Hibernation Libation

Week 50 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Glühwein and Glögg.

Wow, week 50! Just two more adventures to go and the year is done. That was fast…

This time of year, when the weather turns cold, a lovely way to warm up from the inside is with a mulled wine, warmed, fortified and flavored with spices. Many a holiday shopper in the Christmas markets of Europe, especially Germany, may enjoy a cup of cheer as they battle the chill. In the United States, most mulled wines are a half hearted imitation of the glühwein (glow wine) ladled out in the open air huts of the markets. That’s what happens when a nation is founded by a bunch of tee-totaling Puritans…

A traditional mulled wine done right includes a base red wine, cinnamon, sugar, spices like anise and clove, a dash of citrus –either orange or lemon– and for even more fortification, a shot of brandy or rum. The Scandinavian version of glühwein is called glögg and differs from the German mulled wine in that it uses port as a base and is fortified with akvavit or vodka rather than brandy or rum. Other additions may include raisins and almonds. I decided to experiment and make my own glühwein.

I started with an inexpensive domestic merlot -so much other flavor will be added, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on the wine. Then I tried two variations: one with the cognac, the other with the Kill Devil Hills Rum I brought back from the Outer Banks this fall. I figured the pecan and honey would make a nice flavor addition to the glühwein. (I was right!) Since the candied ginger had sugar and the rum had honey, I didn’t add any extra sweetening to that cup.

Here is the way I made mine: in a small saucepan, I heated six ounces of the wine with a shot of the rum, tossed in three slices of the ginger, a thick slice of lemon, dash of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Do not boil! You will evaporate the alcohol and what fun is that? In the cognac variation, I added a spoonful of dark brown sugar to the mix. I used my tea strainer when I poured the glow wine into the cup. Both of these variations were delicious and fortifying, indeed.

Now, if we would just get some snow. The Mid-Atlantic region is missing out on all the fun. Wow, Lula, only two more adventures left. Where did the time go?


Drinking Adventurously – Napa Edition

Week 34 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Pisco. And you guessed it… FAIL.

Pisco is a South American spirit derived from grapes and although it has a four hundred year tradition in places like Peru, suburban Philadelphia has not caught on… Nevertheless, Lula may have had better luck. So what shall we talk about instead? Something else grape related, perhaps?

I looked ahead to make sure I won’t tread on ground to be covered in the future and discovered that the road ahead does not include wine. That gives me an opportunity to tell you a cool story about a small wine maker in Napa, California. In 2014, friends in the Bay Area invited a few of us East Coasters to come out for a visit. We did a lot in the ten days we were there, including spending the day in California wine country.

I will never, ever, not for one minute try to pretend I know much about wine. My default setting is to let the sommelier recommend something for me when I go out or to let my more knowledgable friends help me choose. I have my favorites that I return to again and again at the wine and spirits shop and so this trip to Napa was to be an education. Our California friends had a connection to a small vineyard called One Acre Winery and Dave Becker, the owner and wine maker.

Dave’s parents moved to the location of the vineyard back in the early 1970’s but at the time the land was being used for fruit orchards. In time Dave married and moved away. But more recently, as his father’s health began to fail, Dave and his wife moved back to the area to look after both his parents. They built a little house on the property for themselves and settled into life on the farm. The old fruit trees had grown tired, though and a friend suggested that Dave plant a vineyard instead. So with the help of a vineyard crew from a nearby winery the land was cleared and Dave planted his first vines. On one acre. Thus the name.

Dave’s first acre was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in 2002. By 2008, his wine bested 500 entries to win a prestigious international competition. The vineyard has always been cultivated organically and has now expanded to many more acres, though the first acre is still being cultivated. Pretty cool, huh? The winery is now called Acre Winery and if you follow the link, you can read more of their story and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.




Sorry Madeira, bad timing

Week 27 in the Year of Drinking Adventurtously. Madeira.

I skipped this week. I only managed to scan the chapter. The long holiday weekend was jam packed with activity and I just ran out of time. One little bit of information I found interesting is that July 1st is Madeira Day — the day in 1976 when Portugal granted autonomy to the Madeira archipelago. That was the connection the author made for this time of the year. Still, the fortified wine seems like a better choice for cooler weather…

Nevertheless, my crowded social calendar this weekend did present plenty of opportunity for adventurous drinking. The exception being the baby shower I attended on Sunday afternoon.  This is the final one of the round of three I’ve attended in the the last 5 months. Must be something in the water here in Bucks County.

The childless woman at a baby shower is a lonely woman indeed. The grandmothers and mothers, the young women already thinking ahead… All the talk is about babies. I have nothing to contribute to the conversation at all.  It’s hard to muster enthusiasm for little pink dresses and onesies, tiny quilts and stuffed animals, bottles and breast pumps when that’s never been part of your life. So you sit awkwardly, smiling and pretending while the gifts are opened. Wishing you had that glass of Madeira after all…

Go see how Lula enjoyed her Madeira. I bet she fared better than I did!