Category Archives: Drinks

Easy Cherry Smoothie – Post Run Recovery

Cherry Smoothie 1A few of you know I am currently training for my first half-marathon.  Those of you that have known me for a long time also know that I HATE running.   It hurts. Who likes pain?  Ok, some people do or else Cross Fit and Insanity wouldn’t be so popular, but  I  don’t like pain.   I can do dance, martial arts, yoga, circuits, etc.   Just as it becomes too painful, you’ve moved onto something else.   Running, on the other hand…well, there are only two ways to escape the pain: stop or push through it.   Now, I know I said I didn’t like pain.  I never said I couldn’t handle it.   I am not a quitter, either, which is why I registered for this race.  I needed something to get out of this rut I’ve been stuck in for far too long.  It’s been funny finding how everything I am going through in my race training has direct parallels to what’s going on in my heart and mind.  That is how I know that when I conquer this race, I’ll have pulled myself out of this horrible pit, too!

Now as I write this, I am wrapping up week five of my 10 week training, which culminated in a very hilly eight mile run.  I never imagined in my Cherry Smoothie 6entire life that I would ever run so far of my own volition.  Of course I also discovered that running beyond my previously usual 5Ks started making my body do some not so nice things.  Two weeks ago, I ran six miles, at the time my longest distance.  After braving the shower room, I began preparing my breakfast of oatmeal and flax at my desk when my stomach began clenching. Despite my hunger I couldn’t bear to eat.  Now, I had researched that you shouldn’t eat anything but simple, easily digestible food before (and during) a run, because your body will focus its energy on your digestive system instead of powering your run.  I guess it works the other way, too.  If you’ve taxed your body for your run, it doesn’t have energy to help your tummy do its job.  After about another half hour, I was able to down some Greek yogurt.  It happened to be cherry yogurt, which triggered the idea for this smoothie.

Cherry Smoothie 4You see, I remembered that cherries, particularly the juice of tart cherries, have been a growing craze in the fitness world for a few years now.  Studies have shown that they reduce inflammation and speed muscle recovery due to compounds called anthocyanins.  Another key to helping your body recover from a tough workout is protein, which the yogurt and milk in this smoothie provides.  Protein, as many of us know, is also responsible for building our muscles and making us stronger.  Not to mention our bones take quite a beating during a run, so the yogurt and milk’s calcium keeps our inner framework strong, too!  Talk about a super smoothie.

However, the test was whether my stomach could handle it after a tough workout.  The following week, I had this smoothie ready to go in the fridge for after my seven mile run.  It took a little coaxing.  My body wanted water more than anything, but after I satiated my thirst I found that I could indeed sip on this cherry smoothie to satisfy my grumbly tummy without upsetting it. Score!

Cherry Smoothie 7

Easy Cherry Smoothie

serves appx 2
  • 1 12 ounce bag frozen dark cherries
  • 6-7 ounces cherry or plain Greek yogurt, appx. 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup  tart cherry juice or cold water
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • mint for garnish (optional)
  • Cherry Smoothie Blender 1Combine all ingredients except garnish in a blender. 
  • Pulse to puree until smooth.
  • Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days in air-tight containers.
  • If refrigerating,  shake before serving.



Cherry Smoothie 2

Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery – A Lovely Shenandoah Valley “Secret”

Valerie Hill Tasting SheetThe last you heard from me, my friends, I had gone apple picking in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley at Rinker Orchards.  You may recall that the tradition is apple picking followed by winery hopping.  In my desperate search for an apple orchard that still had apples, I had forgotten to look for nearby wineries! Spotty data service wasn’t much help either, so when I went to buy my apple cider pop (delicious way to cool down BTW), I asked the ladies if there were any wineries in the area.  I was in luck! There was one literally down the street: Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery.

Valerie Hill is a relatively new winery in Virginia, having opened last summer (2012).  It is also the first winery to open in Frederick County, Virginia, about a half hour from winery spotted Loudoun and FauquierValeire Hill Historic Home Counties.    The next closest winery to Valerie Hill is 20 miles south of town.  I’m not sure exactly which winery this is, but to get to Valerie Hill I drove past Markham and Delaplane, which is home to several popular Virginia wineries like Barrel Oak, Vintage Ridge,  Philip Carter, and Chateau O’Brien.  If you are looking to escape the D.C./ NoVA crowds, which can be notorious on a beautiful day like the day I was out,   the extra half hour is well worth the trip!  Visiting Valerie Hill is like visiting the home of a friend…if you have friends that live in beautiful, historic homes that is, lol.

