Cool wine punches

I am sitting at the computer in Brian's old room and looking out the window at the back yard. Tess has hung a wonderful, cylindrical bird feeder from a stout branch on the mimosa tree. There is a very large Steller's jay bouncing up and down on the limb. Two orange-breasted robins are also on the limb, flapping their wings, trying to keep their balance as the jay continues the mambo. Around the copper base of the feeder are four black-headed finches swaying around with the action, trying to grab a beak or two of seed. Not to be outdone by his neighbors, a hummingbird, no bigger than my thumb, is spinning around the sugar feeder and darting this way and that between the jay, robins and finches. They stop what they are doing and snap their heads back and forth to watch this aerial display for a few harrowing seconds, then continue the dance on the limb and feeder. It's late afternoon and the sun is beginning to rest on my fingers as I type. It feels delicious.

This type of lazy afternoon makes me think of fresh wines, wines with zing and thirst-quenching qualities. Frankly, I am getting tired of the rain and winter weather and look forward to warm days and white wine tropical drinks. I'm going to give you a few choices, a few blended homemade ideas for the warmer weather and white or rosé wines. Here they are:

Pink Paladin — One of the great things about wine punches is that one can make them dry or sweet, depending on weather, cuisine or the group that is going to be drinking the punch. Some folks love sweeter punches, others, drier offerings. I'll give you a couple of choices. This dry punch uses dry rosé wine hitting about the 13- or 14-percent alcohol level.

1. For two fifths of cold rosé wine add to the punch 32 ounces of unsweetened grapefruit juice, and one each of sliced lemon, sliced grapefruit and sliced lime. You could also use a tablespoon of Rose's lime juice or any other lime-based extract. Put the entire blend in the fridge overnight; serve five minutes before guests arrive. If you wanted a little more "kick" to the punch, add about four ounces of freezer-cold light rum to the mix at serving. Be sure to announce to your guests about the added "kick," please. I like to put the entire punch over a block of ice as it melts as a hunk and not as watery looking pieces of ice. Some people like to strain the punch and extract the pieces of fruit, but I like the look of the fruit in the punch. Some folks add a little cherry extract for more pink or float cold maraschino cherries to add a touch of sweetness, but that's an individual call. The sweet variety is as follows:

2. Use lower-alcohol rosé wine, not to exceed 10 percent alcohol. The residual sugar, that sugar left after fermentation, will add some sweetness to the punch. Instead of the dry grapefruit juice, add pineapple juice to the blend. Pineapple juice really adds a touch of tropical to the Paladin and gives the sweet tooth a little softness to the palate. Do not use the lime; keep the lemon for the acidity and add sliced oranges. I sometimes add a little squeezed fresh lemon to the mix if I feel that the balance is off. Nothing is worse than flabby, sugary punch without a thirst-quenching quality. Remember, keep the punch really cold at all times. The less cold, the more the sugar hits the palate. Ever try drinking room temperature Kool-Aid? Again, for more kick, add rum, but be careful! It's supposed to be about taste, not result! See you next week and have fun with these tried and true punches.

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