Your New Favorite Holiday Cocktail

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Holiday libations should be three things: Easy. Festive. Not too strong.

Especially if you’re hosting.

It should be a drink that can be easily mixed for guests. If I’m muddling, mixing, shaking, straining, etc. all night long, I’m annoyed. I want something with two ingredients. Tops. But, the drink still needs to feel slightly special. I never discount a good glass of wine at a party, but a drink that feels more thoughtful makes everyone more festive. And as everyone knows, holiday drinking often lasts all night – pick something that can be sipped on without making people sloppy.

My gift to you – the Kir Royale.

Born in Burgundy, the Kir Royale is traditionally an apéritif. “Royale” is a variation of the original Kir – made with Aligoté (a bone, dry, acidic white wine) and Crème de Cassis (a sweet, black currant liqueur).

For a Kir Royale, the white wine is replaced with Champagne and you have yourself a fancy, festive, celebratory beverage.

The Recipe

Add a splash (about 1 tbsp) of Crème de Cassis to a wine glass or a Champagne flute, fill the rest with Champagne (or a dry white wine – if you’re going with a traditional Kir). Add a couple raspberries, a lemon twist or a sugared rim if you’re feeling extra festive.

Traditionally, the drink is made with a small amount of Crème de Cassis, giving it a light blush color and keeping it crisp and refreshing. Adding too much will give it a deep color and make it syrupy sweet.

If you want to make a Kir – use a dry, acidic white wine. Aligoté is preferable, but an unoaked Chardonnay will do just the trick.

Cheers to your new fav holiday cocktail.

2013 Bodegas Naia Verdejo

2013 Bodegas Naia Verdejo

Typically, evening walks don’t amount to much more than a chat recapping the day, a sunset (hopefully) oozing with romance and sometimes, sweaty socks. But, a quick detour to a local waterfront park ended resulted with a concert in the park instead, with covers including Kiss the Girl, Ain’t No Sunshine and Radiohead’s Creep.

And, fortunately, there was a bottle of Verdejo in my bag.

In all honestly, we intended to drink the wine at some point along the walk, but the evening came together that much better when the concert revealed itself.

And a bright, white was the perfect accompaniment to upbeat tunes.

The Verdejo grape is from the Rueda DO, located in Northwest Spain and typically grown in the high altitudes of the region. The grape is noted for its bright acidity, citrus flavors and minerality. They are usually sharp and clean. And the wines are typically inexpensive.

The 2013 Bodegas Naia Verdejo is from the Rueda region, specifically the village of La Secu, which is often noted as being the Rueda’s “Grand Cru” region. At $15, it’s a great wine.

At first, I was hit by the puckering acidity of the wine, typical of the Verdejo grape. Then… So. Much. Pineapple. There was cantaloupe and citrus and tropical fruits. It was grassy and had hints of vanilla. It was a dash of pep and energy on the tongue, which is necessary on a Thursday to help jolt you through the rest of the week.

Drink Verdejo young to take advantage of their bright acidity. Stock up, but don’t hang on to them for too long, Enjoy on the remaining sunny summer days.

Bodegas Naia Verdejo
Vintage: 2013
Region: Rueda, Spain

Down The River We Go!

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River rafting trips mean being ultra selective about the wine brought along. Everything you bring has to be easily packed onto your raft.

And you must be prepared to lose it all. If your boat flips, if a rapid washes everything in your boat away, if you lose your footing while chugging from the bottle, you can bet that bottle is sunk. And swimming upstream and to the bottom of the river is not an option.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet?

Essentially, our weekend trip river rafting was One. Wild. Ride.

Honestly, it was more of a joy ride, except for some extreme paddling when the wind was doing everything it could to divert our path. Which I kid you not, was some of the most resistance I have ever felt in my life (other than that time I tried to get my boyfriend to duet “Time of My Life” at karaoke with me). The Deschutes River is not exactly the wildest river, although I did tell some people at work that we would see Class VI rapids. To be fair, I didn’t really have any idea what I was talking about, but I’m sure I sounded like an experienced river rafter.

We spent two three days and two nights on the river. Rafting by day, camping by night. And packing everything in and out with us.

