My summer drink of choice is always sparkling wine or champagne. In fact, my winter, spring, and fall choice is more of the same. But once in a while, I prefer something else. And usually not by choice, but I try to go with it.
Here in the great Valley, we have an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables for summer meals as well as cocktails.
Some choices might be:
Watermelon tequila cocktails
Strawberry Lemon Mojitos
Manhattan ice cream float
Thai Basil sangria
Tequila Watermelon Aguas Frescas with Prosecco
Cucumber Rose Gin Spritz
Lemon and Lavender Gin Fizz
Tamarind Mezcal Sour
Third Wave Swizzle
Banana Rum Old Fashioned
Sandy Bottoms (no comment)
Frozen Cucumber Margarita
Normandie Club Spritz
Some of these sound rather complicated for me. My favorites are rather simple.
White wine spritzer
Prosecco with St. Germain splash
Malibu Carribean rum (with coconut liqueur) and diet coke
I hope you found some ideas to fill your summer parties and cocktail hours. I will probably stick to my sparkling wine. Or maybe a cold beer.
My favorite adult beverage for about the last ten years has been sparkling wine and champagne. I have probably written over a dozen emails about my bubbles. Here are some more bubbly insights.
From Winespeed: Well isn’t this brilliant. Just when flutes increasingly find themselves the object of Champagne-lovers’ dismay (even disdain), it’s beer to the rescue. The German Beer company Beck’s has just released beer in a can shaped like a flute. It’s not that far-fetched really. Historically, many traditional beer glasses were shaped like Champagne flutes, and both beverages derive some of their pleasure from bubbles. Curiously, one of the reasons the flute is in disfavor for Champagne is that it isn’t ideal for appreciating the wine’s aroma. (Because you can’t easily swirl the wine in a flute, volatile aromatic compounds aren’t easily released and the wine is rendered less “smellable.”) Leading us to wonder: are beer lovers less aromatically inclined?
Some rules exist to determine how my favorite Limouxs are made: Viognier is a major grape of the Languedoc region, but cannot be used to make Limoux’s famous sparkling. By law, Blanquette de Limoux is made with at least 90% mauzac, with chenin blanc and chardonnay added if desired. It is made by the traditional (Champagne) method and aged sur lie for a minimum of nine months. Interestingly, blanquette is the Occitan word for the mauzac grape and also refers to the dusty, white, powdery appearance of the leaves on mauzac vines. (Occitan is the historic language of southern France).
Here is an interesting story about wine glasses from Winespeed: Limiting yourself to just one glass of wine isn’t always an easy task. And it turns out it may be even harder depending on the size of that glass. The Behavior and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge recently studied patrons at a local pub in hopes of finding out if changing the size of the wine glass has any effect on drinking behavior. (And no, we aren’t talking Betty White-sized glasses.) It turns out, decreasing the size of the glass has no noticeable effect, but increasing the glass size does. In the experiment, the same amount of wine was poured in varying glasses. Nonetheless, people felt there to be less wine in the larger glasses. That led them to drink faster and drink more–10% more. So it seems like the question isn’t: is the glass half full or half empty? But: how big is the glass?
Actually, I prefer a medium sized glass. I don’t want my champagne to get warm, but I don’t want to keep refilling my glass.
When was the last time you stayed in a youth hostel, or even a senior hostel?
On my last trip to Dublin about 5 years ago, I stayed in a hostel. While I had a private room and bath, most of the rooms consisted of numerous bunks, crazy loud music, and the smell of a certain weed. Breakfast was a rather haphazard affair, with guests grabbing food, and plopping down anywhere in the dining area and lobby. I was shocked, upon seeing each day’s guests waiting for the bus outside. I would say the average age was definitely over 30!! But the place was clean, and safe, with a great location, walking distance to the Templebar area.
Prior to that, Mike and I stayed in some rather spartan hotels and motels on our journey through Chile. We could certainly afford better lodging, but when we arrived late at night, we just took what we could find. And yes, I had to prop a chair against the doorknob to “lock” my room at night!!! This happened several times on our trip, in the Atacama Desert (San Pedro), as well as in Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world). When it is so darn cold outside, we were just happy to have a warm place to sleep!
The most fun I ever had in a hostel was in Amsterdam, back in the 70s. Upon returning from the famous Milky Way kasbah, we all had the munchies. What did we buy? Grapes, of course.
Picture each of us on the top bunk in a room with about 10 bunks. We tried spitting the seeds into a trash can that we placed in the center of the room. And as you can guess, the laughter and noise erupted whenever we hit the basket. Our poor roomies!