Valerie Hill Front DoorAlthough the winery itself is new, the home is not.  The Manor was built at the beginning of the 19th century by a veteran of the American Revolution and named for the first owners mother (How sweet!).  The home is beautifully preserved  and has several public areas where you can enjoy a bottle of wine with friends.  I did not get much of a chance to explore, as I needed to beat Sunday beltway traffic home, but of what I did see, I found absolutely beautiful.  If you live close to the area or are vacationing close by, they have delightful sounding Fire-pit Fridays, where firepits are lit on the back patio and chili and cornbread are served, along with s’mores.

Chili, s’mores, and wine all fireside…how awesome does that sound on a fall night?

Valerie Hill FoyerNow that I’m sure I have your attention about the venue, I’m sure you’re wondering, well what about the wine? Well, here we are then!

Valerie Hill offers nine wines, all of which you may taste for $8.  The wines themselves are a collaboration with the winemaker of Veramar Vineyard and Bogati Bodega.  Now I have visited my share of “new” wineries and I  must agree with the other Virginia wine lover reviewers that have visited Valerie Hill. Valerie Hill wines do not taste like “newbie” wines.  They definitely began ahead of the curve.  I did not taste one wine that I disliked and I can only imagine how delicious the wines will become over the years as Valerie Hill continues to grow.

2012 Seyval Blanc

100% Seyval Blanc grown by Veramar, this crisp white is aged in stainless steel.  From the nose to the palate, this wine is just bright and effervescent.  As you bring your glass to your lips, you’ll breath in fresh grapefruit with hints of grass (the tasting sheet says lemongrass).  When the wine finally hits your tongue, you’ll find it delightfully citrusy and clean.  Definitely a wine to bring along to share. If I had had time to stay awhile, I probably would have bought a glass of this to enjoy the sunny day with.

2011 Chardonnay

This wine won a Silver Medal in the 2013 U.S National Wine Competition. Aged for nine months in neutral French Oak,  the owners of Valerie Hill were looking for a hint of oak, not an overpowering oak.  It worked!  Although you will taste it, it is by no means overpowering in this nicely balanced wine.  Like the Seyval Blanc, it is crisp and clean.  I tasted juicy apple and pear and just an itty bit of wood  from the oak.

2010 Chardonnay

2010 was a dry year.  A dry year means lots of flavor! Compared to the 2011 Chardonnay, the 2010 has a bit more body and is bursting with fruit.  A gentle acidity from juicy granny smith apple notes finishes into a toasty finish.  Think the crunchy caramelized top of a creme brulee.  This light charred flavor is courtesy of the toasted French oak barrels the wine was  aged in.

2012 Manor House White

A blended, lightly sweet white, the 2012 vintage has 2.5% residual sugar and  is comprised of 50% Vidal Blanc, 49% Riesling, and 1% Traminette (2011’s vintage was made of 80% Vidal Blank and 20% Reisling).  I found this to be a very pretty wine. Sweet orchard fruits on the nose lends itself to the lightly sweet palate, which is nicely balanced with candied citrus peel and grassy undertones.  Another great Virginia white to go with  spicy Asian dishes, I was torn between buying a bottle of this wine and the following wine.

2012 Cameo 

If you are one to buy a bottle of wine because of it’s label, you’ll definitely bring this one home.  It’s beautifully girly with Victorian like cameos of the owners’ daughters when they were little girls. So sweet! This blush style wine is pretty yummy, too!  At 2% residual sugar, Cameo is a blend of red and white grapes: Mouvdre, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Seyval Blanc.  Each grape is aged separately and the wines blended together in the end to get a beautiful deep blush colored wine. The nose is bursting with sweet blackberries, and despite the hint of sweet, it has a nice herbalValerie Hill Tasting Sheet Red Side spiciness and a slight tartness from notes of pomegranate and red cherries.  This wine would make a lovely sparkling wine (If only sparkling wine weren’t so expensive to produce!).  I bought a bottle since it was made in limited quantities…and the label was too darn cute!

2012 Cabernet Franc

100% Cabernet Franc, this light bodied red (thanks to the very rainy year…remember Hurricane Sandy?) has all your favorite characteristics of a Cab Franc: bright red cherry, earthy pepper and tobacco, and even a bit of cinnamon.   This wine is actually an early release.  The wine I tasted had only been in the bottle for a mere two months as the 2011 vintage had run out.  Come January/ February, you’ll probably taste a whole new wine!

