Refreshing Wine Cocktails for Summer Sipping

cucumber-mint-wine-cocktailWhile attending a North Carolina Symphony Summerfest concert recently on an unusually pleasant June evening under the stars at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary, I was reminded of how occasions such as these—basking in the laid-back easiness of the season with dear friends and good music—are perfect for a light, refreshing wine cocktail.

In searching the Web to find some recipes to share with you, I came across these concoctions that combine two my most favorite things: wine and herbs. I’m super excited to try them all, and I hope they whet your palate, too. Here’s to many more carefree summer evenings!

Gewürztraminer Agave Ginger Ale (From WineFolly.com)

Perfect wine cocktails balance sweet, spice, sour and savory. In this cocktail, the spiciness of the ginger is balanced with sweet (agave) and sour (wine). Cava adds spritz without reducing alcohol content. Tabasco adds just the right amount of savory to the mix.

Recipe:

• 3 oz Gewürztraminer (such as $7 Chateau St. Michelle)
• 3 oz Cava (such as $7 Cristalino Brut)
• teaspoon of muddled ginger
• 3/4 oz agave syrup
• Optional: 1-2 dashes of Tabasco

How To:

Put sliced ginger and agave in a cocktail glass and muddle with a wooden spoon until ginger pieces are fragrant. Add Gewürztraminer. Stir. Strain into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass with ice. Top with sparkling wine.

Cucumber Mint Fume Blanc Fizz (From WineFolly.com)

If you’re not into super-sweet, this potent potable sounds like a yummy alternative. Cucumber wine cocktails are refreshing and savory. Mint and lime add sour to balance the drink. This drink is not for everyone because it’s not sweet. However, if you’re reading this and your mouth is already watering because you’re sick and tired of overly sweet summer drinks, then read on!

Recipe:

• 3 oz Fume Blanc / Sauvignon Blanc (such as $6 Barnard Griffin)
• 3 oz Cava (such as $7 Cristalino Brut)
• 1 oz cucumber water
• 1/2 oz lime juice
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• pinch coarsely chopped mint

How To:

Make cucumber water by grating, blending and straining a cucumber. Add cucumber water, fume blanc, lime juice, sugar and mint to a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice. Strain into a serving glass and top with 3 ounces sparkling wine.

Strawberry Basil Moscato Lemonade (From WineFolly.com)

In this summer stunner, basil adds more savory.

Recipe:

• 6 oz Moscato (such as Wine Cube Moscato, from Target)
• 4 Strawberries
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 sprig basil
• 1 ounce lemon juice

How To:

Blend all ingredients, except wine, together. Strain into tall glass with ice. Pour over moscato. Add bendy straw.

Lemongrass & Blood Orange Wine Spritzer (From KitchenConfidante.com)
Serves 4.

Recipe:

Lemongrass Syrup
2 stalks lemongrass (plus extra for garnish, if desired)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar

Spritzer
ice cubes
2 cups Lemongrass Syrup
1/2 cup blood orange juice
white wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio work well)
seltzer water

How To:

To make the lemongrass syrup: Trim the ends off the lemongrass and chop into 2-inch pieces. Using a morter and pestle or the back of a knife, crush the lemongrass stalks to help release the juice. Combine lemongrass, water and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Let it cool in the refrigerator. Strain.

Fill glasses with ice cubes. Add 1/2 cup lemongrass syrup and 1/8 cup blood orange juice to each glass. Fill remainder of glass with white wine and a splash of seltzer water. Garnish with a lemongrass stalk and serve.

Festive wines for festive times

http://www.virtualme.bizAs we all know, the holidays are a festive time — and festive wines are required. Sparkling wines, rich Cabernet, sexy Syrah and crisp Chardonnay will delight you and your guests. In the November/December issue of Cary Living Magazine, April Schlanger (owner of Sip…A Wine Store in Cary, North Carolina) offers these suggestions:

’08 Frogs Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, California
A classic Rutherford Cabernet can make any holiday gathering extra special. Aromas of cassis and currant combine with a mineral tone and a touch of warm spices. Rich black cherry flavors are enhanced with notes of pomegranate, spice, cedar and green olive.

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, France
Billecart-Salmon is one of the few remaining champagne houses to be owned by its original family. Lovely bubbles with aromas of honeyed apricots and freshly baked biscuits. A blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.

’09 Sant’Evasio Brachetto, Italy
Brachetto will make any dessert seem extra special. This semi-sweet, ruby-red bubbly has bright cherry and strawberry flavors. This wine is more floral than others, giving it an added dimension.

’08 Stemmler, Pinot Noir, Sonoma
Looking for a sexy wine for those intimate celebrations? This Pinot Noir will not disappoint. Beautiful ripe strawberry, raspberry and intense black cherry and plum aromas mingled with hints of cola, forest floor and earth. The wine is fleshy, sleek and spicy, with copious wild berry, black cherry and strawberry flavors, good grip and a sustained well-balanced finish.

’10 Lioco, Sonoma Chardonnay, California
This is the perfect wine to serve at your next intimate celebration. Aromas of fresh Meyer lemon, lime leaf and river stones. The wine is round with lovely flavors of lemon drop candies and green pear.

’06 Qupe “Bien Nadico Hillside” Syrah, California
Made from the southwest-facing, low-yielding hillside at Bien Nacido Vineyard, the grapes for this wine have the winemaker’s special touch. About 10-15% of the juice is barrel fermented ‘en saignee’, which adds a toasty mocha complexity. The wine is aged for 20 months in 60% new Burgundy barrels.

I can’t wait to try April’s suggestions.  What are your favorite wines for the holidays?  I’d love to hear your recommendations.