Regarding sex in hostels, it was quite prevalent back in the day. Not sure about now.
In my skiing days, I often bunked in unusual places. My buddy and I found a ski hostel not far from Sugar Bowl in the Sierras. We had a room with about six or eight cots, a large communal shower, with group meals at dinner and breakfast. I eventually took other groups up there, both friends and family. Alas, it burned down a few years later.
But my latest trip to Athens resulted in a two-star hotel, about a half step above a youth hostel. It was clean, quiet, and safe. But the stairs had not railings, and I had only one electrical outlet in my room for computer, phone, and anything else needing a charge. Breakfast was served in a cardboard box that had to be taken back to my room. The elevator had an accordion door that was quite cute, but also quite old. And it talked to me in both Greek and English! But really, who can complain at about $350 for the week, with air conditioning?
So, in my view of the world, one can never be too told for a hostel. Just be ready to see sex, drugs, rock n roll!!!!
“Garrigue” is one of those perfect wine words — a concise term that encompasses a larger, and very beautiful, idea. The word refers to the unique mix of vegetation that grows throughout parts of southern France, near the Mediterranean Sea: fragrant, shrubby plants including lavender, thyme, rosemary, white flowers and juniper. It’s thought that the oils from the native flora make their way onto grapes in nearby vineyards, imbuing the resulting wines with the intoxicating flavors and aromas that recall those plants.
Awkward Wine experts will describe a wine as awkward when it doesn’t have a good structure or its components (body, acidity, etc.) aren’t balanced. Maybe they are looking for a euphemism for cheap? Surprisingly, a “barnyard” aroma is considered a good thing – by many wine aficionados, at least. It encapsulates a few scents, including leather, hay, bacon, and – yes – manure. First of all, don’t panic. There’s no poop in the wine. The odor comes from Brettanomyces – a wild yeast that is sometimes found on grape skins or in oak barrels that can make its way into wine. Some people – particularly those who grew up on a farm or have positive associations with horse stables – actually enjoy this flavor note.
Toasty? No, a toasty wine was not warmed in the oven. Toasty doesn’t even mean that a wine tastes like toast. It generally means a wine as a note of burnt caramel, which comes from oak aging. I would like this!
Barrique — a 225-litre oak barrel used originally for storing and aging wines, originating in Bordeaux. Any relation to Baroque?
Malolactic fermentation — a secondary fermentation in which the tartness of malic acid in wine is changed into a smooth, lactic sensation. Wines described as “buttery” or “creamy” have gone through “malo”.
Negociant — French word describing a wholesale merchant, blender, or shipper of wine. A French wine merchant who buys grapes and vinifies them, or buys wines and combines them, bottles the result under his own label and ships them. Particularly found in Burgundy. Two well-known examples are Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot.
Ullage— the empty space left in bottles and barrels as a wine evaporates. I once knew a man named Ullage.
Long before plastic surgeons began practicing lifts of a very different sort, drinkers who encountered wines that were particularly lively, that had a bit of a bounce in the glass, often referred to them as lifted. The lift comes from a generous amount of acidity. The same wine could also be called juicy or bright. But those more commonplace words somehow seem less descriptive, since lifted is what many wine drinkers themselves feel when captivating aromas billow out of a glass. Does this apply to plastic surgery??
American Oak Increasingly popular as an alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine as quality improves and vintners learn how to treat the wood to meet their needs. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for which it is the preferred oak. It’s less desirable, although used occasionally, for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Many California and Australia wineries use American oak, yet claim to use French oak because of its more prestigious image. American oak barrels sell in the $250 range, compared to more than $500 for the French ones.
MERITAGE:An invented term, used by California wineries, for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. Combines “merit” with “heritage.” The term arose out of the need to name wines that didn’t meet minimal labeling requirements for varietals (i.e., 75 percent of the named grape variety). For reds, the grapes allowed are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec; for whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Joseph Phelps Insignia and is an example of a wine whose blends vary each year, with no one grape dominating.
TCA stands for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, a compound that forms when phenols interact with chlorine and mold. In addition to grapes, barrels, wooden pallets, wood beams and cardboard cases are all sources of phenols. TCA most frequently occurs in wines bottled with natural corks, which are sanitized with a solution made from chlorine. When the wine comes in contact with the cork, TCA develops, causing musty aromas and flavors in wines. That is why wines with these off-aromas are often described as “corked.”