2012 Stone Chimney Red

This deep garnet colored wine is a blend of 65% Chambourcin, 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  The sweet, jammy noise leads to a surprise as your initial sip will find a tart wine.  Don’t worry, it mellows out after the first sip and your mind gets passed the, “but it smelled sweet!” thing.  I think this wine would do best paired with food if you find it too tart.   A tangy barbecue  was suggested and sounds pretty perfect to me.

2012 “John Barron” Petit Verdot

Hold your horses, folks!  For all you bold, in your face red wine lovers, this is Valerie Hills answer to you!  Aged 12 months in French oak, this is not a fruit forward wine, but a robust, bold, dry, tannic wine.  The tasting sheet says it all, pencil shavings (they have pencil shavings available to smell if you don’t believe them) and cedar with dark fruit.   I prefer Old World style fruit forward reds, but still appreciated this wine.  Steak, anyone?

2012 Bellaria

100% Vidal Blanc, this dessert wine has 9% residual sugar and is aged in stainless steel.  I loved that I could taste the pineapple as described in the tasting sheet, as often white dessert wines are more peach like and floral.  Like the other whites, it a had a nice clean finish. I also liked that it had a lighter body than many dessert wines. No syrup here!

Valerie Hill Sitting Room

Women’s Wine Weekend – Vintage Ridge Winery

If you are an avid reader of Cork and Spoon, then you know that I find a glass of wine after a rough day (or 3 glasses at the end of a rough week) relaxing. And  many of us can agree that time with good friends is wonderfully restorative. So a day trip with a group of girlfriends to Virginia wine country is a guaranteed way to  improve one’s mood and welcome fall. It’s even better when your friend Ellen organizes a party bus for the group so you don’t even have to deal with traffic. Mad props to Ellen!!

Vintage Ridge Winery - Ellen

Vintage Ridge Winery - the girls

Ellen arranged the day so that the 16 of us were able to visit Vintage Ridge Vineyard and Barrel Oak Winery, with a picnic on the Barrel Oak Winery lawn. Ruth has reviewed Barrel Oak Winery and their wines before and her review is still pretty accurate, so I’ll focus on my amazing experience at Vintage Ridge instead.

Vintage Ridge Winery - front enterance

Vintage Ridge is a beautiful winery an hour directly west of Washington, D.C. with several Virginia Governors Cup medals to their credit. The tasting room is in a large barn area with several high-top tables and a long rustic table both used for larger groups like ours.

Vintage Ridge Winery - award winning wines

Vintage Ridge Winery - tasting room

It also included a lovely outdoor space with a couple of fire pits to keep guests cozy and more tables for enjoying a glass of wine.

Vintage Ridge Winery - outdoor picnic area

The tasting included 7 wines, presented in a format I had never experienced before. Instead of sampling the wines one by one, 6 of the wines were paired together. By tasting the wines simultaneously, I was able to truly compare and contrast similar wines. To provide the best comparative tasting experience, the winery paired 2 single varietal reds from 2010, 2 single varietal reds from 2009, and a red blend & white blend each from 2011. The 7th wine was presented on its own at the start of the tasting because of its unique nature.

Vintage Ridge Winery - dual tasting

Overall, I was really happy with the Vintage Ridge wines, although (not surprising if you know me) I found their 2 white wines the least palatable. My favorite, and the one I ended up buying to take home, was their Ghost Train 2011. The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot, and it has a juicy berry burst of flavor to start with a great spicy autumnal finish that reminded me of that wonderful transition from summer into fall. While I suspect that it would go well with a variety of meals, it was so good on its own that it will be the perfect bottle for cooking Saturday night dinners – that bottle you finish while you are preparing the meal and before dinner is even ready to be served.

My only complaint about the experience would be that the winery staff did not offer up many details about the wines beyond what was written on the tasting sheets. I doubt this was really their “fault” though, and more the result of the fact that we were a large group of talkative women not that inclined to learn much about the wine. However, I plan on asking a lot more questions when I go back for the winery’s Premier Tasting which includes some pretty spectacular food pairings.

Hump Day Happy Hour – Ginger Switchel

The benefits of apple cider vinegar for one’s health have been discussed for years. It can help stabilize glucose levels in diabetics, it helps with weight loss and weight management, increases energy levels, and treats heartburn. Despite all this, I have never been inclined to try adding it to a glass of water and taking it down daily – drinking plain vinegar in water just sounded disgusting to me.Until, that is, I found Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar Ginger Spice drink at the local Yes! Organic Market. I would never have guessed that adding a little ginger and a touch of sweetener could turn vinegar and water into a truly tasty and refreshing treat!

