Kirsch Wine Spritzer

If you love the flavor of cherries, you will want to try this wine spritzer immediately!  It features cherry flavored brandy, cherry soda and dried cherries.  If you have fresh cherries in abundance, they would be a perfect addition.  This recipe and photo are from


Kirsch-Wine Spritzer

1/2 cup kirsch (cherry brandy)

1/2 cup white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling

2 to 4 ounces of cherry soda

2 ounces dried cherries (about 24)

* Combine the kirsch and white wine in a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to serve.

* Fill six 10-ounce glasses with ice.

* Divide kirsch-wine mixture evenly in the glasses.

* Top off each glass with soda; stir.

* Garnish each drink with four cherries.

Spritzers are easy to make in large quantities, so it would be great to have on hand when you are expecting guests, like a sangria.


Beer Cheese Spread

When I think of beer and cheese, I immediately think of Wisconsin.  I found this particular recipe while visiting a brewery in Wisconsin and I think it is best made with real Wisconsin cheese and craft beer.


Beer Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) shredded swiss cheese

3 ounces (about 5 tablespoons) porter or full-bodied brown ale

3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

* Combine cream cheese, butter, mustard and swiss cheese in a food processor.  Process for 30 seconds or until well mixed.

* Add beer and continue processing until very smooth.

* Pulse in bacon just until incorporated.

The spread is best if made at least one day ahead.  Store in air-tight container in refrigerator up to five days.  Remove from refrigerator one hour before serving. Garnish with additional crumbled bacon if desired. Spreads well on the Ritz Pretzel Crackers.

Wine & Food Pairing Tip: Nuts

I am a firm believer that everybody should eat and drink what tastes good to them.  That simple.  Every person has a different palate.  Every person finds different tastes pleasurable.  Find what makes your tastebuds sing and go with it! That being said, there are many wine and food pairing tips that work beautifully for the majority of the population.

When nuts are toasted and added to a dish, as in a crust n a piece of fish, it picks up on the nutty nuances imparted by oak-barrel-aged wines and shows off oak-aged wines.

When nuts have the skin on, especially walnuts and almonds, they have an inherent bitterness that softens the perception of bitter tannins in red wines and some strongly oak-aged wines.

When nuts are powdered and used in cooking, such as in moles and other Latino and world foods) it makes dishes wine-friendly and an favor lightly oak-aged wines.

Branches Coulee Crisp LeCrescent


Coulee Crisp- LaCrescent


(Westby, Wisconsin)


On Bottle/Website:

*Abundant tropical fruit flavors

*Bright and refreshing

*Delightful contrast to rich foods or complement to seafood


* 12% alcohol

My Notes:

* Appearance: Clear, bright, straw, light concentration, no rim variation, little viscosity

* Nose: Peaches, green apple, white flowers, honey

* Palate: Slightly sweet, medium bodied, fruit confirms nose, medium plus alcohol, medium plus acidity, medium plus finish, medium minus complexity

This bottle of wine was brought to me by a friend who had recently visited this new winery in Wisconsin.  This wine produced a lot of warmth and alcohol flavor upon first tasting it.  The flavors developed and the fruit notes became more pronounced as I drank the bottle.

Tasting Exercise: Fruit Catagories

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about viscosity determining the different fruit categories found in wine.  I will be keeping in mind that not everyone tastes the exact same fruit.  I will be starting with bigger, broader categories and narrowing in on smaller, more specific fruits.

* Create a chart (example Dr. Ann Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel) with super categories first.

* Try to fill in the next sub-category.  Then, try to fill in the further sub-categories.  Do this for all the categories you can think of.

* For example:  Fruit – Citrus Fruit – Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, Lime – (Grapefruit)  Pink Grapefruit, Yellow Grapefruit

* To memorize, give yourself a large category like fruit, vegetable, earth, floral, etc. and try to fill in the sub-categories by memory until it becomes rote.

* Create this in a blind smelling situation.  Have someone set a similar progression in glasses and blind smell you on them.  (Link to last week’s tasting exercise.)

Crimson Sunset Vineyard & Winery, Cascade, Iowa

Crimson Sunset Vineyard and Winery in Cascade, Iowa is clearly in the early stages of establishing their business.  The building itself has some work to be finished in the interior, including trim around the windows and countertops in the kitchen, but the wine itself is solid.  All wines are made from estate grown certified organic grapes with no water or cane sugar added.


Sample prices are high for this area, but I imagine that there is more overhead cost at the beginning of establishing a winery and with producing organic products.  It costs $1.87 for one sample, $4.68 for three samples, $6.55 for all the reds, $7.48 for all the whites and $13.09 to sample all of their wines.  Since I was visiting with my cousin, we decided that I would sample the reds and she would sample the whites so that we would be able to try all of the offerings.

They initially planted fifty varieties of grapes on their land to see which varietals would produce well in Iowa weather and their soil.  They then determined the best twelve and narrowed down the options to plant readily on their acreage.

There was not a wine we tried that we did not like.  The white wines offered were Brianna, Lacrosse, White Velvet, LaCrescent, Prairie Star, Swensen White and Frontenac Gris.  The reds offered were Sabrevois, Rhombus, Marquette and Frontenac.

The wines that stood out to me were White Velvet, which was described as a blend of experiemental cultivars from their research vineyard.  It had an attractive spicy floral aroma and flavor that finishes smooth and velvety. My affinity for dry reds was apparent because the Marquette was my favorite wine, but for the $35 price point, I wasn’t interested in purchasing a bottle to enjoy at home.

