Tag Archives: sparkling wine

Holiday drink surprise – Hot Ruby cider

Hot Ruby cranberry cider
Hot Ruby cranberry cider

Surprise is right. We have always been tepid fans of sweeter drinks, including even fresh-made-in-the-fall apple cider. But this drink has us making an exception. Hot Ruby is a rich red cider with cranberry and citrus flavors and spicy-warm aromas of cinnamon and cloves. It tastes really good by itself just heated up in the microwave, like any heart-and-hand-warming winter beverage should. Love the intensity of both the flavors and the spices.

Hot Ruby hot and cold recipes
Hot Ruby hot and cold recipes

But if you’re celebrating the holidays on the beach somewhere, Hot Ruby changes personality in the twinkling of an eye. Try one of their chilled cocktails like Ruby on the Beach, Paloma Rojo, or Bubbly Ruby. Check out all the neat recipes – both alcoholic and not – on the card in the photo. Just expand it so you can read the ingredients, or read ’em here.  Intriguing combinations of flavors like coconut rum and Hot Ruby, or Hot Ruby and sparkling wine sound just delightful. This drink would make a fun party gift for your host/hostess or just bring a bottle or jar along when you next go visiting. Highly recommended. Buy it online because it’s not yet available in Chicago, but we hope it will be soon.

Works for romantic intentions, too!
Works for romantic intentions, too!

Memorial Day – 5 wines, 2 vodka cocktails, and 2 whiskies

Memorial Day is one of our country’s biggest weekends. The first official party to celebrate warm weather each year is always a fine time to enjoy some of life’s lighter wines and spirits.

Sparkling wines to love:

  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut – the Spanish cava in the sexy black bottle that’s been one of the most popular sparkling wines in the U.S. for forty years. Crisp, clean, and well-balanced, medium-bodied with a palate of apple, pear and bright citrus flavors, it has a moderately long finish and a crisp touch of ginger. Pairs well with most any food.
  • Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut – This refreshingly light, slightly sweet cava has fresh, fruity flavor while still pleasantly dry. Full, ripe peach, apricot fruit and vanilla nose, with big, round, soft flavors in the mouth and an appealing finish. Perfect for brunch or for mixing champagne cocktails. Great for those new to sparkling wines.

Three rosé wines perfect for indulging yourself:

  • Alta Vista: Rosé 2015—100% Malbec. Reddish hue, fruity aromas of ripe and sour cherries and floral notes of red roses, with a persistent flavor of recently picked grapes. Great with pasta dishes such as pesto and bright salads. ~$13 
  • Masi Agricola: Rosa dei Masi 2015—Using the Appassimento drying technique to concentrate flavors, this rosé is fresh and fruity, yet complex and elegant. 100% Refosco grapes yield a soft pink wine brushed with cherry tones and intense aromas of berries, especially raspberries and wild cherries. Soft and well-balanced with lively and refreshing acidity. Excellent as an aperitif, with antipasti or seafood dishes. ~SRP $15
  • The Seeker Rosé 2015A classic dry Provence rosé blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Cinsault from vineyards influenced by the sea, sunshine and granite-schist soils. Elegant, fresh and delicately fruity, refreshing on its own or pairs well with a wide variety of shellfish, salads, and berry-based dishes. ~$14

Two vodka cocktails to enjoy for Memorial Day, Father’s Day and/or National Martini Day (both on June 19, 2016):

And how about these 2 whiskies to stir your senses:

  • Speyburn 10-year-old Scotch whisky – Smooth and mellow, pale amber colored, non-peaty, this is a Scotch to warm the heart without stressing the nose or the palate. Mild and easy going, this gold-medal single malt at 2014 International Wine & Spirit competition, is a great one for warm weather. A bargain at ~$23
  • Hibiki Suntory Japanese Harmony Whisky – A deliciously complex, smooth and gentle whisky made to be sipped over a giant ice ball or drunk neat. It’s a lovely blend of at least 10 different whiskies, aged in 5 different types of casks. The whole effect of flavors and aromas is like music from a fine orchestra. Beautiful for warm weather. ~$75

British sparkling beats out champagne and Queen turns 90

In honor of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, the British consul invited Chicagoans to sample top-quality British cheeses, sandwich combinations, wines and spirits. That may seem like a contradiction in terms to some here in the U.S. who have traditionally not considered England a model of good cuisine or a source of good wine. But the British have always been known for their broad range of beers and ales (served room temperature), and the U.K. is also proud to be the source of 70% of the world’s brands of gin.
Hattingley Valley sparkling - courtesy of Christina Slaton
Hattingley Valley sparkling – courtesy of Christina Slaton

And lately England is coming out on top in another surprising arena: sparkling wines. Cuvees from England have taken the top prize in the last two International Wine & Spirits Competitions, according to an online article on Grape Collective. Some experts say that England has the same soils as the Champagne region of France and now, as global warming heats things up, it’s getting similar temperature conditions, too – or at least three out of four years, according to one attendee sipping Hattingley Valley English sparkling wine. A perfect setup for making prize sparkling wines. A British brand Fieldstone sparkling wine won a recent blind tasting against competitors from Champagne. Someone at the event said, “I guess global warming is good for something.”

British Scotch eggs, sandwiches and cheeses - courtesy of Christina Slaton
British Scotch eggs, sandwiches and cheeses

The cheeses were savory and the finger sandwiches appealing, making a nice showing for our fellow-English-speaking allies. Cheeses included Amber Valley Sage Derby (a surprising pale-green-laced yellow cheese with a soft texture like Havarti), Amber Valley Blue Stilton (beyond comparing with the average blue cheese you get here in America), English Vintage Reserve Cheddar (the British do a great job with cheddar), Wigmore Soft Brie, and Dunlop Mild (semi-soft and pleasing). Next to them were plates of a well-known British snack known as the Scotch egg – breaded and deep-fried hard-boiled eggs – served sliced in quarters and topped with a dab of grainy mustard. Familiar pub fare.

The event also showcased several brands of gin made in the U.K. Gins, including Beefeater, Hayman’s, Sipsmith and Plymouth, offered creative cocktails using various combinations with Madeira, bitters and more. Guests were drinking everything from dusty dry to barely-sweet pink cocktails, and everyone lifted their glasses as the Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson proposed a happy birthday toast to the Queen. The magnificent view from the consulate’s 61st floor home made an impressive background for Chicagoans joining in to celebrate good things British.

Freixenet cavas – Segura Viudas

You know the name Freixenet (pronounced fresh-a-net). Its black-bottled Cordon Negro Brut namesake has been one of the world’s leading sparkling wines for decades. It was the first non-French sparkling many baby boomers tried back in the 70s. And oh, how we liked it.

Calçots with Romesco sauce for dipping
Calçots with Romesco sauce for dipping (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When sparkling wine is made in Spain via methode champenoise, it’s known as cava. Freixenet makes cavas and other types of wine, and it also owns a brand known as Segura Viudas, makers of several value-for-dollar cavas. Dry. Sparkly. Delicious with food.

When you visit that lovely winery outside Barcelona in the spring, they’ll set up a red-hot barbeque on the patio and roast some calçots for you to peel and eat by hand. Calçots are a special variety of spring onion grown in Spain and served with a fabulous romesco sauce made of ground nuts, red peppers and spices. Naturally, you’ll be invited to wash them down with one of Segura Viudas‘s excellent bubblies.  Watch out! It’s all so good you may have trouble stopping…

Photography - Segura Viudas Winery (2)
The patio at Segura Viudas winery outside Barcelona – fabulous grilled calcots!

Read about these beauties on the Segura Viudas website.