Celebrations: Kick back, relax and enjoy the spirit(s) of summer

There are few better summer indulgences than a glass of chilled rosé: Those worth drinking are “dry,” without significant residual sugar, and display bright fruit flavors balanced with crisp acidity.

Nearly every red grape has been made into a rosé. Regardless of the methodology, the goal is to create a wine that maintains elements of the varietal’s character in a lighter, more refreshing fashion.

One of Israel’s finest wineries, Domaine du Castel, produces nearly 100,000 bottles annually of kosher, non-mevushal Bordeaux–styled blends and chardonnay. In 2009 it released a terrific Merlot-based rosé that was only available in Israel, but its 2011 is supposed to be more widely available and is certainly worth the search.

Created from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, the Domaine du Castel rosé 2011 is redolent with ripe strawberries and passion fruit aromas that flow seamlessly into citrus, peach and red berry flavors. Perfectly balanced with a long finish, this is yet another excellent effort by the Zaken family, whose winery is located at Moshav Ramat Raziel in the Judean Hills. Enjoy their rosé with grilled tuna steaks or summer salad. 

Another summer favorite here in the States is one of the greatest hot-weather cocktails of all time: the Southern-style mint julep.  In search of this nectar, one of us visited Jim Hewes, barman at the Round Robin Bar in the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel, where this delectable cocktail was first introduced to the nation’s capital.

Little more than a concoction of whiskey, mint, ice, sugar and water, this mix becomes an enchanting, seductive ambrosia when done right: The tang of the mint perfectly balances out the sweetness of the bourbon, and the drink maintains a cool, iced, sweet and refreshing zing from start to finish.

Hewes helped flesh out some background. The julep is thought to date back to some ancient unrecorded point in time as a reference to potable sweetened or flavored water. “Julep” is derived from the Arabic “julab,” which comes from the Persian term “gulab” — “gul” meaning rose and “ab” meaning water. There are also 15th-century references to juleps in the poetry of John Milton and the diaries of Samuel Pepys.

The first clear U.S. recipe we have dates back to 1839 and calls for “equal portions of peach and common brandy,” and comes from Capt. Frederick Marryat, an Englishman chronicling his travels through the U.S. Marryat found his way to the original Willard Hotel, where he received an education in the mint julep from Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky.

To the Virginia-born Clay, the thought of a rum or brandy mint julep was distasteful, and he set about demonstrating to Marryat the errors of his ways.

It is fortunate for us that Clay did this, because it helped spread the familiarity and popularity of the bourbon mint julep. The recipe Clay left for posterity is the closest thing to an “official” Southern-style mint julep recipe that exists today, and with minor adjustment, is the official house drink of the Round Robin Bar. n

Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon write a weekly syndicated wine and spirits column. For more reviews see www.grapelines.com.