Limoncello Sweet Tea Cocktail for National Iced Tea Day

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Today, June 10, is National Iced Tea Day! To celebrate, and since our Discover Italy events are going on in store and online, our friend Beautiful Booze helped us prepare an Italian spin on the traditional Sweet Tea recipe using a spirit native to Italy — Limoncello.

If you’re interested in making this cocktail, head to our website to find limited-time deals on select Limoncello bottles through June 19.

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Limoncello Sweet Tea

  • 3 oz. Bellini Limoncello
  • 1 cup sweet tea (see recipe below)
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup ice
  • Lemon slice, for garnish

Combine Bellini Limoncello, sweet tea, lemon juice and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until mixed and chilled. Pour mixture into serving glass and garnish with lemon slice. Enjoy!

Serves: 1

 

Sweet Tea

  • 1½ cup water
  • 2 teabags
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

Instructions:

Boil water in a small sauce pan, then add teabags and sugar and cook until sugar is completely dissolved. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes, then discard the teabags. Cool.

Time for an Italian road trip

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We’re about to embark on a tour of Italy’s most beautiful and historic regions – by way of the wines produced there. At Total Wine & More, it’s time for Discover Italy, our two-week exploration of the country’s wines, with in-store tastings, classes and special deals on some remarkable Italian wines.

Italy’s wines come from all over the boot-shaped peninsula, which boasts a mix of terrains and climates providing ideal conditions for many types of vines. Combined with Italy’s reputation for wonderful cuisine – and the Italian tradition that considers wine part of a meal – it’s no wonder Italy is the source of so much good wine.

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Its wine regions crowd the map from the Alpine peaks of the Alto Adige to Puglia, in the heel of the boot, plus the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Some of the greatest wines come from five regions:

Piedmont

This northwestern region translates as “foot of the mountains,” and its abundant hillsides offer optimal terrain for vines. Barolo and Barbaresco are classic Piedmont red wines made with Nebbiolo grapes; Gavi and Arneis are fresh and delicious white wines produced in the region.

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In Italy’s northeast, the cool climate is ideal for producing dry white wines – especially fine Pinot Grigios.

Veneto

The Veneto is Italy’s largest wine-producing area, home of the zesty Pinot Grigios and bubbly Proseccos we love. The region’s bright Bardolino and Valpolicella wines are wonderful reds for warm weather.

Tuscany

This beautiful and central region is home to Sangiovese, the iconic Italian grape that produces the famed red wines Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, among others.

Southern Italy

The regions south of Rome have produced wine since the Greeks crossed the seas and planted vines 3,000 years ago. The warm south is a source for ripe and flavorful wines in both traditional and modern styles.

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That’s just a hint of the wines produced across the Italian map. Looking to really get to know a region and its wines? Consider our Under the Tuscan Sun class, a deep dive into the wines of Italy’s most storied wine region, held in our area stores Thursday, June 9.

Or just stop by this weekend or next (6/9-6/12 and 6/16-6/19), when we’ll be pouring crisp whites, classic red styles and lovely aromatic sparkling wines, so you can Discover Italy one sip at a time.

It’s Tower Time

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Memorial Day has passed, and we’ve begun to don our summer attire to match the season. Now that we’re casual enough – and it’s hot enough – to wear white jeans whenever, we still make an important switch this time of year – to white spirits.

Vodka, tequila, rum and white whiskey are the classic spirits for summertime cocktails. They’re lighter and brighter, perfect companions to the refreshing mixers that taste right in hot weather, like tonic, sodas and fruit juices. As the season heats up, our customers have been enjoying vodka drinks, especially those made with Texas’ Tower Vodka.

Tower’s makers are from Pilot Point, not far south of the Oklahoma border. The label of this great new spirit depicts the water tower that looms over town.

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The Texas-made vodka is produced in micro-batches and distilled six times, which gives it real purity and smoothness. Because it’s made from corn, Tower is gluten-free. Clean and crisp-tasting, it’s an ideal base for simple vodka cocktails.

Vodka this good doesn’t need to be gussied up with a lot of additional ingredients. But if vodka martinis don’t say “summer” to you, try mixing Tower into a tall drink, over ice with a big splash of tonic, cola, fruit soda or ginger beer. A squeeze of fresh lime and you’re ready to cool off. Or enjoy it mixed with cranberry or orange juice – and maybe a small dash of seltzer or club soda to give the drink a refreshing spritz.

Here’s one with bright color and juicy flavor, just right for a hot summer weekend:

Find Tower Vodka and more favorite summer spirits at your local Total Wine & More.

