The first time I had watermelon wine was during a heat wave in Los Angeles circa summer 2015. It was nearing the end of summer, right in that crux of September when it certainly still feels like summer, but because the month ends in a “ber” you find yourself glaring up the sun, wondering what the hell it think it's doing beating down so damn hard in a month that rightfully belongs to autumn..
And while we were longing for the season of chai lattes and sweaters, we had to make do with what we had. My good friend and killer photographer Aminda was living with me, sleeping in our living room until I left for tour in early October. We had developed a collaborative relationship, and had just finished reporting and photographing a tea ceremony/meditation/dance party in Venice beach. It was around 10pm, there was still work to be done, and it was hot AF.
Our work station? The kitchen table. Our beverages of choice? Red wine. Now unfortunately, a glass of a red wine in a heat wave is the opposite of refreshing, and will send this girl straight to bed. Nah, man. We need something to chill it down, something refreshing and soothing. Our options were either A) Ice cubes or B) the cubed watermelon we had frozen in order to keep it from going bad. Not being total vino heathens, we opted for the later. The results were one deserving replication.
We drank our watermelon wine concoction again when I came to visit Aminda in the trendy oven that is Phoenix, Arizona about a month ago. Even when the sun disappears, an evening in Phoenix permeates with dry heat. Your hair begins to stick the back of your neck, sweat trickling in a sun goddess-esque glow across your chest, now brown from a mere morning of hiking. Perfect weather for red-wine lovers looking to chill out.
The watermelon, being the delicious sponge that it is, absorbs a good portion of wine, leaving behind a soft, boozy slice of a fruit at the bottom of your glass. Upon first bite you’re flooded with coolness, then greeted with the gentle wave of red wine. And while the idea of adding frozen watermelon to red wine may seem sinful to some, I’ve never been one to stick to an organized religion.
We drank with the breeze billowing through the screen door, coolness finding its way through the raging heat in both the form of wind and frozen fruit. With each sip, we transformed into sweaty and exhausted photographers into cool and laid-back lushes. (Imagine the sunglasses emoji, if you will.) Aminda's two cats peered into our glasses as we relished in the air conditioning and our cool drink. The good thing about a heat wave is that it makes the little trickles of refreshment fee like a dip in the Mediterranean.
For red watermelon wine, I recommend something that would use for Sangria, without it being too dry. You won’t have the added sweetness of any liqueurs, so you don’t want the wine to contrast the fruit too much. For this reason a California Zin, or an Italian Primitivo (they’re both made from the same grape), would be wonderful options. The Rancho Zabaco from Dancing Bull is $10 and great.
For white, I like a Viognier. It’s not as sweet as a Riesling and not as tart as Pinot Grigio, but rather smooth and slightly marmalade-y. I’ve already said that Viogniers tend to taste like fruit roll-ups, and a boozey watermelon flavored fruit rollup is my personal heaven.
The rest is simple. You cut up a watermelon, freeze the chunks, and toss them in.
The final few weeks of summer are calling! Go out, sweat, drink, be merry, and get those alkaloids.