Ginger Switchel

After that first taste, I picked up a bottle whenever I was near the market – about once a week, but the over $2.50 price tag kept if from being anything more that an occasional treat, that is until I asked Tom to pick me up a bottle one day, and he accidentally brought home Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). This accident became a challenge to make my own apple cider vinegar and ginger beverage and I began doing my research. The Bragg drink has a very simple ingredient list- water, apple cider vinegar, organic ginger, and stevia extract – but that did not tell me much about the proportions for making the drink and, while I could certainly mess with the amounts myself, sometimes recreating the wheel just isn’t worth it, so I turned to the Kitchn, my stand by cooking resource, and they came through with a recipe for a ginger switchel. The switchel is a colonial era drink favored by farmers, especially during the hay harvest, giving it its other name- haymaker’s punch.

Starting with the Kitchn’s basic recipe and tips, I have come up with my ideal combination of ingredients (which doesn’t differ much from the Kitchn’s own recipe) and I definitely encourage you to adjust to your own tastes – with some strong suggestions along the way. First, don’t use just any apple cider vinegar. Stick with a high quality organic raw apple cider vinegar, such as the well-known Bragg’s brand. Unlike the pasteurized version of ACV, this will be cloudy and less refined. It is believed that the health benefits of apple cider vinegar come from this cloudy sediment, making the raw vinegar the key to the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. Just as important as the potential health benefits is the taste, so I took the extra step of making the drink with the Bragg’s organic vinegar and the store brand pasteurized vinegar and the flavor of the store brand vinegar was flatter and not as pleasant as the raw vinegar version.

Ginger Switchel - ingredients

Second, go ahead and use honey. Sure the Bragg’s version of the drink is calorie free because they use Stevia, but when I tried splenda and stevia, it just wasn’t nearly as good as honey. The honey provides a richer more complex flavor and to me, that is worth 30 or so calories per serving. Plus, when it comes to sweeteners, natural honey is really the best option.

Ginger Switchel
makes 2 servings

½ hot water
4 teaspoons honey (or other sweetener)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cup cold water

1)     In a container with a tight fitting, leak proof lid (I like large mason jars), dissolve the honey in the hot water and whisk in the ground ginger. Add the water and apple cider vinegar. Cover with leak proof lid and shake vigorously.

2)     Place drink in fridge and chill for several hours, or over night for best flavor.

3)     Shake vigorously before serving. Serve over ice, adding regular water or seltzer water if you want to dilute it slightly.

Cherry Blossom Martini

Cherry Blossom Martini Cocktail 2
This weekend was the finale of the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival. How fast cherry blossoms fade away!

Not too long ago, I  enjoyed a stroll around  the Tidal Basin and White House, while the blossoms refused to emerge from their buds.  Yesterday, I watched it rain pink and white petals from my chair in my favorite coffee shop while getting some GRE study time in.  There they were, dancing in the wind, leaving behind them the pale green of the newly emerged leaves.


The Cherry Blossom Festival is more than an annual Washington, D.C. event for me.  Many of you know that I grew up in Okinawa, so this Japanese tradition was

2006 Cherry Blossom Festival - View of the Jefferson Memorial

2006 Cherry Blossom Festival – View of the Jefferson Memorial

part of my childhood.  It seemed befitting then, that during the heart of the 2006 festival, my sister and I re-united with  two of our closest friends that we had grown up with…over a decade after last seeing each other in middle school.  Taren drove up from San Antonio, Mika metro-ed in from eastern Maryland, and Val and I metro-ed in from Virginia. We found each other on the steps of the  Jefferson Memorial, amidst peak bloom, and the energetic vibrations of taiko drums.  It was like old times enjoying street festivals in Okinawa.  We picked up right where we left off. You never would have known the three of us hadn’t seen each other since we were children.

Japanese taiko drummers

Japanese taiko drummers

So I thought I would share this Cherry Blossom Martini as we say good-bye to this years blooms.  It is based on a recipe from Disney’s EPCOT Center (You know, the “It’s A Small World” park where you can “visit” a number of countries, including Japan).  This pretty pink cocktail gets its color from a splash of cranberry juice, but it’s flavor is all sake (think sherry) and sweetly tart plum wine.  If you like, a delicate sparkling sake is a fun substitute to the junmai sake I used.  Just be sure to use a good quality sake.  The kind you drink warm will definitely not work here!