Summer forecast calls for Sauvignon Blanc

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With the new season here, let’s talk about what makes a good summer wine: Something chill-able, for sure. A wine that will go with the foods you crave in warm weather. And maybe a wine that isn’t too pricey, in case you have a lot of thirsty people coming over this weekend.

Sounds like Sauvignon Blanc! This white wine is made from a versatile grape that can be made into different styles of wine, depending on where it’s grown and how the wine is made. All are perfect for drinking right now, as what’s likely to be a long, hot Texas summer gets underway.

The unique aromas of Sauvignon Blanc are easy to peg in a blind tasting. The wine’s herbaceous and tropical-fruit scents are sometimes accented with musky notes, yet its flavors are consistently fresh and bright.

Serve these lively wines chilled, 50-55˚. They’re a natural pairing for summer salads. And before you reflexively grab a red wine to accompany grilled entrees, Sauvignon Blanc is great with fish, shellfish, pork and chicken cooked over the coals. It will even pair perfectly with this Lemon Spaghetti recipe from our friends at Ceja Vineyards.

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Some of our favorite summer Sauvignon Blancs come from the Southern Hemisphere. In the 1970s, adventurous winemakers began planting the native French grape in New Zealand. They grew them on cool and sunny hillsides, then aged the wine in stainless steel. Generally high in refreshing acidity, these New World wines offered up dramatic flavors of citrus, elderflower, peach and tropical fruit.

Within a decade, delicious and inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc wines from Marlborough and other New Zealand regions had won fans around the world. Now, the fruit-forward, New Zealand-inspired style is produced everywhere from California and Washington to Chile to South Africa to Australia.

Of course, Sauvignon Blanc has long been used to make world-class wines in France. In Bordeaux, it makes refreshing, dry white wines, as well as richly flavored blends with Sémillon and Muscadelle. Some, aged in oak, are full-bodied, cellar-worthy wines. In the Loire Valley, Sauvignon Blanc boasts more citrus and mineral flavors from the region’s flinty limestone soils.

Find a Sauvignon Blanc to go with your summer during your next visit, or shop online and choose express one-hour pick-up in store.

Rosé and mole: Wines for the best of Tex-Mex

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When Tex-Mex is on the menu, most of us reach reflexively for a beer. But with its variety of ingredients, flavors and means of preparation, Tex-Mex cuisine pairs beautifully with a range of different wines. At Total Wine & More, we carry more than 8,000 wines, so it’s safe to say we can help you find a tasty match, whether you’re cooking up carnitas or tostadas.

Starting with salsa or guacamole? For the ever-popular tomatillo salsa, made from the green husk tomato, think white wine. The herbal notes in a tropical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a rich Verdejo, from the Rueda region of northwestern Spain, will enhance a zesty green salsa. These wines or a nice dry Riesling will also stand up to the richness of avocado in guacamole.

Image credit: Mike McCune

Image credit: Mike McCune

Sparkling rosés, with their bright flavors and beautiful color, have become some of our most popular bubblies. Their lively bubbles and refreshing acidity make them a perfect match for Tex-Mex favorites. If you’re feasting on boldly flavored pork dishes like tacos al pastor or carnitas, we recommend a brut, or dry, rosé. A rosé can even come in handy when you want a wine to balance the robust flavors of tomato-based dishes, such as enchiladas in red tomato sauce and chicken in dark mole.

There are few of us who can resist the sizzle of a freshly prepared fajita plate. However, when it comes to pairing wine with fajitas, you have to take into account more than just whether they’re beef or chicken. Fajitas are the sum of their parts, which often include grilled onions and peppers, pico de gallo and sour cream. With such a hefty dish, we suggest a full-bodied wine. Set your sights on a young Argentine Malbec or California Zinfandel, which offer robust flavors and sturdy tannins to match the full flavors of fajitas.

Say “Salud,” and head over to Total Wine & More to find the perfect pairing for your next Tex-Mex meal.

Let us help you find a beer – we’re Certified Beer Servers in the Cicerone Program

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You may not know this, but many of the team members you see in Total Wine & More are Certified Beer Servers in the Cicerone Program, ready  to help you find the right brew to take home with you.

Okay, we know many of you are scratching your heads wondering, “What the heck is a Certified Beer Server in the Cicerone Program?”

We’re glad you asked! Think of the Cicerone Certification Program as the beer counterpart to the sommelier certification for wine. Since its founding, the program’s mission has been to provide better knowledge and training about beer and beer styles to professionals in the beer industry. The people this program helps inform range from brewers and brewery employees, to beer servers in restaurants and retail store employees where beer is sold. The program began in 2008, and today helps bring beer knowledge and professionalism to beer sales all around the United States.