Although TCA taint poses no health concerns for wine drinkers, even in infinitesimal amounts, it can ruin a wine. At higher levels, it makes a wine smell moldy or musty, like cardboard, damp cement or wet newspapers. Most who encounter high levels of TCA, realize it is the cause of the befouled wine. At lower levels, TCA taint only strips a wine of its flavor, making it taste dull or muted. This experience can leave the drinker with the conclusion that the wine is simply bad. At even the low-ball estimates by the cork industry of 1-2% effected bottles, TCA-taint is a major concern for the wine industry, and a major influence on the growing popularity of alternative closures.What are bor and ardo? Hungarian, Basque, Turkish, and Greek are the only European languages that have words for wine not derived from Latin. The Hungarian word for wine is bor; the Basque word is ardo.
Lots of terms (from Winespeed), not really necessary to enjoy the wines you like. My suggestion is to keep it simple, drink what you like, but please tell us about it.
“A bottle of wine is an investment to keep the people we love at table for an extra hour every day.”—Wes Hagen, author and winemaker, J. Wilkes Winery
Almost everything here is affected by the volcanic soil, from the beaches to the crops, to the appearance of the geography. But perhaps, other than the famous Santorini wines, the food here takes on a distinct volcanic influence. Starting with vegetables, the unique aubergine or white eggplant is synonymous with Santorini. Though it is a little early for the white eggplant, the more familiar purple is used interchangeably.
Other vegetables grown here include capers, cherry tomatoes, and favas, yellow split peas similar to lentils. My fava last night was served hot, more like a soup, with pickled capers, and some herbs. It was quite good and reminded me of hummus.
The tiny tomatoes here are very sweet, and much tastier than the larger tomato varieties. Thie cherry tomatoes are made into tomato paste with capers, olive oil, salt, basil, and oregano, and served with bread. Another use is tomato fritters, which I have yet to try.
Remarkably, Santorini was known more as “tomato island” before the big eruption in 1950. Only one tomato processing plants remains from the thirteen at the height of tomato operations. I guess they traded tomatoes for tourism??
The small white eggplant shows up in stews, and salads, or smoked and pureed. Capers and pickled caper leaves show up in salads, or the fava soup.
Less well known is katsuni, or cucumber, which becomes sweeter like a melon, if not picked in time. And remarkably, wild greens from the hillsides are used in salads in the spring.
I just meant to stop for some potatoes and a beer. But I ended up with several beers, and a lamb kabob. Our kebabs are much better back home, being both marinated, and better cut of the lamb. The owner said he does not marinate, due to the type of customers he has, namely tourists. The lamb ribs are also good but a little fatty.
Typical dishes here are skordonomakarona, which is a homemade pasta with Santorini tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt, and apochti, which is a spiced pork carpaccio. Thank the Byzantines for that last dish.
After I received another complimentary Greek yogurt, and kidoni, which is a delicious, candied quince. I learned they have another sweet, called kopania. It is made with barley, raisins, and sesame seeds. It sounds good.
You know what, I have not tried the local baklava yet. Nor have I tried the local squid, prawns, or octopus. Hard to put those two food groups in one paragraph!!!
I ordered a fresh, not frozen lobster for dinner tonight. BTW, the Greeks or at least the chefs here in Santorini know how to cook rice. My friend, Apostolos, would not let me eat a frozen lobster, my thanks to him. They prepared it perfectly, grilled mostly, but not steamed. It was flavorful and very juicy!!!
As I mentioned before, Santorini has a dry volcanic microclimate, which enhances their wine. The vines are the oldest in Europe, and impervious to phylloxera that wiped out most of Europe’s vines in the late 19th century. As you saw in my photos, the vines grow very close to the ground, to take advantage of the moisture, and to protect the grapes from rather strong winds, like today.
I am not crazy about either of their two main wines, the assyrtiko and the vinsanto. The Mykteri, which is assyrtiko made at night, is more tolerable.
Another sweet wine, the mavrotragano, reminds me of the more familiar mavrodaphne.
My friend, Kostas, has provided his wild oregano for me to take home. He also makes his own goat cheese, of which I must say, is the best I have ever had. And I am not fond of goat cheese.
I have met people from Wales, Poland, UK, Belgium, and Marin County. BTW, they love Americans here. Their most dreaded tourists are the Middle Easterners, and as always, the French.
The oranges here are better than ours, but they come from mainland central Greece.
I made some nice friends here, met many others. The locals really need American tourists now. They love us, we know how to spend $$!!
