Author Archives: Jayme Henderson

About Jayme Henderson

Occupationally speaking, I am a sommelier and mixologist at a busy, upscale Denver restaurant. I am lucky enough to spend most days tasting, pairing, and creating, alongside my cherished guests. I am also a contributor at the Kitchn, where I write about wine and gardening, tour cooks' kitchens, and interview innovative growers and makers. When I am not wearing those shoes, you can find me in my garden, preserving, painting, designing, and documenting my experiences along the way. I'm currently learning calligraphy and trying my best at home brewing. And I am seriously obsessed with my cats. And rosé.

persimmon gingersnap flips | a california state of mind

I guess you could say that I finally caught my breath. Just a breath. And it’s totally worth celebrating. It’s taken me nearly two months. Last Friday, I sneaked away for a couple of days and escaped to sunny Newport Beach with my friend, Kelly Pfeiffer. She was there to shoot some recipe videos. I was there to get out of my head and let my thoughts wander.

Kelly finished her shots, thanks to the talented hand of Haley Davis of Brewing Happiness. She truly works magic with the lens, and she’s just plain awesome to be around. We all laughed together at our antics between frames, we devoured every one of Kelly’s creations {a perk of on-site recipe shoots!}, and I took the opportunity to pair and share some wine with them.

The proverbial monkey is at least taking a break off of my back, and I feel somewhat recharged.

I brought a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, along with me. It’s an intimate glimpse into Elizabeth’s journey through creativity, and through anecdotal stories, Elizabeth shares her tips on lively creatively beyond fear. I’d read it before, but I knew it needed a revisit, since I’d felt so drained and lethargic with respect to anything creative. I seem to flip through its pages whenever I’m on a trip, especially a trip that I’ve declared as a catalyst for change.

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apple cider buck spritz | scenes from the grape harvest

Seasonal fruits yield seasonal cocktails, of course, but I don’t see why the season has to dictate cocktail styles so much. I’m still enjoying white wine with dinner, crisp rosés that I happen to score, and frozen cocktails and sorbets, filled with pears or apples. Things you’d mostly associate with warmer weather. I gave one of my favorite summer staples, the spritz, a fall twist. It’s versatile enough to enjoy on its own or in a punch bowl with a fruit-studded ice mold.

Herbal, spicy, bitter notes balanced with a finish of crisp and dry, bubbly apple cider.

How could anyone say no to this?

I know it’s been a few months, but I do have an excuse for my absence in the form of a beautiful story I’d love to share with you: our very first grape harvest. The bird netting is almost put away, the temperatures have dropped, the days are growing shorter, and fall projects have commenced here on the vineyard. Mirroring nature’s slower, autumnal dance, we’ve all lessened our pace, thankfully, and taken our first, albeit abbreviated, breaths of relief.

Most importantly, the last of the grapes have been picked, sold, and sent away. We made sure to save a few hundred pounds, however, so that we could give a go at making our own wine this inaugural harvest season. It’s been quite the learning curve, and no matter how many times you’ve interned or volunteered at a winery, it’s a completely different experience when the grapes and resulting wine are your own.

There are some days, in the middle of summer’s hectic, frenetic season and even now, that we just don’t leave the property. It can be a good or bad thing. Solitude is refreshing and rejuvenating for me, as an extroverted introvert, but it can also be downright isolating. Our team of four regularly escapes to our favorite watering hole, the tasting room at Big B’s Delicious Orchards, just a couple of miles down the road. The farm store and café both boast fare organically grown and raised on their property. There’s even a u-pick garden and a space to camp with a spectacular view of Mount Lamborn in the near distance.

Their ciders are some of the best I’ve ever tried. Head cider-maker, Shawn Larson, orchestrates a perfect balance with his various ciders: sweet and savory, crisp and visceral, fruity and just-enough bitter. My favorite has always been his Orchard Original, a dry, almost sparkling wine-like hard cider. The other one to try right now is his limited edition Ciaison Grand Cru Hard Cider, crafted with Winesap apples from here in the West Elks, tart orange peel, and coriander seeds, fermented in French oak Chardonnay barrels.

It would actually go perfectly here in this cocktail, too. Continue reading

the alpine margarita | settling into mountain life

I owe you all and myself a proper catch-up post here. That’ll have to wait, but I’ll give you a little peek into what’s been going on. So much has changed over the past three months, since we’ve transitioned from city life to farmer life. Out of all the questions I’m asked, I hear this one most frequently, “What is the biggest thing you didn’t expect when you moved to the country and began growing grapes?” Sure, the exhaustive work is challenging, the learning curve to become a successful grape-grower is a constant struggle, but the real challenge is weed control.

