Category Archives: Drink

Limoncello

There is a beautiful Meyer Lemon tree in the yard of the carriage house I’m renting in downtown Napa. My landlords, who live in the Victorian on the property, have two young kids and don’t have the time to do anything with what grows in the yard.

One Saturday in February, I got a ladder and a strong canvas bag and picked 140 lemons from the tree.

I zested 105 to make my very first batch of Limoncello. I used the juice from those to make lemon simple syrup and lemon curd.

I used a 3 gallon glass carboy from my hard apple cider project a few months back to hold all that zest plus enough vodka to fill to the top. That was six 1.5L bottles.

I put the stopper on, wrapped it in an old bath towel, and set it in my hall closet.

A month later I took it out to add the simple syrup. Having realized I was an idiot and filled the carboy to the brim with zest and vodka, I drained off a half of a gallon to make room. BONUS – citron vodka!

I add a simple syrup mixture of one to one sugar and water that brought the liquid back to the top. I rewrapped the carboy and put it back in to the closet. Six weeks later I tasted it.

I was over the moon pleased with myself! It was smooth, full and tart with a punch of alcohol and hint of sweetness.

I strained it off in batches through a chinoise into a glass pitch with a spout. Then I poured the liquid into 25 glass bottles of 375 ml each.

After a few hours, some lemon particulates separated from the mixture and rose to the top. With a few shakes, they were reincorporated, but I’ll know for next year to line the chinoise with a cheese cloth.

The Marriage Counselors

Recently, I hosted a friendly Dallas couple celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary for a tasting and lunch. They practiced marriage counseling together. I was intrigued.

Both late 50’s/early 60’s. She was petite with shoulder length, straight hair, dirty blonde. He was pleasantly plump, balding, clean shaven. Both passionate about music and their three daughters.

Since it was just the two of them, after I poured each round of wines, I pulled up a chair and sat at their table to make the experience less formal and encourage more casual conversation.

Of course we talked about the wine. He was more knowledgable voicing smells and flavors he was getting as well as swirling the wine on its side to observe the color.

It’s often the case that after a taste or two, people loosen up and the conversation moves to topics other than the wines. I congratulated them on 33 years of marriage, and remarked that I didn’t believe many people my age and younger would ever reach these milestone anniversaries.

He said when they married they committed to never, ever divorcing. That truly through thick and thin they would stay together. They shared that there had been some very thick times, but they worked through those together. I was in admiration. You just don’t see many examples of that level of commitment to a marriage these days.

They talked proudly about their daughters. Two were married and the last was to be next February. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe women, likely all in the mid- to late-twenties, maybe 30 max, would have already gotten married these days.

Then they told me they were both marriage counselors helping couples both engaged and married. They worked with them together.

“You wouldn’t hand a 16 year old the keys to a car and say, ‘Good luck!’ so why do we do that with marriage and expect it to magically work?”

Such a simple idea, but it really stopped me in my tracks.

I enthusiastically agreed with them, and shared that I had been in a 17 year relationship, but never got married. I saw my parents be unhappily married and stick it out for 23 years because of the kids. And since I didn’t want to have kids, I didn’t see the point in marriage.

I also shared that I didn’t want to be married because people didn’t treat the commitment with any respect. I just didn’t want to be a part of a group of people who said ’til death do us part and then got divorced at the drop of a hat. What’s the point of marriage then?

He said he observed his mother marry three times and was determined never to divorce. Outside of his work as a real estate developer of golf courses, clubs and housing, he studied marriage at theological school. Now that’s commitment!

I just can’t wrap my brain around where the disconnect is these days with the high rate of failed marriages. I’m sure I could look up the stats, but it seems to me that the reasons all boil down to sex, money or kids. Why aren’t we willing to work through these types of problems together?

I suppose that, even though I didn’t marry, I could ask myself the same question.  I did throw in the towel after he cheated, but not because I was unwilling to try and make it work. And as much as I walk around sharing with friends and family my pride in leaving someone who treated me poorly, somewhere deep inside I still haven’t given up on our relationship. I just can’t find a starting place, a path, to get started, and I’m not sure he can either.

2-Hour Drinkin’ Buddies

I work very part-time for a winery in Napa Valley helping with private tastings and sales. As a professional fundraiser in the nonprofit sector for going on 17 years now, it was a natural fit for me. Instead of spending 12-18 months getting to know a potential donor for a $25,000 scholarship, I present food and wine pairings among Cab vines over the course of about two hours. The guests purchase what they like – hopefully to the tune of $1,000+ per couple.

For this privilege (I’m not being sarcastic here), I get paid $17 per hour plus 5% commission on the food and wine I sell. It’s barely grocery money really, but I get so much enjoyment out of making fast friends over wine. People come from all over the country. We hang out, drink, shoot the shit, they have fun, I have fun, they buy, they leave.

Since I started working four days a week back in fundraising, I don’t work there but 2-3 times per month. I’ll plan to share noteworthy stories of guests as they occur, but they won’t be as frequent as those in the other categories.

Of particular interest, I think, will be the story of the Texan. Not sure whether to put him in Wine or Sex – lol!

Nevertheless, I hope you’ll enjoy the adventures!