rosé the perfect start to a summer afternoon with friends or companion for a sunset. Or brunch. Or a beach day. Any time, really. Share a bottle with someone important and they’ll know it. Or just keep it as a treat for yourself.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comUnderwood Rosé
Oregon
Retails apx. $6/can

I cannot think of a more seasonally appropriate wine than this for multiple reasons. Who doesn’t want a light, crisp refreshing wine with notes of watermelon, strawberry, and just a bit of peach on a hot summer day? Who doesn’t want that at the beach, a picnic, or by the pool? This wine is perfect for all those things and IT COMES IN A CAN. No broken glass by the pool, no heavy bottles to lug out of your campsite, and small enough to fit in your pocket at the movies. Yeah. Some of the aromatics are lost drinking from the can but you can always transfer it to a glass. This little Oregon treat is delicious and travels well and is exactly half a bottle. What more could you ask for from a summertime wine?

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts

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Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria for Two

sage blackberry sangriaCocktails are rarely a solitary experience in my household. Many of the cocktails you find on this site are created in duplicate because they are shared among two or more people in one sitting. Which got me thinking, why don’t I have more cocktails for two on here? So, I’m going to try and have more of those around in the next few months.

First up, Sangria. Except, this is way more complex of a Sangria than I thought I would be able to get out of it. This is due to an extreme case of being flustered, tired, and combatting a cold. To sum it up, I was too lazy to check in on it after the first day and just let it sit for two days in the fridge. Result: a sangria for cocktail lovers.

Sangria holds a special place in my memory. I remember the first time I drank it. At the office going away party that was thrown for me when I turned 21 and moved out to Los Angeles. Let’s get our story straight though; turning 21 had nothing to do with moving West. It was a passing fancy when a friend of mine decided to move out here and I decided I would too. It was a last minute decision. Rarely did I make well thought-out decisions at that age. Anyway, since there was a table of us, and technically, we were at lunch and people would be returning to the office, a pitcher of Sangria was ordered. At 21 this seemed exotic and fancy, the same way that seeing someone bring out a flaming bowl of liquor at a Chinese restaurant was exotic 10 years prior. I don’t remember how it tasted, only that it was red Sangria. Since then, I’ve been spectacularly disappointed by this drink many a time.

But now something in me wanted to make this again, and make it good. Thankfully procrastination made this work in my favor.sageblackberrysangria-1

Burnt sage? YES. Just lightly torch the edges, don’t try and burn up the whole leaf. If you find you’ve charred it too much, just break that part off. This was also an excuse to use more of the black pepper syrup I have stored up in the fridge, it’s really much more versatile than I thought and adds a peppery bite to the syrupy blackberries and wine.sageblackberrysangria-2

This drink is for two but can easily be adapted into a larger batch. If you have a third of a bottle laying around it’s a good way to use that up.

4-1/2 oz Red Wine (Malbec used here)
3 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz black pepper syrup (recipe here)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
4-5 burnt sage leaves
8 blackberries

4 slices of blood orange

Burn the edges of the sage leaves and let cool for a few seconds. Add the leaves to the bottom of a mixing glass, add syrup and lime juice. Lightly muddle. Add blackberries and crush, leaving some pieces more intact than others. Pour in wine and whiskey, add orange slices, stir to combine and cover (I used the other half of the Boston Strainer for a cover). Let sit for two days refrigerated to steep. After two days, stir gently. Fill two rocks glasses with ice cubes. Carefully pour the contents of the mixing glass between the two glasses.sageblackberrysangria-3

Don’t be afraid of the overpowering smell of whiskey you will have when you first make this. It needs to sit and steep. What you get at the end of two days is a sweet and sharp elixir.  On the nose are orange and berry followed by more berry on the palate with subtle layers of tart and pepper with an earthy undertone. It’s rich, which is the one characteristic that I find lacking in most Sangrias. There is a heavier body that the whiskey contributes to overall making this seem almost more like a rather large cocktail than just a ‘wine’ drink.

Now I somehow need to do this with a white wine. Wish me luck.

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Jesus Juice

jesus juice cocktail // stir and strainMarch seems to scream Irish Car Bombs for the Low Rent Cocktail of the month, but seeing as we’ve covered Jameson and Baileys already, I thought we’d tackle Easter instead. Apart from bunnies and eggs, I’m sure there is a large part of the population who actually think JESUS for this holiday (think of the man, not just proclaim the name). So today we get to know the abomination that is Jesus Juice.

I have a feeling we may have just cleared the room a bit with this post. But let us carry on.
Trying to find a ‘recipe’ for this started to border on ridiculous as you will find that everyone has their own version. I laugh when I see people trying to be fancy. Put the Cassis DOWN people. You cannot gussie this up! I recalled there being wine involved. And soda pop. Maybe there was Everclear in this too? Oof, maybe it’s smart to steer away from the Everclear.jesus juice players
Like most of the Low Rent Cocktails, I just threw everything together, closed my eyes and took a sip. I didn’t die, but I wanted to.
Red Wine meet Diet Dr. Pepper.
4 oz Red Wine (Malbec)
4 oz Diet Doctor Pepper
Build over ice in a double rocks glass.
jesus juice2
Depending on what cola and wine you use, there will be varying levels of sweet and spicy. I imagine if you find red wine too strong, this is one way to water that down. Dr. Pepper and Malbec resulted in a syrupy, peppery concoction that had me exclaiming a couple names from the Holy Trinity.
More research would show how this morphed from a drink I’m familiar with in some older blues songs called Wine Spodieodie, a mixture of cheap red wine and whatever you have got around to make it taste good. It’s also a fantastic song, covered by so many talented musicians over the years. You can read a bit about it here if you’re interested in old blues and such.
Happy Easter! jesus juice napkin