Cherry Blossom Martini Cocktail 6

Cherry Blossom Martini

based on Disney’s EPCOT Center recipe 
serves 1

Cherry Blossom Martini Ingredients

  • 1 part junmai sake
  • 1 part cranberry juice
  • 0.5 parts plum wine
  • ice cubes
  1. Add ice to a cocktail shaker and pour in all three ingredients.  Shake vigorously for a few seconds .
  2. Pour into cocktail glasses.


Cherry Blossom Martini Cocktail 4

Chocolate Cherry Kiss Martini – A Valentine’s Day Cocktail

Chocolate Cherry Champagne Martini 1As you saw in Monday’s post, chocolate and cherries create a beloved classic combination of flavors, especially at Valentine’s Day.  (That’s tomorrow, by the way).  What is more awesome than chocolate covered cherries? Okay, maybe chocolate covered strawberries, but today is Humpday and that usually means Happy Hour here at Cork and Spoon.  Not a problem, seeing as I love to make fun cocktails and I have been DYING to try out chocolate vodka!  Why you may ask. Well,  I find it a perfect,  lower calorie option for chocolicious flavor  in place of a cream based chocolate liqueur.  Enter this beautiful, ruby red gem, which is a delightful blend of chocolate vodka, black cherry juice, and the delicious fizz of dry sparkling wine. It even looks like Valentine’s Day! I think it will be perfect whether you are celebrating tomorrow’s holiday with a candle lit dinner or with an ex’s effigy burning!

Chocolate Cherry Kiss Martini

serves one 7 ounce martini or two 3.5 ounce martinis
  • 1.5 ounces chocolate vodka + 1 teaspoonChocolate Cherry Martini Ingredients
  • 1 ounce black cherry juice
  • 1.5 ounces sparkling wine or enough to top off (use Proseco if you prefer sweeter cocktails)
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate
  • ice cubes
  • frozen black cherries (optional)
  1. Place dark chocolate on a small, evenly surfaced plate with 1 teaspoon of chocolate vodka. Heat in microwave at 50% power for 20 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Stir to create an even Chocolate Cherry Martini Melted Chocolate Glass Rimand smooth chocolate sauce.
  2. Take a martini glass and hold it at an angle. Dip edge into chocolate sauce and slowly twist glass until entire rim is coated in chocolate.  
  3. If using frozen cherries, place one in each glass.  Set glasses in refrigerator until cocktail is ready.
  4.  Add ice to your cocktail shaker and pour in the remaining chocolate vodka and black cherry juice. Close shaker and give it a shake until surface is chilled.  Pour into martini glass(es).Chocolate Cherry Martini Filling Cocktail Glasses
  5. Top off each martini glass with the sparkling wine.
  6. Toast to love…or to shooting Cupid in his bare behind. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Cherry Champagne Martini 2

Multitasking Mango Lassi – A Breakfast Smoothie and Frozen Cocktail In One

Mango Lassi Smoothie 2Is there anything this yummy smoothie is not? Okay, okay,  it’s not a million dollars…yeah and it’s not a puppy…or a pair of Louboutins…but it is a pretty talented multi-tasker! Did I mention it’s delicious, too? Oh, and have I told you that I’m not that much of a smoothie fan either? I still prefer to eat rather than drink my calories, but once I got out of my comfort zone and gave my blender a whir, I was quite impressed and thoroughly enjoyed this mango lassi.

So what do I mean when I say this smoothie is multi-tasking. Well, let me show you.

  1. Having both servings makes a pretty filling breakfast.
  2. Mangoes are full of Vitamins C giving your immune system a nice Mango Lassi Smoothie 3boost. Who wouldn’t want that with flu flitting around like crazy?
  3. A serving of  Greek yogurt provides about 20% of your daily calcium requirements.
  4. The protein in Greek yogurt not helps keep your tummy full, it makes this lassi a great post-workout snack. I liked it as a pre-workout snack, too!
  5. The Vitamin A from the mangoes gives your eyesight some loving.
  6. Mangoes are great for keeping your cholesterol low with all its fiber.
  7. Antioxidants…need I say more?
  8. Add a shot of rum and you’ve got a healthy, creamy, tropical cocktail.