Now you might be thinking, this is all good and well, but how does that help me when I visit Total Wine & More? The answer is that it helps our team members assist you in selecting the right beer for any occasion. With 135 stores across 18 states, we now have hundreds of team members who are Certified Beer Servers in the Cicerone Program, and even a few Certified Cicerones. That’s more than a couple of team members per store who can help you with any beer question you may have.

Looking for the perfect brew for a backyard BBQ that will please everyone? We can help. Maybe you love a specific beer style, such as IPA, and want to broaden your tastes with some new beers to try. Our team can help you find the perfect new brews to take home.

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In some states, our Cicerone Certified Beer Servers take their love of beer to a whole new level. They not only help with the recommendation of the right brew, but they’ll perfectly pour fresh draft beer to fill a growler you can take home. Visit our Brewery District at select stores in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington to grab a 32- or 64-oz. growler of craft beer to go. You can even see our growler menu online at www.totalwine.com/whatsontap.

So stop in and take advantage of our knowledge the next time you need to stock up the fridge or cooler. With American Craft Beer Week happening right now, it’s the perfect time to stop by and see your local beer team during the last weekend of our Total Beer Experience. See you soon!

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Jorge Ordoñez, raising the bar

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If you’ve enjoyed a bottle of Spanish wine in the last few years – a bold red, a vibrant white, a stylish sparkling wine – it may be thanks to Jorge Ordoñez.

For many years, the few Spanish wines available in the United States tended to be mass-produced sherries or dusty reds of mysterious origin. Though Spain had been producing fine wine for centuries, not a lot got through to our shores.

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When Ordoñez, who grew up in the family wine business in Málaga, Spain, moved to the United States in 1987, Spain’s tradition-bound wine industry had just been turned upside-down. The nation’s relatively recent transition to democracy and entrance to the European Union was opening up new international markets. Investment in local winemaking was increasing, onerous regulations were being relaxed and young winemakers began making modern new styles in Spain’s storied vineyards.

Ordoñez, now a renowned producer and distributor of Spanish wines, pushed for further improvements to traditional winemaking. He called for lower yields and careful vinification. He insisted on refrigerated warehousing and shipping. As a result, his wines have classic Spanish spirit and flavor, with the quality and freshness we love.

Importing a broad range of high-quality wines previously unknown outside Spain, he helped Americans fall in love with wines from great Spanish regions like Rioja and Rueda, and with grapes like Tempranillo, Garnacha and Verdejo. His influence on the industry has helped to raise standards for all Spanish wines.

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There’s no better time to try Ordoñez’s wines than during Total Wine & More’s Discover Spain and Portugal event, in our stores now through next weekend. Check out our tasting table to sample the new Demimo, a crisp, clean white wine made from century-old vines in north central Spain. And look for three more new wines from Ordoñez: Pallas, Argami and Solnia, each reflecting classic grape varieties from uniquely Spanish growing areas.

Discover these and a whole world of great Spanish wines at your local Total Wine & More store.

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Summers Beers for Patio Sipping and Lawn Mowing

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The hot weather is rolling in, and those big stouty beers no longer look quite as appealing as they did this winter. But many styles of beers are perfect for the season, so take a look and familiarize yourself with the brews you need to be enjoying this summer.

Kölsch

This German beer style is a go-to when summer hits. Depending on the brewery, it can be light- to medium-bodied, have a slightly fruity taste or show a hop profile that varies from medium to slightly more aggressive.  For the less hoppy version, we recommend Goose Island’s Summertime Kölsch. Its lightly fruity aroma and crisp finish make it a great choice for sipping on the patio.

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Munich Helles Lager

This beer style is a great “lawn mower” beer if ever there was one. Created at Munich’s Spaten brewery in 1895 to compete against popular Pilsner-style beers, Munich Helles Lager is similar to, but has notable differences from, traditional Pilsner. “Helles” means “bright” in German, and this style pours a clear, bright straw yellow to pale-golden color with a creamy white head. Unlike German Pilsners, this German Lager style is more malt-forward, exhibiting bready, toasted grain flavors with only a hint of sweetness. It’s not meant to be overly complicated, just downright enjoyable. Cigar City’s Hotter than Helles or Ninkasi Brewing’s Helles Belles are great choices if they are available in your area, but there are many great variations on this style. Explore and find the one that you enjoy most!

Fruit Beer

It’s summertime. You want something sweet and crisp on the palate, and that’s what you’ll get with this style of beer. Wheat ales are usually the go-to base for this style of beer, but not always. The fruit character on these beers can range from mild to intense, and brewers can select from a long list of fruits to really make a brew their own. Popular fruits include cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, apricots, peaches and pomegranates. Beers like 21st Amendments Hell or High Watermelon, Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat or Abita’s Strawberry Harvest Lager are great selections for summer.

