Generally speaking, there are two kinds of wine lovers; those who enjoy wine as-is, and those who like to experiment.
For the latter, and depending on the season, wine can be iced or heated, and bubbles, fruits or spices can be added to create an entirely new drink. Luckily for us, Spokane area winemakers and restaurants that serve these locally made libations are aware of this trend and have some delicious options ready to taste, including the following.
TINTO DE VERANO
Kendall Yards-based winery Craftsman Cellars jumped on board the wine-based drink trend two summers ago, when it began offering its own Tinto de Verano, which is Spanish for "red wine of summer."
This wine drink is said to be similar to sangria, but simpler, and is traditionally made up of one part red table wine and one part Gaseosa, a Spanish brand of lemon soda similar to Sprite or 7-Up.
Margo Shelman, who co-owns Craftsman Cellars with her husband, Greg, says the drink was the brainchild of her son and daughter-in-law.
"Craftsman makes red wines, so I'd asked them to experiment with ideas for a cool summer drink that uses red wine," she says. "They came up with the recipe, and it's been a hit at our tasting room ever since."
Shelman says Craftsman's Tinto de Verano includes four ounces of their Right Bank Bordeaux Blend and four ounces of San Pellegrino sparkling water (blood orange or limonata flavor) over ice and garnished with a lemon slice.
"It's not overly sweet, and not too dry," she says. "Just a nice, balanced, cooling drink."
LATAH CREEK WINE CELLARS
HUCKLEBERRY D'LATAH, SANGRIA WINES
Spokane Valley-based Latah Creek is one of few local wineries that produces and bottles two wine-based drinks. The Huckleberry d'Latah is its riesling with huckleberry juices added, and its sangria is a cabernet blended with huckleberry juices.
Owner Mike Conway says the Huckleberry d'Latah is Latah Creek's most popular wine, although the sangria is quickly gaining in popularity.
"We only just started experimenting with the sangria, but our first batch that we made last fall sold out in two months," he says. "We bottled a new batch in early August that's available at our tasting room now."
Latah Creek's sangria is, Conway says, "sweet with some tartness; refreshing and delicious. You can serve it with chilled berries to keep it cool without watering it down, or add any other citrus fruits you'd like."
SPRITZERS, VARIATION ON THE FRENCH 75
Though it specializes in red wines, Green Bluff's Townshend Cellars also produces white and sparkling wines, some of which its owners say can make a refreshing treat when iced or paired with soda water.
Although Townshend doesn't make or offer any special wine-based drinks at its tasting room, owner Michael Townshend says the winery occasionally creates wine spritzers for visitors using sparkling water or seltzer.
"It's a delicious, low-alcohol option on those really hot days," he says.
Townshend's sparkling wine varieties can also be used to make a variation of the French 75, a cocktail traditionally made from gin, champagne, lemon juice and sugar.
"We can't offer it in our tasting room because we'd need a liquor license for that, but folks can definitely play around with their own versions at home," he says. "The version we've tried just on our own uses Townshend sparkling wine in place of champagne."
ARBOR CREST WINE CELLARS
FROZEN ROSÉ, SANGRIA
Arbor Crest owner Kristina van Löben Sels says the Spokane Valley winery offers a frozen rosé option — aka the Frosé — at its tasting room during the summer.
"It's a bit sweeter and a nice, cooling drink," she says. "As a winemaker, I'm a bit of a purist, so I prefer wine as is, but I love that others are experimenting with wine."
One such experiment occurred during this year's Inlander Restaurant Week, held last month, when SmokeRidge BBQ featured Arbor Crest's rosé on the menu in its house-made sangria.
"Our sangria is definitely not wimpy," says SmokeRidge BBQ owner Julie Sherwood. "It definitely has more of a liquor taste, with orange juice, five different fruit liqueurs and brandy added, too."
Sherwood says the restaurant offers some local wines, but prefers to stock a wide variety of wine from all over the world.
"We do still like to support local wineries and use locally made liquor in our cocktails, but overall, we like to bring in stuff you wouldn't otherwise be able to get," she says. "We're always doing something a bit different than your typical 'beer-and-cheer' barbecue place."
While van Löben Sels hadn't heard about SmokeRidge's sangria offering prior to Restaurant Week, she wasn't surprised to hear the restaurant had chosen an Arbor Crest wine to create it.
"Our wines do go pretty well with barbecued meats, so I'm sure it tasted great," she says.
SPRITZERS, MARGARITAS, WINE COCKTAILS
Downtown winery Barili Cellars also occasionally tries its hand at wine spritzers — wine poured over ice and mixed with soda water and lemon or lime — during the summer months, says owner Russ Fiest.
"We have done spritzers with our white wines like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and white port," he says. "Sweet white wines work well as spritzers because you can cut that sweetness with the citrus and it turns out pretty tasty."
Feist says that several local restaurants that carry Barili Cellars' wines use them to make other drinks and cocktails.
One of them is Mamma Mia's Italian Restaurant in North Spokane, which offers two seasonal drinks featuring Barili wines. The first is a margarita that uses Barili's Red'ass Red wine, and that's been dubbed the "Red Ass Rita." The second is a spiced wine served during winter holidays that showcases Barili's Double Barrel wine with mulled spices.
Mamma Mia's owner Kristi Heaton says the restaurant introduced the Red Ass Rita drink as a kick-start to summer this year and plans to offer the spiced wine this fall.
"Wine-based drinks are kind of a fun experiment, and we've been talking about doing more of that kind of thing with Barili's [wine]," she says.
Heaton says wine-based drinks aren't necessarily super popular with customers, simply because of their experimental nature.
"I think most people who drink wine do so because they enjoy wine as is," she says. "So yes, wine-based drinks are fun to try, but they're not really a regular thing."
Barili Cellars also custom-created two house wines for South Perry Lantern, a popular Perry District venue that reopened under new ownership this summer.
The restaurant's general manager Garrett Wellsandt says Barili's wines are used frequently in its spritzers, as well as a cocktail he describes as a spinoff of a traditional whiskey-based old fashioned.
"We do a red wine float over an old fashioned, which gives it the wine taste up front, followed by the fruit notes of orange, then the vanilla and oak of the whiskey below," he says. "The red top layer also makes for some fun color variation."
Wellsandt says the restaurant is still working on building its new fall cocktail menu, which should debut in early September.
"We're brainstorming lots of new ideas, some of which could definitely make creative use of wine," he says. ♦