Winter Comes: Solstice Libations

December 21st is the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice. My goth heart pings. Something about the short days and brisk air makes me feel safe. Which is probably a bad sign. But I’ve kept myself alive thus far. To celebrate the coming sun (the better to grow your grapes by), we are going to drink and pay homage to the two extremes. We will welcome sun with solar themes drinks! AND we will say farewell to the moon and thank the night for keeping us goths pale. Oh wait that was my reason. But hopefully you can also celebrate the pretty pretty moon-shine of night. And then! We will look at drinks paying homage to what you might find on your Wiccan altar table. I’m not actually Wiccan (anymore), but one of the things I did really like about Wicca was that it involves celebrating the seasons. Did you know I was a teenage witch? Naturally, I still have my Wiccan cookbook. It’s called The Wicca Cookbook, written by Jamie Wood and Tara Seefeldt. For your Winter Solstice celebrations, it suggests lighting a red, orange or yellow candle as you “wait for the coming of light”. Decorations might include many of the ones we associate with Christmas—the Christian world appropriated a lot of the pagan themes to popularize their holidaze so… So mistletoe, pine, holly and burning a Yule log are all in there. Traditional solstice flavors include juniper, nutmeg, rosemary and sage. Whatever your faith or lack thereof, we can maybe all just link arms and agree that trees and spices help us warm up and appreciate winter whether we are into Jesus, saying hi to the Sun King, or just want to get lit and party on. Excellent. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ CELEBRATE THE PINE TREE WITH THE FLAVOR OF JUNIPER A juniper-tastic beverage calls for gin! But make it holiday. Chocolate Negroni based on a recipe in Kara Newman’s “Nightcap”: 1 oz. gin - I prefer a basic one like Beefeater for this ¾ sweet vermouth (I used Dolin but if you have Carpano Antica good on you) ¾ Campari ¼ dark chocolate crème de cacao 3 dashes chocolate bitters Orange wedge (I used just the peel) as garnish Stir over ice and strain over one rock in rocks glass. Garnish with orange! FOR THE YULE LOG You knew we needed a flaming cocktail, right? Please be careful. Use a long match to light your booze. Use heatproof glasses. Wipe up any spills—that over proof gin is flammable, which we want if we are in charge of the flame, but not if there are matches or candles near errant spills. But I trust you will make that flame your b*@ch. Conjure the light. And maybe blow it out if it burns too long. Then cheers. I take no responsibility for any accidental fires. Oh! And don’t even think about paper straws. They like flames too. Big Ruby (a riff on a drink called the Big Red I found on 2 oz. navy strength gin (separated in 1 ½ oz. and a ½ oz.)—I used Hernö 2/3 oz. grapefruit juice ½ oz. fresh lime juice plus ½ a lime ½ oz. Cherry Heering ½ oz. allspice dram 1 tsp. orgeat Shake all but the ½ oz. of gin. Strain into a coupe. Hollow the lime half, turn it inside out, and float on top of the cocktail. Fill with the ½ oz. gin and light it up. See above for instructions on safety. IN HONOR OF COMING LIGHT 2018 Casa La Rad ‘Solarce’ Rioja Rosé : The name of this says it all: SOLARce! This is indeed rad. Flowers and fruit. Pepper and berries and…it tastes like sunshine. Truly. The estate embraces biodiversity growing olives and almonds and cereals. Equal parts Tempranillo , Garnacha , Graciano and Mazuelo . So much red fruit and so much tiny red flowers. I can’t even. The Sun Also Tequila Rises: I had to channel this through the king of darkness Hemingway. Well known for his daiquiri take, I influenced a tequila sunrise with the flavors of grapefruit and rum. The grenadine I went with because it is made of pomegranate—a very winter solstice appropriate fruit! -2 oz. silver rum -2 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice -2 oz. orange juice -3/4 oz. grenadine Add the rum, orange juice, and grapefruit juice (strained, if you are pulp aversive) into a rocks glass over ice and stir. Pour the grenadine in. It will sink to the bottom. Give it a gentle swirl and look at your pretty sunrise. SAY BYE TO NIGHT BY HONORING THE MOON Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” Cabernet Sauvignon : How about a moon goddess? Artemis, along with Selene and Hecate were all moon goddesses. And do I still have Hecate incense? Yah. Do I also want an excuse to open Stag’s Leap? HELL YEAH. The nose is woof! All the fruit you can fit into a glass—that lovely cassis thing. The palate is big and full but will not weigh you down. A WINE TO HONOR LIGHT AND DARK (AND SIP IN THE SHOWER) But what of a wine that is both dark and light? Or, at least light in terms of appearance? That is Nebbiolo , babeeee. It truly manages to look so lithe, and ephemeral, yet can be heady and hypnotizing as staring at the full moon on a dark dark night. It is. So. Goth. And also happens to be my pick for a shower wine for the longest night. Make it the longest shower too! 2017 Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo : It’s a bit of a brooder. It needs air and time to unwind the tales that hide under the tannins. But there are tender pink flower petals under the brambles. Dig deep. It’s got the classic tannins of a Nebbiolo but they are not so bitter as to make you run for cover as your mouth dries. But if it does, you’re drinking this in the shower, right? Night and day, my dears. It is both night and day. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: Perfect Pie Pairings Samhain Sips Goth Rosé From Lalaland to Languedoc Ellen in Lalaland: Return of the Bar Covell You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Anush O’Connor Wine Situation Final Five! With John Michael Morcilio