So how about it? Who wants to give it a try? I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Mango Lassi Smoothie 4

Multitasking Mango Lassi

serves 2

IngredientsMango Lassi Multitasking Ingredients

  • 1 12 ounce bag frozen mango, appx. 2 cups
  • 1 6 ounce container fat free plain Greek yogurt, appx. 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 skim milk
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam marsala (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • mint for garnish (optional)
  • 1 ounce white rum (cocktail option only)


  • Combine all ingredients except garnish in a blender. 
  • Pulse to puree per your blenders instructions until mixture is smooth. (If you have a less than stellar blender, use a flat spatula to push ingredients back down towards the blades in between pulses.)
    Mango Lassi Multitasking Adding to Blender          Mango Lassi Multitasking Pureeing Ingredients
  • Pour into 2 10 ounce glasses. 
  • When making the night before, pour into a sealed travel cup or simply cover the top of the glass with plastic wrap. 


Fabbioli Cellars

Fabbioli Cellars EntranceI visited Fabbioli Cellars for the first time right before Christmas. Yes, I’ve had this one in my pocket for a few weeks, but only because I did not want it to get lost in the holiday shuffle (Happy New Year, by the way!).  We were headed to the Premium Outlet Mall in Leesburg, Virginia for some Christmas shopping. Since we were smack dab in the middle of DC’s Wine Country, we thought we’d hit a winery or two before giving our credit cards some exercise.  Fabbioli Cellars was our first stop.

As we pulled up and got out of the car, the chilly winter air wafted the delicious Fabbioli Cellars Outdoor Fire Pitssmell of wood fires.  Fabbioli had several fire pits going outside for patrons who may have wanted to brave the cold with a glass of wine.  Maybe on a warmer day. Today we would stay inside!

Speaking of inside, Fabbioli has a good sized tasting room.  Unlike most Virginia Fabbioli Cellars Tasting Tableswineries where there is a standing tasting bar, Fabbioli has several long, kitchen island height tables set up with chairs to take your leisure.  That is not all that is unique about a Fabbioli tasting.  As I came up to purchase our tastings, I was informed that the $10 tasting fee included a food pairing. I had a choice between either chocolates or a savory platter.  Since there were two of us, I went with one of each, a course of action I highly recommend if you are visiting in groups. Each tasting platter easily provides enough nibbles for two. We even got a special treat from Fabbioli Cellars Food PairingFabbioli’s resident blogger, James “Jimmy Cocktail” from At Least I’m Enjoying the Ride, when he heard a fellow blogger was on site: two special tastings and a recipe!

Now on to the tasting notes we go!

Rosa Luna (2011) – Sometimes called their “cat wine”, as this dry, 100% Sangiovese  rosé is named after one of the owners’ late kitties.  In its third iteration, the Rosa Luna we sampled is the lightest version of the wine produced to date.  Fermented in stainless steel, this wine has a light and delicate nose and full of crisp flavors.  You’ll taste lovely watermelon flavors in this wine, which is a nice difference from your typically strawberry found in most rosés.

Chardonnay (2011) – Although their vineyards grow both red and white wine grapes, the owners of Fabbioli Cellars began the winery with a focus on red wine production.  This Chardonnay is Fabbioli’s second white wine in production (The Something White blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc was not on the tasting menu).  As both Fabbioli 2011 white wines are now sold out, clearly they did not disappoint white wine lovers!  The 2011 Chardonnay has (had) a beautiful, fruity nose.  Aged in neutral French oak for four months, you will also find a light creaminess in the wine.  This wine was also the first on the list to pair with food. With the Chardonnay, we tasted a crostini dressed in olive oil and sea salt.  The fat from the olive oil along with the salt beautifully accented the creaminess of the Chardonnay.

Chambourcin (2010) –   This wine is 96% Chambourcin with 2% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It has a deep and concentrated nose of dried fruit and dark berries.  Dry with intense fruit flavors, the nose translates almost exactly onto the palate.  Another wine with a food pairing, the Chambourcin was accompanied by a crostini with olive tapenade and a 63% cocoa chocolate truffle with a cherry ganache center.  As can be expected when pairing chocolate and red wine, the cherry truffle intensified the fruit flavors, but what was amazing was how the olive tapenade played with the Chambourcin!  The saltiness and fat from the tapenade mellowed out the intense tannins of the Chambourcin.  It completely changed the character of the wine in your mouth.  Okay, not completely changed, but if you try this at home (or at the winery!) you will understand what I mean lol. 

 Cabernet Franc (2010) - I am a huge fan of Virginia Cab Francs; I just love the red fruits (often cherry) and spice.  This particular vintage is the lighter of the two Cab Francs made by Fabbioli, the other being the Reserve. Composed of 87% Cab Franc, 3% Cab Sauv, 5% Chambourcin, and %5 Petit Verdot,  this wine is tart and dry, but smooth with nice clean spice. Lots of bright red cherry, too, my favorite part. Like the Chambourcin, this wine had both a savory and chocolate pairing to go with it.  The chocolate was another dark chocolate truffle, but this time made with spicy ancho chili,  Vietnamese cinnamon,  and cayenne pepper. Wow did it bring out the cherry notes of the wine! The savory pairing was a slice of salami. Again, the fat and salt tamed the tannins of the bold red while again accenting the cherry notes, softening them this time rather than amping them up as the chocolate had.  