We are shifting the vineyard’s practices and employing organic and sustainable methods, so applying commercial herbicides or pesticides is not in our playbook. We’ve been doing a lot of hand-pulling and weed-eating, instead. There are weeding attachments for tractors, but we’ve been trying to save money on extra expenses. Instead, we’ve been doing the work ourselves. I have the callouses to prove it.

We are in the dead heat of summer, as many of you are, and seeking a cool respite from the sun’s pounding rays is always on our minds. Weeding in the stark sunlight is brutal. So, of course it was the perfect time for our swamp cooler to call it quits last week. It sputters out water and particulates and barely chills the air down to 80 degrees. I’m seriously considering crashing a local hotel pool or even trying to sneak into one of the fancy mountain pools sometime this weekend.

I’m desperate.

There is something so magical when you pair margaritas with a hot day. It’s like the two were meant for each other. Our vineyard is located just over a mile above sea level and gets more sunshine annually than Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State.” In fact, the mesa we’re farming on is aptly named, “Sunshine Mesa.” To beat the heat we’ve been experiencing, we’ve been making tequila-based cocktails on repeat over the last few weeks. This simple riff on the classic margarita takes a nod from the alpine area I live in and mixes it perfectly with freshly squeezed lime and orange liqueur.

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meyer lemon bourbon fizzes | a change of scenery

April has been quite the month for us, to put it lightly. Since our move out to the western slope of Colorado to the tiny town of Paonia a few weeks back, I’ve traded my dress suits for Carhartt overalls, I haven’t given wearing makeup a second thought, I go to bed before 11:00 on most evenings, and I’m learning how to drive a tractor.

Crazy, right?

Our nightly conversations involve discussions on pruning styles, vineyard trellising ideas, irrigation challenges, soil amendments, the right tractor attachment for weeding, and the next step for renovating our 1950s farmhouse. It’s definitely a fixer-upper, but it has charming potential. Some people might say it’s dated and basic, while I say it’s “rustic chic” and just begging for a breath of fresh air!

It’s hard to think that March 9th was my last night as a sommelier and manager at Shanahan’s back in the city. I know I have alluded to change over the past few months here on the blog, but I hadn’t gone into much detail. Now that I am finished with my job, it’s a little easier to do. For those of you who don’t know, Steve and I took a daring leap of faith and decided to follow our dreams of owning and operating a vineyard and eventual winery.

We had always thought we’d wind up in either California or Oregon, and we had always thought it was about ten years down the road. Well, when the timing is right, and the place is a perfect fit, you sometimes have to take the risk, close your eyes, jump out, and make the dream happen.

And that’s just what we did.

We asked two of our closest friends and fellow wine industry professionals to join us on this crazy adventure, and we have all been pruning just over 20 acres of grapevines over the past few weeks, in addition to acclimating to “roommate life” in a small farmhouse. Optimally, we would’ve started on the daunting task of clipping back the vines in March, but Steve and I were still finishing up our jobs there at the restaurant. I’ll share more about the move, our new place, and our plans for the future in another post. For now, I’ll share this simple cocktail I’ve been making with the remaining Meyer lemons that keep trickling into my kitchen.

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the tropicante | margarita of the year

Between packing up our old house and making small moves out to our new spot on the western slope of Colorado, Steve and I have barely had time to fix dinner, let alone relax and enjoy it together. Last night was different, however. Steve fired up the grill, despite the falling snow outside, and served up some Coho salmon, alongside a few handfuls of blanched spring peas and sautéed green onions.

I garnished every, last bite of salmon with fresh avocado, since we’ve had a lot of it on hand this past week. It has made appearances on sourdough avocado toast, layered between salsa and corn chips, piled on by the spoonful, and even muddled up in a few cocktails. Have you ever tried adding avocado to a drink? If you have enjoyed any egg whites-based cocktails, then you understand the delicious role that texture plays and the sometimes surprising ingredients that make it happen. Adding avocado does the very same thing an egg white does – it adds a rich, silky mouthfeel and integrates a variety of flavors together.

I find it perfectly timed that I get to share an avocado-based cocktail with you that’s in the running for Patrón’s 2017 “Margarita of the Year.” It’s one of seven artisanal, creative spins on the versatile, classic cocktail, crafted by top-notch bartenders around the world. One of those bartenders in the running is Denver’s own Alex Kady of 12 @ Madison and Star Bar. His Tropicante Margarita is a whipped combination of reposado tequila, mango liqueur, citrus, and avocado. It’s also the perfect brunch cocktail to complement your go-to avo toast. I might have done just that. On a Wednesday.

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