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Session IPAs

Hop lovers – we didn’t forget about you. But do you really want to drink a double IPA under the hot sun?  That’s why this style has gained in popularity over the past few years. A lower-alcohol version of an India Pale Ale that keeps you cool, but with just as much hop punch? Sign us up! Great citrus notes and a variety of hops can be found in these beers, like Founder’s All Day IPA and Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack IPA.

 

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These are just a few selections that are making the list, but everyone has their preferred style and choice for summer. Stop in and discover yours from our selection of more than 2,500 beers, and don’t forget to check our online growler menu to pick up a fresh fill for the season from one of our Brewery District growler filling locations. Cheers!

Off to the Races: The History of the Mint Julep

mint_julep_smallWith the Kentucky Derby being run this weekend, we thought it would be fitting to explore the history of the Mint Julep, the traditional drink so closely tied to the race.

Juleps are the ancestors of centuries-old drinks from the Middle East known as julabs, which were made with water and rose petals. Juleps at some point made their way to the U.S. where their heritage dates to the 1700’s when the drink was probably made with brandy or rum or other spirits that were readily available.

In the early 1800’s, Henry Clay, a popular Senator from Kentucky, helped change the face of the Mint Julep to the bourbon cocktail we know today: mint leaf, bourbon, water and sugar prepared and served in a highball glass with a straw. He took Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with him to Washington, D.C., where he introduced friends and colleagues to his drink at the Round Robin Bar inside the Willard Hotel. The Mint Julep was a hit and grew in popularity from there.

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Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington D.C.

Decades later in the late 1800’s, Marvin Stone was sipping a Mint Julep and was dissatisfied with the natural rye grass straws used at the time. Those straws fell apart, imparted additional unwanted grassy flavors and left a gritty residue in the drink. He experimented by wrapping a piece of paper around a pencil and gluing the ends together, an invention that caught on. After several improvements to the initial design, including making a more sturdy paraffin-coated manila version, his drinking straw was patented in 1888. The invention was so successful, he turned his cigarette paper holder company into Stone Straw Company by 1906. Bourbon and the Mint Julep survived Prohibition and in 1938, the drink was officially promoted by Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

Brown-Forman’s Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail has been “The Official Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby” for over 18 years. Brown-Forman also makes Woodford Reserve, “The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.” Woodford Reserve has been used to make $1000 ultra-premium Mint Juleps served in silver cups since 2006, with proceeds this year benefiting the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center charity. And the Mint Julep is as popular at the Derby as ever, selling tens of thousands each year. So whether you actually make it to the Kentucky Derby or are watching from the couch with a few friends, a mint julep is the way to go.

Here is a mint julep recipe with step by step instructions (start the night before). Let us know how it turns out!

We’re Opening our Second Boston-Area Store — in Everett!

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Lord Hobo will be rubbing shoulders with Jim Beam. Citizen Cider will be alongside Martin Ray.

Who are these characters? Boston-area residents know: These are some of their favorite wines, spirits and beers. All will be in attendance at Total Wine & More’s newest store at the Gateway Center in Everett, Mass., opening Thursday, May 12.

The 18,000-square-foot store, our second in Massachusetts and closest to central Boston, will carry some 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers. Our store team, the best-trained in the business, will help customers navigate the new store and tremendous selection.

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“We’re going to have great service and a great assortment of products including local wines and beers,” said Tom Shea, Total Wine & More district manager.

The store has an event space where we’ll host classes to enhance your knowledge of your favorite beverages, and introduce you to the rock stars of our world: the winemakers, distillers and brewers who make the products you love. There’s a walk-in cigar humidor, featuring our primo selection of smokes. And a tasting table where we’ll always have something new for you to try. Stop by and join in on the tastings every Friday and Saturday from 12-6 p.m., or Sunday from 12-5 p.m.

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Check it all out during our Grand Opening celebration, which spans three weekends beginning May 12. As part of our commitment to the Everett community, we’ll donate a portion of opening weekend sales, May 12-15, to Project Bread. The anti-hunger program, based in East Boston, works to bring healthy food to neighborhoods across Massachusetts.

So join us at Everett’s Total Wine & More – at the Gateway Center, 11 Mystic View Road – during our Grand Opening weekend. We’ll be posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels, so join us there, too, and share your Grand Opening impressions with us using #totalwineGO.

Visit our website for more information on upcoming events and tastings at the Everett store.