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

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.


• 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

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!


• 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

In this summer stunner, basil adds more savory.


• 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
Serves 4.


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

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.

Wine in a box? Don’t scoff just yet

http://www.virtualme.bizNow that it’s officially summer, we’ll all be trying to find places to cool off, from lakes and pools to sitting under umbrellas at the ballfield.

So many places on the list for summer don’t allow glass containers. The good news for wine fans is that alternatives are easier to find.

The move away from the bottle makes some hesitate, assuming that wine in other packages won’t be particularly good.

Frankly, some of it isn’t. But overall, the quality of wine in alternative packaging has improved.

While glass still owns almost all the market share for wine, there is a growing demand for other packaging. It’s nice to have something you can take anywhere, and many glass alternatives are lighter to ship, reducing the fuel used to transport bottles.

The most popular wine alternative is the “bag in the box.” It has several plusses: When opened, it keeps wine fresh longer than a traditional bottle. It holds the equivalent of several bottles. It’s portable, all or partly recyclable, and the shape is an easy fit even in a full refrigerator.

I must confess, this style was hard for me to accept. At first, I associated box wines with cooking wine. Target’s Wine Cube and the Black Box line (widely available in grocery stores) made me a convert.

Try to sample the smallest size you can find and be prepared for the occasional dud. I recently tried a Chilean sauvignon blanc that I didn’t even want to use for cooking.

Read the full article here.


Think pink, as in a summer rosé

Rosé refers to wines that are pink. If you think “pink wine” means something sweet and icky, prepare to be surprised, and to perhaps fall a little in love with rosés.

Not popular for many years, rosé wines are all the rage these days, with good reason. It’s just about the perfect sip for early summer. Tasty alone, it’s also perfect with the lighter meals of warm weather.

Rosé can be made from just about any red-skinned grape, from sangiovese to syrah.

In wine-making, the color is in the skin. Rosés have a little bit of skin contact with the juice from the grape but not as much as a red wine.

Most of these wines are not sweet at all, and are perhaps even a bit tart. They have the refreshing, thirst-quenching qualities of a white wine with some of the depth and cherry-berry fruitiness of a red.

Look for crisp wines from southern France, fruity selections from Spain, and lots of terrific choices from California and Oregon.

I am enchanted by the colors of rosé wines, which can range from a coppery salmon to bright fuchsia, a veritable rosé garden of flavor and color.

Most rosé wines are very affordable, making it fun to pick up a number of styles and do some comparison tasting.

Picking rosés

Here are a few recommendations:

  • Robert Oatley Rosé of Sangiovese from Australia, $13. Expect notes of watermelon, strawberry and citrus.
  • Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé, $16.99, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and Mas Donis Rosé, $10.99, from Spain. Both are very dry but delicious.
  • Domaine Sainte Lucie, Provence, $18.99, pale, dry and crisp, and Las Lilas Vinho Verde Rosé, $11.99, light and a little fizzy.
  • Commanderie de Peyrassel, Codes de Provence, $20.99. A classy and elegant wine with an almost stony minerality. Be sure to check out the history: Wine has been made on that land since (at least) 1256.

Article written by Catherine Rabb, a co-owner of Fenwick’s and a senior instructor at Johnson & Wales University, where she teaches about beverages.


Fresh white wines to try

Maybe summer makes wine drinkers itch to try something new and fun. We’re all looking for a little entertainment and distraction during these long, hot days, just like when we were kids.

Lately, I have heard from readers who are tired of the wines they usually drink and want something fresh and exciting. Here are a few off-the-beaten-path white wines that are refreshing, not so well-known, and enjoyable on a lazy summer evening. (Red-wine lovers, we’ll have suggestions for you in a column soon).

Spain is making some awfully pretty whites. Try the grape variety verdejo. It has crisp acidity, fruity flavors (sometimes almost tropical fruit), and interesting citrus-peel finish. Often blended with sauvignon blanc, it’s found in the region of Rueda, north of Madrid. Also from Spain is the grape albarino, one of the all-time best seafood wines out there. It has a subtle peach flavor and a palate-cleansing crispness, and is lovely with shellfish, scallops or paella.

For summer, pretty — and flavorful — in pink

http://www.virtualme.bizIt’s time to celebrate summer. What better way than with a glass of pink wine?

Head to your local wine shop and gather an armload of pretty rosés. Revel in the colors, ranging from palest salmon to petal pink to almost vibrant fuchsia. A refreshing glass of one of these crisp, delicate wines is like summer in a bottle.

Rosé can be made from almost any type of red grape, which makes for lots of styles and colors. It’s fun to experiment with rosés from pinot noir, malbec, grenache and even cabernet sauvignon.

When making wine, all the color comes from the skin. Often, a rosé wine is made by letting the skins stay in contact with the grape juice just a short time. In other cases, juice is removed from a red-wine fermentation. The juice makes a pretty pink rosé and leaves the red wine with more concentration and power — kind of a win-wine situation.

During the cooler months, rosés are all but forgotten, but summer is another story. In lots of countries, drinking rosé is a warm-weather ritual, particularly in the vacation-friendly areas in the South of France and coastal Spain. Cool, dry and refreshing with delicate flavors of tart red fruit and citrus, they are adored for their food-friendliness and easy drinking qualities. Like a white, they are thirst-quenching, but like their red parents, they have interesting aromas and flavors.

Read more:

When is red a summer wine? At burger time

http://www.virtualme.bizBy the end of summer, I’m a little weary of the crisp, refreshing whites and light salads that have sustained me through the heat. I crave something red to drink, and a juicy grilled burger to mark the transition to fall.

The beautiful thing about grilling, at least in terms of wine choices, is that the smoky, caramelized flavors of grilled foods beg for intensely flavorful wines. Wines that might be too oaky, too fruity or just too “big” are at their best with something hot off the grill.

The fat of grilled meat offsets some of the chewy tannins in red wines, and a great burger cries out for the big, flavorful fruit and intensity of the best American and New World wines.

For a classic American-style burger, try an American Syrah from producers such as Qupe, Phelps or R.H. Phillips, or one of those amazing California cabernet sauvignons. It’s impossible even to try to mention producers as there are so many terrific choices.

Australia has a lot to offer burger aficionados as well, with rich and fruity Shiraz and lovely Shiraz blends. I am particularly fond of the way these fruity blends pair with strong cheeses like smoked Gouda or Roquefort on a burger. Try Penfolds, Marquis Philips, Mollydooker or Henschke.

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