that summer buzz | an apple brandy cocktail with a ginger-honey syrup

Summer is in full swing here on the Western Slope of Colorado. We’ve had a couple of days nearing 100ºF, and both the garden and the vineyard are responding to the heat. It’s definitely hitting us hard, so we’ve been retreating indoors midday to keep our cool. So, here I am, sitting at my kitchen table and sharing this cocktail with you, ice water in hand. Mid-July is when my husband and I hit our stride and feel like we are constantly tying up grapevines, trellising sprawling tomato vines, and putting up an endless fight with surging weeds.

It’s all energizing and all so tiring. But it’s the “good” kind of tiring, you know? The kind where you come inside at the end of a hard day outside, hit the shower, make a chilled drink, and fall asleep hard.

I’m sharing a cocktail recipe I shot and developed in early May, right before we undertook the task of planting 4,700 new, grafted grapevines. The last few weeks are honestly a blur to me, and I’m finally resurfacing from that crazy endeavor. I didn’t want the summer to get away from me without sharing this aromatic, ginger-driven whiskey cocktail with you.

It’s summery, bright, refreshing, and filled with notes of ripe apples and spice, and it features a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pommeau from one of my favorite Colorado cider producers, Big B’s, located right here in the North Fork Valley, just about a half-mile down the road from my house.

How lucky am I?!

Continue reading

rosé rhubarb gin sour cocktails | meet the chickens

I recorded 31,641 steps on a single day this past week.

I heard the first hummingbird of the season.

The grapevine buds are showing the first signs of swelling, signaling their impending arrival.

Spring is here, and I definitely feel it. We’ve turned on our vineyard irrigation water, seen the first pops of apple blossoms, and almost finished pruning the established vines. Honestly, before I started farming, my favorite seasons were spring and fall; however, after learning how vines announce (demand?) their readiness, I think that I most enjoy summer and winter. Those are the months where you feel most in a routine. Not a frenetic race that’s based upon Mother Nature’s whims, desires, or demands.

I’m continually learning and growing, just like the vines, and one thing that I’m focused upon this spring is taking time to make room for things that I love. So many times I end up, in mid-July, thinking about how fast the spring season passed. I don’t want to experience that same feeling again this year, come midsummer.

Before our vineyard was producing grapes, it was an apple orchard. I have no idea why the trees were ripped up and replanted with grapevines, but one thing I’m grateful for is that we have one amazing, remaining apple tree, leftover from that original planting. Just last week, we pruned that precious apple tree, and I made sure to collect a few of the branches, so that I could force the blossoms. I had future cocktail recipes already in my mind.

And it looks like we’ll get a harvest this fall, pending the pleasant weather-streak holds.

Continue reading

how to pair wine with vegetables | a farewell to a favorite friend

I’m writing about creating magical pairings of two of my favorite things – vegetables and wine. Sipping on a wine, made with grapes picked at their prime, and pairing it with peak-season vegetables is such a capture of nature’s timing. A palpable rhythm you can taste and feel. I’m also sharing a story and photo-series from one of the most memorable evenings of last summer, a late-season asado we co-hosted with the Forage Sisters here in the North Fork Valley, impeccably captured by Irene Durante Photography.

You know that rhythm and feeling of timelessness. When you experience that perfect pairing, time truly stops, your senses awaken, and your subconscious mind immediately begins to stitch together the sounds, sights, smells, and surroundings at that specific moment.

You notice the music. You slow down a bit and take a breath. You glance over and witness the shared expressions of your dining companions. You remember the aroma of clipping fresh herbs with your grandmother, perhaps. You smile. You swirl the pink wine in your glass. You close your eyes and forget, thankfully, for a moment, that your phone is in your lap. You allow your bodily senses to record it all.

And you do your very best to feel it fully and permanently imprint it upon your mind.

You want to remember it.

Last summer, we co-hosted a wine dinner with two of our favorite culinary artists, Nicole Carrillo and Mirasol Gomez of the Forage Sisters. These two creative and intuitive chefs are such an incredible joy to work alongside, and, like we do, they choose to work with nature’s ebbs and flows, letting what’s in season shine. Letting the ingredients and base products take center stage.

Continue reading

amethyst basil gin smashes | a tour at pea & posy flower farm

As I write this post and share these photos, I’m already growing thirsty for spring and summer’s appearance again. Just before the fall season swept in, with its toasty, golden hues and shorter days, I visited one of my favorite flower farms on the Western Slope, Pea & Posy, where I got to spend time with my friend and flower farmer, Calli Ferber.

As a fellow female farmer, I enjoy visiting other properties and chatting with women growers, getting a peek into their daily lives, and leaving with a little inspiration from observing their particular farming setup, learning about their environmental hurdles, and listening to their business ideas. I always leave feeling less isolated and am reminded that farming is so much more than planting seeds, dealing with weeds, or even growing incredible produce.

It’s about community and connection, both with the earth and with each other.

Calli graciously sent me home with some of her garden-fresh amethyst basil. She’d recently posted a basil gin smash on her Instagram Stories, made with amethyst basil leaves, and the cocktail’s bright, magenta-hued color caught my eye. I brought home that small bouquet of fragrant basil, grabbed a favorite gin, and immediately fashioned a version of my own.

I’ll share the recipe below. First, let’s get to know Calli a little further and dig deeper into her journey, her focused devotion to her family, her challenges that she faces farming in the high-desert, drought-prone mesa country of western Colorado, and her blossoming creative outlet, which is her flower farm.

And our shared love of gin-based cocktails, of course.

Continue reading

spicy cucamelon cocktails | why culinary treats are the best travel souvenirs

First of all, happy almost-end-of-summer!! I’m excited to share the story behind this spicy cucamelon cocktail that I created after returning from a trip to NYC, where I toured and savored its verdant famers markets. I’m definitely reveling in these final days of summer and doing my best to capture their vibrancy by making jams, jellies, relishes, chutneys, and, of course, cocktails.

This particular trip to New York City in the fall of 2019 just might be my favorite culinary trip I’ve taken. Yes, I’ve had some incredible food-and-wine-centric trips throughout my wine career. Traveling to historic places like Burgundy, France; visiting the Vinho Verde region in Portugal; exploring the Piemonte, home to Barolo and Barbaresco, in Italy; and touring the vineyards in Ribero del Duero y Rueda in Spain were all career and personal highlights for me.

None of these trips, however, compared to traveling to New York City two years ago with several of my favorite chef and sommelier friends within the culinary industry. There is nothing like rolling out of bed (maybe a little hungover?) and exploring the city’s various farmers markets to source produce, flowers, or meat that will be served at a dinner later that evening, with the very chefs, who will be cooking the dishes.

In 2019, my husband and I were chosen, along with our industry friend and colleague, Jen Mattioni, to be the beverage component of the Colorado FIVE, a group of five talented chefs, who are changing the face and direction of the Colorado culinary scene. I’ve shared one of the epic dinners we’ve thrown in another post, to reference the kind of scale and pomp these dinners have. Throughout the summer season, each of the five chefs within the Colorado FIVE team hosts a five-course dinner at his or her respective restaurant, we pair the drinks, and we all raise money for charity.

The year culminates at a dinner that we host at the James Beard House in New York City.

Yes, that James Beard.

Continue reading