I am headed back to Athens for 6 days, skipping Krakow and Auschwitz. I think you know why!!!
As I first began my research for visiting Santorini, one feature sang out to me. It was the fabulous wines of Santorini. Most of us drank some cheap retsina in college. And I had the benefit of learning about Mavrodaphne from my friends at Lola in Seattle. In fact, I have a few bottles of Mavro here at home.
But I am learning that Santorini is perhaps one of the best wine growing regions in Greece, and the greater Mediterranean region. Some go so far as to say it is the Greek version of Napa Valley!
After all, the Greeks have been making wine here for over 3000 years. Santorini has about forty native varieties of wines. And rather uniquely, the vines lay low to the ground, in round baskets made from the canes, to protect the grapes from high winds.
The most popular is Assyrtiko, rich and tasty, used mostly in white wines. Mantilaria is the most popular red wine, though it is also dried and used for sweeter wines. Assyrtiko is also dried to make Vinsanto, a strong sweet wine that is also aged in oak barrels for five years or more. Nykteri is another white wine that is picked only at night, to avoid oxidation and spoiling.
Santo Wines is the largest on the island, actually a cooperative, and located on the rim of the caldera, not far from Fira. Santo also has traditional produce like tomatoes, fava beans and capers. Santo Wines was founded back in 1947, just after the end of WW2.
Santo represents all of the cultivators and 1200 active members on the island. The winery itself was created in 1992. Two wine flights are offered, a six and a twelve! And the necessary wine tours, large wine shop, and cafe’. Best of all, it is only 4km from Fira. I can even get UPS home delivery!!
But several people, from doormen to restaurant owners, tell me that Domaine Sigales is THE place for wine. I will find out, I guarantee. So far, the wine here has been a big disappointment. And the best beer going is probably a Heineken.
The vines on the volcanic Greek island of Santorini are trained into kouloura (wreaths or baskets) to protect the grapes from fierce winds and unrelenting sun (the grapes hang inside the baskets). The vines grow, wound into bigger and bigger baskets, for an average of 80 years, whereupon the vine is “revitalized” by decapitating it just above the ground. When dormant buds begin to grow from the roots, a whole new top begins. A vine may be revitalized up to 5 times in its life. That’s 5 x 80 years, or a root system that’s at least 400 years old. Eleni—thank you! We should have noted this in our piece.
Final thought: after Eleni wrote in, I began to wonder if a root system (as opposed to the whole vine) qualified as an old vine. I asked Dr. Carole Meredith, Professor Emerita, Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California at Davis. Said Dr. Meredith, “My own opinion with regard to the Santorini vines is that, assuming the vines are on their own roots (as I believe the Santorini vines are) and not grafted to a rootstock, I would consider these old vines. The fact that the above-ground portion is [pruned] every few decades is no different than for any other old vine that is pruned every year. The fruit-bearing shoots are always going to be young on any grapevine.” So there we have it.
I have yet to have a really good wine here.
I visited three wineries yesterday. Maybe one wine caught my palate. It was an Assyrtiko from Estate Argyros, the third winery I visited. But I am glad I tried, I gave their wines a fair shake, or sip, as the case may be.
The wines here are different due to the volcanic soils and pumice. I will try not to complain about California wines again!
Before taking this trip, it seems almost everyone is an expert on Santorini. After all, it is a small island in the Aegean, though inhabited by less than 16,000 residents.
Traveler 365 has an interesting list:
Santorini receives over 2.2 million tourists a year, though the last year was hardly negligible.
There are more churches than houses here, though many of the churches are small and private.
Wine is more plentiful than water here, due to the dry climate.
Santorini is the only inhabited caldera in the world.
I like this, over 100 varietals of grapes are grown here.
Until 1960, they had no electricity, just donkeys and fishermen.
Santorini is the southernmost of the Cyclades.
The unique architectural style is “white cubes” though many were destroyed in the 1956 earthquake.
Some people think this is the lost island of mythological Atlantis.
The entire island is volcanic rock (reminds me of the Big Island).
Santorini has some secret hot springs. And no cliff jumping for me either!
I also hear there are secret nude beaches! Did you know that, Webb?
Santorini has 16 wineries, and some of the finest wines in Greece. Wine has been made here for over 3000 years.
Santo Wines has an 18 wine flight! But only about 10,000 bottles of wine are made annually.
Most beaches are black sand, or just off white, but one is RED! There is even a Virgin Beach.
Don’t ride the donkeys!
The eggplant is white here, not purple.
The movie theater is an open air cinema.