Hacienda Terra d'Uro

URO Toro Tempranillo 2014

Jan A

Tempranillo, their low yield top cuvee from bush vines of 90+ years old. Concentrated nose of pencil shavings, dark fruit, spices, chalky tannins and 18 months oak treatment give a long lasting, drying finish. 94RP — 4 years ago

Bob, pascal and 4 others liked this

Bodegas Alto Moncayo

Veraton Garnacha 2015

A nose of fruit, vanilla, oak, sweet spices and smoke. Still quite tannic on the palette with ok balance. Full bodied, heavy and concentrated black fruits with plenty of oak. Crowd pleaser. — 4 years ago

Jan, Peter and 12 others liked this

Bodegas LAN

Reserva Rioja Tempranillo Mazuelo 2011

John Howard

Good with the asparagus, chants and trumpets. — 5 years ago

Severn, P and 15 others liked this


Napa Valley Sweet Vermouth

David T

This is one of the more usual and pleasant creations I’ve had in Napa.

Dark amber in color. Dried stone fruit; apricot, nectarine & peach. Marmalade, dry pineapple, caramel & butterscotch notes, Lipton tea with sugar, burnt top of creme brûlée, very nice round acidity and a delicious polished finish.

This makes for a great dessert wine or will drink nicely on its own. Worth picking up a bottle and trying at $35. I definitely did.

The Matthiasson Sweet Vermouth is made from a very uncommon varietal in Napa, Flora. It’s a varietal created in the 1950’s from a cross between Semillon and Gewurztraminer. Surprisingly, this varietal still grows in the Yount Mill Vineyard in Oakville.

They pick the fruit late increasing the sweetness during fermentation and adding cane sugar or in wine terminology, capitalize it. 17% ABV but, you never sense it as such.

Photos of, Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson, shots from around their property and their Calistoga vineyard.
— 5 years ago

Severn, Hermes and 17 others liked this

R. López de Heredia

Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja Tempranillo Blend 2005

This 14 year old Rioja is drinking very nicely now. Well balanced with nice complexity and mouthfeel.

Dry and smooth on the palate with medium acidity.

Showing black fruits with earth, wood, spices, peppercorn, dark chocolates, tobacco, cola, graphite and vegetables.

Long finish with round tannins.

Very powerful with an elegant mouthfeel. This 2005 was a great vintage in Rioja and it has many years in it still.

I paired it with a charcuterie board of meats and cheeses.

A blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo.

13% alcohol by volume.

91 points.

— 4 years ago

Daniel P., Ira and 35 others liked this

Eric Influencer Badge

Tondonia is a classic producer!


Love Tondonia. It always over delivers for the money.

Renato Ratti

Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo 2017

Oooh Nebbiolo is a sexy wine for a chilly rainy noir winter’s night. Smells like a library someone burnt incense in a couple of nights ago. It’s aggressive in the mouth. Those tannins are fighting but underneath them are the flower petals and between bramble and bite and delicate manners it’s a fun wine for an excellent price. — 4 years ago

Eric, Trixie and 20 others liked this


Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Trixie thanks, m’dear!!


Aperitivo Liqueur

NV - Classic. On the rocks. To give a normal day a silver lining. Nice apero. — 6 years ago

Dick, Peter and 8 others liked this


Navy Strength Gin

Higher proof. The better to light your cocktails by. — 4 years ago

Eric, Mark and 7 others liked this

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Artemis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

The juice, the energy, the dammit I don’t want it to be so tasty but...Artemis got you. Because she’s a goddess and says so. I mean, there are other deities. Ones more powerful or whatevs but I’ll run through the woods with this for a night — 4 years ago

Greg, David and 29 others liked this

Casa La Rad

Solarce Rioja Tempranillo Blend Rosé

Red berries and red flowers and fun like that. This is brilliant and vibrant and has so much to say I can’t quite write it fast enough. I love this wine. — 4 years ago

Severn, Bob and 10 others liked this
Ellen Clifford

Ellen Clifford Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Andrew Holod @Delectable Wine Uh oh is it tagged wrong? But Andrew this is SO satisfactory pink wine. Hope I can try more of your imports if this is a representative example!
Andrew Holod

Andrew Holod Influencer Badge

Thanks for your kind words. The challenge for the label identification is that all three colors of Solarce; white, rose, red all have the same label art. The only difference is the word Blanco, Rosado, Tinto...