Restaurateur’s Blog

Wine sauces: Something to consider

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wine sauces add a lot to a menu item — and not only flavor but also a poetic flourish to the menu description.

rhubarb wine sauce

Rhubarb wine from New York.

You probably have a wine sauce or two as part of your menu, and why not experiment with your wine sauces by making them with fruit wines or honey wines to add a touch of regional, seasonal, farm-to-table appeal? Or hard ciders?

Use our Restaurateurs’ Only search to find boutique, regional, nongrape wines and hard ciders (at wholesale prices) to incorporate into your wine-sauce dishes.

Most recipes call for fruit and grape wine to be blended in order to make the sauces, and that makes sense since the actual wine-version of those fruits have not been widely available.

But if you could get your hands on inexpensive small-batch rhubarb wine made in your home or a neighboring state, the oven-braised short ribs you make for dinner with spiced rhubarb sauce could be even better incorporating real rhubarb wine instead of using a handy bottle of red from California or Europe.

If you try this, please let us know how it went.


Mulled hard cider: Black Star Farms’ own recipe

Sunday, December 16, 2012 features hard ciders from two kinds of producers: dedicated cideries who make nothing but cider, and wineries who make fruit wine but also include hard cider as an offering.

One of the latter is Black Star Farms, a winery and “agricultural destination” in northwestern lower Michigan that makes all kinds of grape wine, fruit wine, brandies, eau de vie and even a hard apple cider.mulled hard apple cider

Black Star also has lodging, the Inn at Black Star Farms, and a café called The Hearth & Vine that’s run by executive chef Jonathan Dayton, whose menu changes according to what ingredients are seasonally available from the estate and local area farms.

Since, to quote a famous Christmas carol, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” here’s Black Star’s very simple recipe for a cold-weather, holiday fave: mulled hard cider:

1 bottle Black Star Farms Hard Apple Cider (any dry-tasting hard cider will work as a replacement, note: this cider comes in wine-sized 750ml bottle.)

6 oz. water

1/2 cup sugar (don’t worry, Black Star’s hard cider is semi-dry and tastes even dryer than its 6% residual sugar)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

Couple sprinkles of ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients into saucepan and give it a good stirring. Now, no more stirring! Heat gently but do not boil. All of the spices will float to the top. Skim them off, serve warmed, happy holidays!

—Todd Spencer



Cranberry Wine: ‘Tis the Season

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Glazed holiday ham. (Drools.)

Arguably, there is no single style of fruit wine more made for the holidays than cranberry. And while cranberry wine served with a holiday meal is a slam dunk, that’s not the end of the story.

Everyone who knows their way around a kitchen understands what the cranberry can do for traditional poultry and pork dishes.

And, if you’ve dropped by an upscale restaurant or club lately, no doubt you’ve seen the trendsetting club goers with technicolor cocktails infused with cranberry and other lively fruit flavors like pomegranate.

With Christmas entertaining on the agendas of so many, let’s take a quick look at a couple of ways cranberry wine is being incorporated into holiday dinners and party-throwing.


We’ve all seen recipes like “Pork Cutlets with Cranberry Wine Sauce” that call for some generic “white wine” and some form of cranberry (canned, jellied, sauced, etc.) to create the “wine sauce.”

I think it’s safe to say that most of these recipes are written up with the assumption that the cook does not have access to real honest-to-goodness cranberry wine.

For your favorite holiday recipes calling for cranberry sauces, glazes and marinades, “substitute” the real thing: real cranberry wine.

As an example, here’s a recipe put together by the folks at Montezuma Winery, who make a sweet cranberry wine they call Cranberry Bog in the prestigious wine region of Finger Lakes, New York. Unless you live in New York state, you’ll never find Cranberry Bog at retail, but Montezuma ships it to 46 states.

Cranberry Bog Glazed Ham

• 5lb. pre-cooked ham

• 1 – 8oz. can whole cranberry sauce

• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

• 1/4 cup Cranberry Bog cranberry wine

• 1 tsp. prepared mustard

• whole cloves (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Glaze: In saucepan combine cranberry sauce, brown sugar, wine and mustard; simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Place ham on rack in  shallow baking pan.

Score top of the ham in diamond pattern; stud with cloves. Brush cranberry mixture over ham and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Baste ham every 15 minutes with wine glaze. Remove from oven and let sit a few minutes before serving. Pass the remaining cranberry mixture with the ham.