The island is 35 square miles, or 91 square kilometers.
Fava is the most famous dish here, actually a yellow split pea puree.
Greek yogurt is real here.
My Santorini insider says Domaine Sigales is the winery to visit.
No doubt, the food and wine are big attractions here, along with the view.
My first trip to Greece was scheduled for 1971. I was planning to meet a friend there, but something really life changing happened along the way. Now, 50 years later, here I am. So now you know, when I say go, please go!!! Let me just say this island is simply unique, beautiful, relaxing, and a tinge touristy. But they welcome us with open arms, they love Americans, and our $$!!
I ate a big breakfast when I arrived at the hotel, aptly named Volcano View. So, on my first venture into Fira town, I finally stopped for a glass of white wine, as Santorini is famous for their white wines. After the first glass, the manager gave me another to try. And he said if I brought my friends here, we would get a free bottle of their famous Assyrtiko wine!
But this is a small island, and I hope not to catch the dreaded “island fever” so prevalent in places like Hawaii, Bora Bora, and Tahiti.
Much like other tourist hot spots, location is often the key to meeting your tourist and sightseeing needs. Here on Santorini, the question comes down to Oia or Fira.
Stay in Fira for nightclubs, restaurants and shopping. Fira is nonstop tourists, cruise shippers, and partiers. And amazing views. Fira has cheaper places to eat.
Stay in Oia for a quieter, more artistic atmosphere, that will be super crowded at sunset for the hordes of viewers. Oia is fairly quiet the remainder of the day. Oia is more romantic.
Guess which one I selected? That’s right, Fira, in the heart of the action, of course. Both have great views. Tours leave from both places. Renting a car for wine tasting is easier in Fira. The airport is only 10 minutes away. Fira is more central, and easier to to get around by bus. Fira is closer to the beach. And the action!
Mostly, I can walk most everywhere. When I get tired, I can just hop on the local bus, which goes everywhere on the island.
Renting a car was okay for beach and winery visits. But the streets in the towns are narrow and people do not know how to park!
No matter, I am just a short flight away from Athens. I leave very early Monday morning.
Everyone has an opinion about where to stay in Santorini. We shall see.
But I am going to Domaine Segales for wine tasting, I guarantee that!!!
Athens was fun, relaxed, but ultimately, a big concrete city. I look forward to the open space of Santo, the caldera, the wine, and a slower pace, if that is possible.
Yes, I was in a college fraternity, and was often called a “Greek” even though I am not of Greek origin. We were known as a professional fraternity, but had the best parties on campus. But let’s take a rather irreverent look at the Greeks, as we know them today.
Greeks have the most sex in the world (and have held the title for ten years).
Greeks were the first to go “full Monty” with the 1931 film, Daphnis and Chloe.
Greeks stick together, as they have the lowest divorce rate in Europe, but have the highest abortion rate
A Greek physician, Soranus, believed that sneezing was a form of contraception. .
Hippocrates considered the human body to be just a bag of fluid.
Before the invention of toilet paper, the Greeks tied sea sponges to a stick.
The original Santa Claus was born a Greek.
In ancient Greece, athletes performed naked. This might be okay if the athlete is Caroline Wozniacki or Paige Spiranac. Leprosy was grounds for a divorce in Greece until 1983.
Ancient Greeks considered drinking undiluted wine a barbaric habit.
Ancient Greece held the Olympic Games to honor the Greek god, Zeus.
Greek was the most common language, thousands of years ago.
Never leaves shoes lying on their side, it is considered bad luck!
Greeks always enter and leave a house by the same door.
Never leave a wallet or a purse empty.
Don’t take a boat unless it is seaworthy.
Greece is the leading producer of sea sponges.
Even Grandma never moves out.
Greece began the first community dump around 500 BC.
The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic.
Greece is the third leading producer of olives in the world.
Greeks are very superstitious.
All Greeks over the age of 18 are required to vote.
Do not, I repeat, do not EVER ask a Greek for Turkish coffee.
Greece has 8498 miles of coastline.
Not all feta is the same. They must have a dozen different ones.
The national drink is ouzo.
Food delivery scooters and motos are prevalent.
Cab drivers try to hustle us on trips to far away tourist sites like Poseidon.
Greeks do not treat people of color very well. However, I am doing okay.
The food is impressive.
Did I bore you? I am ready for coffee soon, strong, Greek coffee.
PS: The idea of drunk Sinatra is quite vivid. He drank while performing on stage toward the end of his illustrious career.