Category Archives: summer

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?!

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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.

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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.

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the peach blossom | a cocktail inspired by a flower farm tour at deer tree farm

I’m not that good at self-care lately. I’m just being honest. This year has beaten me up, but there hasn’t been time to recuperate. Perhaps I should rephrase that – I haven’t taken the time to recuperate. There is always time for what you deem important.

I came in a little early this evening to share this post and recipe I shot and created earlier this week. Today was exceptionally smoky and hot. Here in Colorado, there are four wildfires burning, two of which are relatively close by. I’ve been working outdoors in 97ºF weather, while wearing an N95 mask to keep my lungs protected. I could have finished weeding two more rows of Riesling, but I opted to take a late-afternoon bath and pour myself a little sip of wine from said Riesling.

It was a priority shift.

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I haven’t checked in here in a while, and I could share some war stories from the past few months. I think we call could do that, given the unrest, the tumult, and the uncertainty this year has gifted us. I use that word intentionally – gifted. While the process is is beleaguering, going through periods of unrest, tumult, and uncertainty can be poignant periods of growth, if we are willing to embrace it.

Right now, I’m crying mercy. And choosing to share something beautiful. I hope I can embrace what I need to learn, but I seriously want some reprieve. So, I took that late-afternoon tub bath. I took my medicine.

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Jen Mattioni of Q House garnishing her Five-Spice Old Fashioneds.

five-spice old fashioned | knapp ranch dinner with the colorado FIVE

Just over two weeks ago, Steve and I helped host and orchestrate a dinner at the most epic location. Expansive hillside views, lush and abundant wildflowers, and cool and fresh mountain air, alongside a culinary team of which dreams are made. Hosted by Chef Bryan Redniss of The Rose, in Edwards, Colorado, this Japanese kaiseki-style dinner was a bucket list event not only for us, who helped produce, execute, and capture the dinner, but also for the 80 people who were lucky enough to snag a seat before the experience sold out.

That evening was one of those moments that doesn’t come along very often, where you look around and take notice of what’s actually happening – you truly can’t imagine someplace else that you’d rather be. It felt like it may have been the highlight of the Colorado food scene this year. The scenery was so beautiful that photos can’t even capture the magnitude of the  S P A C E  there at Knapp Ranch. For the design enthusiasts and foodies out there, this property is owned and curated by the former owner of Architectural Digest and Bon Appétit magazines, Bud Knapp. I had the pleasure of meeting him and touring his home and expansive gardens at his ranch that sit at 9,000 feet above sea level.

I am sharing one of my favorite cocktails that evening from my friend and fellow Colorado FIVE beverage team member, Jen Mattioni, owner of Q House in Denver. She crafted this bright, savory, spiced version of the classic Old Fashioned cocktail for the appetizer course at the Knapp Ranch dinner and paired it alongside savory bites like Duane Walker of Morin Restaurant‘s panko-fried confit chicken thighs with black garlic, sweet chili fish caramel, spicy mustard, foie gras aioli, and furikake.

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