The selection of wine was limited and because of previously stated potential wine casualties, I brought inexpensive Trader Joe’s selections that would be refreshing during or after a day in the sun.

I brought along the 2013 Liberté Pinot Noir, first, because it’s from San Luis Obispo County, and many people on the trip went to school there. I was so excited to share the fun fact that this wine was from the city of their Alma mater. They weren’t as excited.

At $10, I was pleasantly surprise. It was tart, kind of smoky and acidic. Fulfilling black cherry and smooth enough to gulp when I needed something to quench my thirst after a long day in the sun.

espiral-vino-verde

I picked up the Espiral Vinho Verde, because choosing Vinho Verde when it’s going to be hot is like choosing Cadbury Eggs when you know it’s going to be Easter. (Read: an easy choice). The slight effervescence says party, but not like the fuller bubbles of Champagne scream celebrate. It’s lively, mineral and dry.

These wines and I now have special bond. They made it through my inaugural rafting trip and helped me survive the very rustic camping conditions.

Liberté Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2013
Region: Paso Robles, California

Espiral Vinho Verde
Vintage: NV
Region: Vinho Verde, Portugal

Poolside Party Wine

cest-la-vie-chardonnay

When buying wines for a bachelorette weekend, there are usually two categories: the wines for the celebratory dinner/cocktail hour/prefunk and the wines for the dancing/games/watching “the entertainment.” There is nothing worse than confusing the two and finding out the 2010 Montrachet was chugged through a phallic straw.

To prevent this, I make it my personal duty to patrol all the party wine.

I chose 2013 Surf Swim Chardonnay for a Palm Springs Bachelorette party, because I knew when sitting poolside we would want something with a label that would ‘gram well. We got that, and more. Because this label highlighted one of the main activities of the bachelorette party… swimming.

Kudos to their marketing team, because the faded boardwalk background on the label did its job.

Label aside, I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. It was easy-drinking Chardonnay, not oaky or buttery. Exactly what I want when sitting poolside. Pineapple, banana smoothie, peaches. Crisp, bright, refreshing tropical flavors to kick in vacation vibes.  

We drank bottles of it throughout the bachelorette weekend. We skipped the phallic straws this go around. But at $10 a bottle, if it was chugged through a tacky party favor all would be well.

Surf Swim Chardonnay
Vintage: 2013
Region: California

Trust Cellars Riesling

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An evening spent reading is only complete with a glass of wine by your side.

You read. You drink. Something shocks you. You drink. Something saddens you. You drink. Something makes you happy. You drink. You finish a sentence chapter. You drink. It’s essentially a drinking game. And the best part: you make all the rules and no one will know if you drink out of turn.

Welcome to my wild Friday nights.

What I drink while reading is just as important as the book.

This month, my book club read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. This collection of essays covers politics, sexuality, gender, race. Some funny, some extremely critical, some gut-wrenching. That aforementioned drinking game was on. From essays about Sweet Valley High, where I drank every time I laughed or felt nostalgic to essays on rape and gender inequality, where I drank each time I felt appalled or uneasy, there was lots of drinking.

A low alcohol wine was ideal, so I could follow the rules of my drinking game, but still comprehend the words on the page.

My pick: Riesling. Low alcohol. Off-dry. Fruit-forward. A wine that would offset the intensity of the book.

I originally chose the 2014 Trust Cellars Riesling because I was looking for a new Washington Riesling and this one happened to have a fancy shelf talker that said, “Find out why this was named the best Riesling in Washington State.” Game on.

This 100% Riesling comes from four different vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley. One from Ancient Lakes and three located in Yakima Valley. It’s sweet, but easy-drinking. Grapefruit. Grapefruit. Grapefruit. With honeysuckle and lemon peel and a mineral finish.

Riesling also feels like a good wine for “Bad Feminists.'” Gay says the complexity of being a feminist is often full of contradictions, like loving rap music, but feeling conflicted about the degrading lyrics. She admits as a “bad feminist” she loves pink. A “good feminist” would probably pick a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, but a bad feminist would admit they love a delicious, easy-drinking Riesling.

Trust Cellars Riesling
Vintage: 2014
Region: Columbia Valley, Washington