Call me a pessimist, but in spite of all the amazing advances being made in the realm of cold weather fruits I don’t think anybody’s ever going to grow citrus in Minnesota. So what’s the hard-core locavore fundamentalist zealot to do when he finds himself in the North country and craving a glass or two of sangria, the citrus-laden wine drink of Spain? Since moving to California — or better yet, Spain — isn’t necessarily a workable option, the drink would just have to be adapted to local circumstances. Time for Minnesota sangria.
The inspiration for this concoction was a visit Martha and I made recently to Delano, MN and the Woodland Hill winery. Besides producing surprisingly decent traditional red and white wines, Woodland Hill also makes some worthwhile fruit wines, including, most notably for me, wines made with rhubarb. In visits to wineries in Michigan and Minnesota over the years I have imbibed all kinds of different fruit wines — most of them terrible — but this was the first time I’d ever seen rhubarb wine. Juice is extracted from the stalks by first freezing them to break up the cells, then pressing them for all they’re worth through a wine press.
At the time of our visit they were sold out of last year’s straight rhubarb vintage but had plenty of Tickled Pink, a strawberry-rhubarb blend. Strawberry and rhubarb is a classic flavor combination — and far superior to the ubiquitous kiwi-strawberry, I might add. Lest you think cloying thoughts of strawberry-rhubarb pie, crisp, or what-have-you, I should say this wine was remarkably restrained for a fruit wine; relatively dry (for a fruit wine!) and with clear strawberry and rhubarb flavor.
Clear as these flavors may have been, there’s always room for a little improvement. With copious quantities of strawberries and rhubarb from the Midtown Farmers Market, as well as a bundle of mint — the official herb of summertime — from the Saint Paul Farmers Market, I mixed up a version of this Spanish summertime staple fit for the fields of Minnesota.
- 1 bottle (750 ml) strawberry-rhubarb wine (we used Tickled Pink from Woodland Hill)
- 1 ½ cups rhubarb, cut into large chunks
- 10 medium strawberries, sliced
- 1 generous handful mint (you can leave it on the stem)
Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher. Chill and serve.