Back in the early 80s, when I was barely legal and going to Foothill community college, I worked at Ridge Winery in the tasting room up on Montebello Road.
For those of you who remember, you are probably laughing because there was no “tasting room” at Ridge –there was only a tasting table outside, a simple picnic table where we had five wines, usually four zins and a claret, lined up along with a basket of fresh bread (from “City of Paris” as I recall); you went inside the cellar where Kathy poured other offerings and helped you make your purchases.
We were having a Christmas party or some sort of potluck as I recall and it was quite cold. I was a newlywed with a Crockpot and as I was going to be at the tasting room all day, I suggested I make mulled wine. After all, there was always plenty of leftover wine lying around that I never got around to drinking during the week so why not pour all those together and mull them?
You can only imagine the look of horror at my suggestion–mull a Ridge wine? sacrilege! At that point I dared not admit I’d already done so for family and friends –and they’d loved it.
You may not know this, but Alfred Peet got into the coffee business as the spice buyer for the Allied Forces during World War II. After the War, he settled in the Bay Area and sold spices, tea, and coffee. He had a really wonderful mulling blend and back then, we even measured and bagged up the spices by hand.
These days, I make a lot of chai so when I want mulled wine, usually for a party, I just pour some red wine into my chai spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, pepper, ginger– leave about 1 cup or so of chai liquid in the pot; btw, this is also how I make mulled cider, and speaking of, you can add cider to it to sweeten it or cut the alcohol content).
Let it heat slowly at a low temperature (think crock pot); don’t let it get to hot or simmer as the alcohol will boil off. If you like it sweeter, then add some honey to the strained hot beverage. If you want something a little stronger, add some vodka, gin, or whiskey to the pot or the cup. I’m thinking this Ketel One Citroen might be zesty fun–maybe turn some angels into devils? Or try this traditional recipe for mulled wine if that’s what you’re really looking for.
You can mull any red wine. But personally, I’d avoid using a wine that’s too cheap or too expensive. If you’re going to be throwing a party and you’re going to have a good quality boxed wine like from The Big Green Box Old Vine Zin from Pepperwood Grove or Octavin’s Spanish red blend or Black Box’s Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, you might as well open it and use a bottle’s worth or so to make your mulled wine.
What pairs with mulled wine? Holiday cookies of course, especially those that aren’t too sweet or spicy, like a shortbread.
“#MulledWine”, a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” captures both the spirit of wine and the spirit of Christmas. Right now it’s just the words, but the folks at BBC Radio who wrote it are feverishly getting their video together. In the meantime, you can watch Jordan Winery’s “Blurred Vines”.