For more information about Crimson Sunset Winery, including some interesting family history, check out the recent article published in The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Tomato Caprese Fizz

Who doesn’t love a good Caprese Salad this time of year, when the basil if fresh?  Especially if you can pluck those basil leaves from your own herb garden!  This drink recipe mimics a Caprese Salad.  There is a bit of preparation required; you will have to decide to make it at least the night before so that you are able to properly infuse the gin.  But it is worth it.  And how much would you impress your friends if you have this waiting on the bar for them the next time you host happy hour?

Tomato Caprese Fizz

4 oz. sundried tomato-infused gin
5 leaves basil
4 oz. soda water
Garnish: basil, cherry tomato, mozzarella ball

Infuse gin overnight or longer with a half-dozen sun-dried tomatoes per 750ml bottle. Shake occasionally, take the cap off, and sniff it to see how the flavor is maturing. Take a sip if no one’s watching, then let it sit longer until the color is a rusty red.

To prepare the cocktail, muddle basil with crushed ice at the bottom of a highball glass and top with equal parts soda water and sun-dried-tomato-infused gin.  Garnish with a speared cherry tomato, basil leaf, and mozzarella ball, and then drink up and proceed to talk with your hands a lot.

Schlafly Summer Lager

Schlafly, a brewery based out of St. Louis, captured my heart many years ago.  A very close friend of mine from college is from St. Louis and I have visited her and her family in St. Louis many times.  Her brother is a brew master at Schlafly’s and we have visited Schlafly Bottleworks when they lived in Maplewood.  One time I was even sent home with a case full of mislabeled bottles.  Half the fun was trying to guess what kind of brew we would get when we opened each bottle!  I have not met one of their brews that I do not instantly love.

A few years ago, I was thrilled when I noticed a local restaurant carrying Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale.  I love a good pumpkin ale, but a good quality pumpkin brew can be hard to find.  At that point, no where else in the area carried any sort of Schlafly beer, so I would make special trips to this particular restaurant on a regular basis to get my fix.  Thankfully, local grocery stores have started carrying Schlafly beer!  I often buy the variety pack case so that I can sample different types of brews.  I recently found the Summer Lager, which I have never tried.

Basic Info (via bottle and website)

* Bright, golden beer perfect for summertime

* The malts used impart a wonderful, fresh grain character, reminiscient of European lagers

* The German hop, Mittelfruh, lends a mild lemony, spicy flavor

* Available seasonally (April through August)

* ABV: 4.5%

* IBU: 17

* Appearance: Straw colored, bright

* Process: German-style Helles

* Hops: Mittelfrüh, Magnum (DE)

* Grains: Pale, Europils, Carapils ®

* Yeast: German lager

My Notes

This is certainly a nice, light, easy-drinking beer.  Perfect for sitting out back near the fire pit and enjoying some good company.  The lemony and spicy components are not overpowering, but add a subtle summer feel to the beer.  It would pair well with a grilled chicken sandwich topped with a slice of grilled pineapple.

Lemongrass & Blood Orange Wine Spritzer

This cocktail recipe requires a bit more time and effort for preparation than most of the ones I post, but sometimes it is simply worth the extra work for the delicious (and gorgeous!) end product. This cocktail recipe fro Kitchen Confidante fits the bill.

You may have noticed that I am posting wine spritzer recipes every Friday recently.  Weekends in the summer are the perfect time opportunity for a little day drinking, and I always love something a little lighter to drink during the day.  Wine spritzers work well as a light cocktail.


Lemongrass & Blood Orange Wine Spritzer

Lemongrass Syrup

2 stalks lemongrass (plus more for garnish, if desired)

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

* Trim off the ends of the lemongrass and cut into 2 inch pieces.

* Using a mortar and pestle or the back of the knife, crush the lemongrass stalks to release the juice.

* Combine the lemongrass, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

* Lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

* Let cool in the refrigerator and strain.


2 cups lemongrass syrup

1/2 cup blood orange juice

white wine (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio work well)

seltzer water

* Fill four glasses with ice cubes.

* Add 1/2 cup lemongrass juice and 1/8 cup blood orange juice to each glass.

* Fill the remainder of the glass with white wine and a splash with seltzer water.

* Garnish with lemongrass stalk.

More Wine Spritzers to try this Summer:

Strawberry Lemonade Wine Spritzer

Lemon Wine Spritzer

Barrel Head Winery, Dubuque, Iowa

Barrel Head Winery, located in Dubuque, Iowa is a unique place.  Situated on the south end of town, a bit off the beaten path, it has a local charm that would be hard to replicate anywhere else.  Much of that has to do with the interesting gentlemen that run the show.

John, the owner, is quick to offer information about his wines and the vineyards.  He is proud of the extensive amount of awards they have won at both local and international competitions.  His buddy, who is retired, but works at Barrel Head as his ‘hobby farm’ is equally full of knowledge and stories.  There is no such thing as a quick visit to Barrel Head, but I don’t think you would want one if it was an option.  Trading stories with these guys was an adventure all its own!  My cousin and I spent the afternoon soaking up information and enjoyed every minute of it.

We didn’t realize upon entering the tasting room that the tastings were free, but it only took a short period of time to realize that these guys would give us the lay of the land regarding the wine.  They guided us down the path of their estate wines, continuously refilling our tastings and telling us information about the grape varietal and their success with it.  In the end, before we knew it (!), they had poured us eleven samples of their wines, which showcased the importance of quality over quantity.  Each grape from this vineyard is hand-picked and quality control is of utmost importance, at an everyday price point.  Most wines were $13 a bottle.

The wine offerings include six sweet wines, three semi-sweet wines, eight dry wines, a semi-sweet sparkling wine and two dry wines produced in a Methode’ Champonese.  The owner teaches wine-making classes through Iowa State University and has a video posted on YouTube about his Methode’ Champonese.

It was impossible to leave the winery without a bag full of wine and a promise to return with friends and family!