If it didn’t snow, it rained. And more often than naught, it rained. Which, I suppose, was a good thing if you were a college student who should be spending hours indoors studying.
As an undergrad in upstate New York, the brilliant foliage seemed short-lived, in comparison to the perpetually wet weather we seemed to endure. I adored the snow, welcomed it. The crisp crunch under my feet, the stillness as it insulated the earth. The world felt like mine when it snowed, I felt silent and quiet. The woods were a wonderland. My apartment a haven.
But my little college town was infamous for its rain, and after a week on campus, even the newest freshman learned fast — umbrellas were a necessity.
The weather forced one to study, but on those rare days when the clouds called ceasefire, it was an opportunity to explore.
The Finger Lakes were a jaunt away, and as my senior year approached, I realized that I still had not explored this region with its rustic wineries tucked along its windy shores. When a clear weekend free of pressing assignments presented itself, I finally had my chance.
New to wine and the practice of wine tasting, I relished it with a naive tongue, nuances and technicalities flying over my head. There had not been a Wine Tasting 101 course. I wish there had been.
With all the overwhelming flavors that competed for my palate’s attention, there was one that was able to impress me. It was that aha moment, if you understand what I mean. The humble Mulled Wine was something I could understand.
A full bodied wine, steeped in fruit and sweetness, with the familiar winter spices found in holiday baking, I found something I could appreciate in mulled wine. Perhaps it was the familiarity. Or maybe its simplicity. It may have been the jovial ambiance and the rustic surroundings. All I know is that I have never forgotten that first sip of steaming mulled wine.
Much like its romantic and carefree cousin, the summer sangria, mulled wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends, lots of them, warm glasses in hand, the heat from a fireplace nearby, toasts to good health exchanged. I raise my glass to you. Here’s to a Happy New Year — may you be surrounded by the warmth of your friends and family. Cheers!
Like sangria, mulled wine is a forgiving beverage that doesn't require costly wine to be enjoyable. It's a wonderful way to warm up on a winter evening with friends. I personally favor a Pinot noir in my mulled wine, but a good Cabernet Sauvignon will also do very nicely.
1 750-ml bottle red wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple juice
2 lemons, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 clementines, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
3 cinnamon sticks
2 whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
In a heavy saucepan or slow cooker, combine the wine, sugar, apple juice, fruit and spices. Warm the beverage slowly over low heat without boiling and allow the flavors to come together for at least one hour. Strain before serving, if you wish. Enjoy warm!