Montezuma Winery also has a recipe for a refreshing mixed drink perfect for the holidays: festive, colorful, and lighter on the alcohol than a typical martini:


• 4 oz. Cranberry Bog cranberry wine

• 1 oz. Bee Vodka

• 1/2 oz. triple sec

• 1/2 oz. vermouth

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add above ingredients, cover and shake. Strain into martini glass.

Hey, what are you waiting for? Currently, we have two 100% cranberry wines listed on the site: Montezuma’s Cranberry Bog and our current Pick of the Week: Century Farm’s Cranberry Wine (currently sold out as of January, 2012 — sorry!). Between the two, they ship to almost every state in the union.



A General Manager-Wine Director Talks Fruit Wine

Friday, December 3, 2010

North Pond, Fenouil, fruit wine, farm to table, Ginger Henderson, Chateau Chantal, cherry sparkling wine, cherry wine, restaurants, wine list

Ginger Henderson

Ginger Henderson says her success with sparkling cherry wine at Chicago’s award-winning French-American restaurant North Pond shows that fruit wine has a place on a fine dining wine list. Here she discusses the purpose and impact boutique fruit wine can have on a wine list.

By Todd Spencer

Ginger, first tell us a little about the last two restaurants you’ve managed: North Pond in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and Fenouil in downtown Portland, Oregon.

At North Pond, Chef Bruce Sherman holds true to the “Arts and Crafts” ideal in the culinary philosophy. He utilizes exceptional ingredients from the local market at the height of its season in his fine French-American cuisine. Whenever possible he supports small local farmers and treats their products with respect. The path from earth to plate remains clear.

At Fenouil, Chef Jake Martin creates Contemporary Pacific Northwest cuisine. It’s ingredient-driven, and his dishes change with the seasons, which is a technique he calls a “living menu.” Jake supports small local farmers and treats their produce and products with a sense of simplicity in every dish.

What do boutique fruit wines, hard ciders, fruit liquors & spirits, honey wines, rhubarb wines, etc., add to a wine list, cocktail list or menu?

Many of these products support local farms and wineries, which reflects the philosophy of a lot of restaurants right now.

North Pond restaurant, Chicago, Lincoln Park, sparkling cherry wine, Chateau Chantal

A North Pond dining room.

North Pond included a sparkling cherry from Chateau Chantal winery in Michigan. What kind of reaction did sparkling cherry get from the restaurant staff and patrons when you first introduced it?

The guests at North Pond are pretty adventurous and like to support local products. The staff knows this, so Chateau Chantal’s sparkling cherry wine got a good response from them as well. The older clientele liked the sparkling cherry because they have a sweeter palate and prefer items with a lower alcohol percentage. We definitely sold a handful of the product because people just love bubbles and there is a great sense of romance attached to it — especially in a pink/red hue! We also liked giving it out complimentary for special occasions after dinner or for VIP guests who may not have ordered dessert. Or as a paring to dessert.

How did the sparkling cherry make its way onto the wine list at North Pond?

Our wine list featured many small craft producers, and I had a hostess whose family was related somehow to the people at Chateau Chantal.

Did you order directly from Chateau Chantal or through a Chicago distributor?

We ordered directly from the winery. Even though they’re in Michigan, they had a license to ship directly to restaurants in Illinois.

Would you say that for restaurants emphasizing farm-to-table, adding regional fruit wines resonates nicely with this identity? Reinforcing the agrarian, rural traditions behind the menu?

Yes, it just made sense that this would be a part of our wine list at North Pond.

What kind of reaction did a cherry wine garner from patrons checking out the wine list?

People were always curious about it and asked questions.

What do you think about adding, say, a pumpkin wine, apple wine or hard cider for the fall; a cherry wine or honey wine for Valentine’s Day; a raspberry wine for summer, etc.

I believe that non-grape wine varieties have a better chance of success on a wine list/cocktail list/dessert pairings if it is done seasonally. The guests are smarter than ever when it comes to seasons and the ingredients that should be represented in that particular season. Having said that, there are certainly some fruit wine varieties that would work year-round. The sparkling cherry was a year-round fixture at North Pond.

You do not currently have any fruit wine on the Fenouil wine list. Are you open to the possibility of adding some at some point. Say, from a Washington or Oregon winery?

Absolutely. Fruit wines would be fun to pair with our desserts and the extensive cheese program.

Any other thoughts on the topic of non-grape wine in restaurants?

I would love to represent more non-grape wines/spirits on our cocktail lists here at Fenouil; they could inspire creativity that has endless possibilities of thinking outside the box.


Ginger Henderson is the general manager and wine director at Fenouil in Portland, Oregon. Previously, she had been the general manager and wine director of Chicago’s award-winning American-French fine dining restaurant North Pond.