I’ve been working at an upscale restaurant for a few years now, and as such, I’ve learned a thing or two about wine. I’m no sommelier, to be sure, but I can direct a discerning costumer in the direction of a Pinot with “more fruit,” or something that would accompany scallops. I may not know exactly what all of it means, but I try. Of course, if all fails, it comforts me to know I always have the “well, I’m not yet 21 so I can’t tell you how it tastes, but let me get our sommelier for you” line up my sleeve in dire emergencies.
Since the Still River Café is located in what very recently used to be one of the two last dry towns in Connecticut, you can imagine the town’s disgust when someone not only wanted to open an upscale restaurant there, but wanted to serve alcohol in it as well. A long story cut dreadfully short, we are only allowed to serve beer and wine – and only to customers who are eating in our restaurant. Even still, I get tables asking for scotches neat and martinis extra dirty almost every night.
I also get tables almost every night that very dramatically fake wine tastings. Here’s what I mean: “Tasting the bottle” is standard protocol in our restaurant; we pour a sip, the diner tastes it and then gives us the go ahead to pour the rest of the glasses. Let me assure you, if I was ordering a fancy bottle of red to go with my meal I’d want to pretend I knew what I was doing, too. But those who swirl for a good two minutes and stick their noses so far into the glass they threaten it’s fragile glass walls should perhaps think about toning it down. And try to not have food in your mouth. A kindly word to all of those who feel on the spot when asked to taste wine:
Not all of us know how long is enough to let wine breath, or to do the obligatory swirl in the glass before it is tasted for the first time. Not all of us even know if wine is a bit “off” or if it tastes as it should. This is universally understood, I promise you. To fake successfully and subtly, all that is required is a quick swirl, a quick sip, and a quick nod to your server.
One drink that both does not (always) require anything more than wine and certainly doesn’t warrant an oxidizing swirl is white sangria. You can make white sangria with almost any fruit your heart desires or your local grocery carries. Perfectly summery, it can always have a customized taste; the one I made is just barely sweet, with still enough of a bite to render it almost a sophisticated cousin of the wine itself. (So I was told, of course.)
Here is the recipe, adapted from Gourmet’s “Herbal Sangria,” although it’s more like a suggested list of ingredients: feel free to swap out the grapes for blood oranges or grapefruits, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
“Rough Blueprint for Delicious Sangria:”
1 – ½ bottles leftover white wine (or freshly opened, if you insist)
1/3 cup simple syrup (simply, 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 water simmered until sugar is dissolved)
About 10 rosemary sprigs (I’ve also used thyme, and I like to infuse this into the simple syrup)
¼ c. lemon juice
1 c. green, seedless grapes
1 tsp. cardamom pods, crushed
They suggest making the simple syrup first (I just add the sprigs to infuse), and then in a separate bowl, muddling the grapes with a potato masher. Once that’s done, add cooled simple syrup and everything else (here is where I add blood orange juice). Let it chill for at least 8 hours and serve over ice. Enjoy on a porch, and preferably a porch swing, on a nice warm night.