 Tre Sorélle (2010) -  Or “Three Sisters” in Italian, this wine is Fabbioli Cellar’s Bordeaux style blend comprised of three of the five (0r six depending on who you ask) Bordeaux red varietals, all estate grown: Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Petit Verdot. What a lovely and supple fruit forward wine, very much like a Merlot, but with the added lushness provided by the Petit Verdot and some earthy grounding courtesy of the Cab Sauv.  Again, I had both  a savory and chocolate pairing. Although the chocolate was delicious (a “plain” dark chocolate truffle this time), the savory pairing was both surprising and amazingly yummy. Mild Cheddar! Although I know there are many cheeses that go with red wine, I often forget it until it’s placed in front of me.  Wow did it bring out all the fruit in this wine. 

Raspberry Merlot - Not a dessert wine, but a “dessert inspired” wine. With 5% residual sugars, this wine is comprised of 1/3 [red] raspberry fruit wine and 2/3 merlot.  If you love raspberries, you’ll love a cordial glass of this wine. It has a bold raspberry fragrance (of course, right?) and though sweet, it’s a fruit sweet tinged with raspberry tartness as well as an accompanying hint of dryness from the merlot. The dark chocolate truffle paired with this wine was actually made with the Raspberry Merlot itself.  Definitely helped tame down the sweetness.

Rosa Nera – A port style wine made from [black] raspberries , this wine is fortified with brandy from Loudoun’s very own Catoctin Creek distillery. If you are a port fan, you definitely will enjoy this one with its rich and just a little tart dried fruit notes.  As the last food pairing, we enjoyed a smoked almond chocolate truffle and a walnut tossed in a spiced glaze (Jimmy Cocktails’s own recipe).  The natural fattiness of the walnut, along with the spices in the glaze definitely take the sweetness of the wine down a few notches. Now the chocolate…I can’t really read my notes, but I have OMG underlined with lots of exclamation points and something about the smokiness against the sweetness of the wine. I think OMG says enough, lol.

And now for the treats! In addition to the wines above, which is the normal tasting covered at Fabbioli Cellars,  I had the privilege to sample the following two wines.

Pear Wine – This lovely aperitif wine won a gold medal at the 2012 Los Angeles International Wine Competition. Made from Asian and Bosc pears and fortified again with brandy from Catoctin Creek, this lovely wine definitely tastes of pears and even has a nice spice as well. Think baked pears with a little cinnamon.  It’s aging process is also unique in regards to other Virginia wines (at least in my encounters), as it follows the Spanish solera system, an aging and blending system utilized by  the sherry industry.  I first encountered this system of wine blending while in Spain last year at the Tio Pepe bodega in Jerez. Using the solera system not only “pre-ages” the wine, but ensures a consistent flavor profile across the years. So, if you miss the 2012 award winning wine, it will still taste the same for years to come!

Royalty – This port style wine originated as hand crafted gifts for the owners’ friends and neighbors, but became so popular that they started bottling it. Aged for 22 months, this wine is made from Chambourcin, Tannat…and I apparently forgot to write the last half of which Cab grape (Sorry, there was a lot of chatting going on during the tasting, so my hand writing was much more horrid than usual!). I was wowed by this wine. Not overly sweet like many ports can be, it had beautiful and intense fruit flavors and a delicious spice. I ended up buying a bottle to take home with us.

Now, I did mention another treat earlier: a recipe.  Do you recall the Rosa Nera pairing with a spiced walnut? Well, as I was checking out, I was given a print out of James’ recipe (also available at the winery if you stop by) to take home.  I used this recipe as a basis for one of my dad’s Christmas presents, so you’ll probably be getting to see it sometime in the near future, too! :)



Hump Day Happy Hour – Campari Mint Sparkler

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I revisited my maple glazed Cornish game hens with my mom and step-dad, watched a little TV, and indulged in a delicious lemon cake (recipe coming soon!), before having to drive back to D.C.  and get ready for work today. The best news for you, though, is that I got a new camera for the holidays – nothing too fancy but certainly better than the nearly decade old camera I had been using for pictures since Cork and Spoon’s inception. Hurrah!!

