If you’re like I am and like cold beverages no matter what the weather, this is for you. The vineyards of McCray Ridge Winery are (no surprise) on top of a ridge that looks east towards Healdsburg, Geyser Peak and Mount St. Helena. It’s the perfect spot on one of those hot dry days in the Sonoma County summer when ice is required in your drink.
We started with iced coffee from Thanksgiving Coffee of Mendocino County. Paul Katzeff, Thanksgiving’s founder, recommended that we use the Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Dark Roast Uganda Coffee. The source of this coffee is an important reminder that people of goodwill can accomplish wonderful things together. The fair trade cooperative where the coffee beans are grown in Uganda is a joint effort with Jews, Muslims and Christians working together – to grow great coffee and to foster understanding between them.
This coffee has such a rich taste, that even if you normally drink your coffee sweetened, you will love it straight. If you do want to sweeten it, you can try what we did: Sonoma Syrup Co.’s Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup or 21 Missions Organics’s Hazelnut Agave Syrup. (We also tried the coffee with cream.) Both of the syrups gave a wonderful aroma to the drink and the tastes of both the coffee and the syrups were nicely balanced.
Inspired by Italian flavored syrups, 21 Missions Organics is made with 100% organic blue weber agave nectar and has a low glycemic index. The flavored syrups are versatile sweeteners that work in desserts as well as beverages.
Sonoma Syrup Co. started with a simple concept: simple syrup. But, oh, what you can do with them if you have imagination (or if you use recipes they suggest). There are fifteen flavors, including the Vanilla Bean we tried with our coffee. Whether you’re a cocktail “mixologist,” a sorbet maker, or a pastry chef, these will come in handy.
With our iced black tea, we tried lavender sugar, Sonoma Syrup Co.’s Mint Infused Simple Syrup, and Robert Lambert’s Rangpur Lime Syrup. In each case, part of the pleasure was the “nose,” the lovely aroma of the lavender, mint or lime that we got before we even tasted the drink.
Making refreshing lemonade with a gourmet twist is easy with Tuscan Heights Lavender Lemonade Crystals. A heaping teaspoon in water, ice, and it’s done. A pleasantly different take on an old standby.
Making spritzers is great for a party, because everybody can try whatever they like – or more than one thing. We tried two totally different products made from grapes. Have plenty of soda water (or you can also use tonic water) on hand.
Terra Sonoma’s Verjus is a version of a traditional French condiment made from unfermented green grape juice. Often used as a substitute for vinegar, its tart-sweet flavor is delicious mixed with soda water as a spritzer. We later tried adding a splash to a gin and tonic. Wow!
A blend of organic red and white grape juices, Bela Juice could appeal to both adults and children, either straight or as a sprtizer. The rich taste of nothing but grapes is a pleasant surprise if you’ve only tasted the “other” kinds of grape juice.