And now, with the wrapping paper cleaned up and the Christmas dinner leftovers in the fridge, its time to look forward to the New Year. Whether you are going big or celebrating quietly at home with loved ones,  New Year’s Eve is the holiday of champagne, Prosecco, and even sparkling apple cider for the munchkins. While you can certainly enjoy your glass of bubbly by itself, there are dozens of effervescent cocktails that can make the evening just a tiny bit more special. Ruth and I have shared a few ideas in the past, such as:

Never one to rest on my laurels, I wanted to bring you one more cocktail recipe, courtesy of The Kitchn, a fabulous site I’ve mentioned before and am guaranteed to mention again. At the beginning of December they posted a 10-minute happy hour featuring a Campari spritzer. I’m always interested in Campari based drinks, since I have a bottle of it that I’ve used maybe twice in its entire existence. So I book-marked the page, planning to revisit it before the New Year. I followed the recipe to the letter using a semi-dry prosecco. The first taste was more bitter than I expected, but after a couple more sips, I found the drink refreshing, light, and enjoyable. Although next time, I think I might pick up a slightly sweeter champagne, especially if I’m serving others who might not enjoy the herbal flavors as much as I do. finished campari mint sparkler

Campari Mint Sparkler
Makes 1 drink

5 large mint leaves
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce cranberry juice
3 ounces Prosecco or champagne

1)     Fill a glass with several ice cubes and lightly bruised mint leaves.

bruise the mint leaves

2)    Add Campari and cranberry juice. Top with Prosecco or other sparkling wine. Using a spoon or stir stick, stir just once or twise to combine without disturbing the fizz too much.

making the campari mint sparkler

3)      Toast the New Year.

White Cranberry Martini, a Winter Wonderland Cocktail

White Cranberry Martini 1

Oh, are you going to love, love, love this cocktail! I mean, just look at it. Doesn’t it make you think of the holidays? Seriously, I can hear Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas” in my head right now. Love it!

Yes, I am gushing.  These White Cranberry Martinis are that good. They make me want to buy a ridiculously sparkly dress and throw a cocktail party so I can make pitchers of the stuff.

So what makes this winter wonderland cocktail different from everyone else’s? My addition of rosemary in the form of an infused simple syrup.White Cranberry Martini 2 Yes,  I put a little Christmas tree action into these beauties! (I so want one of those little rosemary shrubs they prune into Christmas tree shapes!). Please do not panic, though. I know what you’re thinking. “Ugh, gin!”, right?  And you’re thinking of what turns most people off from gin:  the juniper. We are not getting that kind of evergreen flavor here in these White Cranberry Martinis. Juniper is much more resinous and medicinal than rosemary. With the rosemary, the resin notes are milder, plus you get a little spice. Trust me, you’re not going to feel like you’re drinking a pine tree with this cocktail.

White Cranberry Martini 4So what does it taste like? Very fresh. White cranberries are sweeter and less tart than your typical cranberries, so the juice has a lighter body.  Adding the lime brings back a little tartness, and both the lime and rosemary bring clean, fresh notes into the mix.

When I was drinking this cocktail,  it reminded me of a mild winter day where the cold isn’t horribly unbearable and the smell of firewood is in White Cranberry Martini 5the air. You know, those days that make you feel all warm and toasty even if Jack Frost may be nipping at your nose.

Told you it was good.


Winter Wonderland White Cranberry Martini

White Cranberry Martini IngredientsWhite Cranberry Martini Ingredients
  • 2 ounces vodka*
  • 1 ounce White Cranberry Juice
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 ounce Rosemary simple syrup
  • fresh or frozen cranberries for garnish
  • ice cubes
Rosemary Simple Syrup
makes about a 1/2 cup of simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, crushed to release essential oils
Rosemary Simple Syrup Directions
  1. For the simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.Rosemary Simple Syrup
  2. Add fresh rosemary and simmer for one minute.Rosemary Simple Syrup Crushing Rosemary
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and let the syrup stand for at least half an hour.
  4. Remove rosemary from the syrup and pour into an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Making you Winter Wonderland CocktailWhite Cranberry Martini Shaking
  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with  ice cubes and add all of the ingredients.
  2. Secure the cover of the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.
  3. Strain into your favorite cocktail glass and garnish with the bright red cranberries.

White Cranberry Martini 3

*Experiment with the vodka if you like. Cranberry vodka will bring more tartness. Whipped cream vodka may create a sweeter cocktail. Vanilla vodka may enhance the rosemary.