Category Archives: Drink

Egg Nog

First, a brief history: egg nog was created by the English in the 18th century using brandy, but only really drunk by the rich who had access to dairy and eggs. When it came across the pond in colonial days, we had tons of farms so just about everyone could enjoy it. Because brandy was heavily taxed, we used dark rum since we had access to Caribbean trade routes. Later in the Revolutionary War, rum came in short supply so we started using whiskey and then eventually bourbon.

I did my own little not-so-scientific taste test with all four liquors and the winner for me was actually brandy. It didn’t taste boozy and had a great caramel, vanilla creaminess that was very warming. I also tried to make this recipe not too off the boards nutritional, and used 1% milk and heavy cream. You can save 130 calories, 15g fat, 9.5g saturated fat and 60mg cholesterol by replacing the heavy cream with half-and-half, but I found the latter to be too thin. Either way, don’t think this is without some benefit! It’s “High In” phosphorus and riboflavin – you are doing your bones and teeth a solid so drink up this holiday season. 


  • 6 eggs (see note below about raw eggs)
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup simple syrup (1 cup water + 3/4 cup sugar, heat to dissolve, then chill)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 oz brandy
  • Fresh ground nutmeg

About raw eggs: I used eggs from a trusted, local source. Apparently you can buy pasteurized eggs in the store, but I couldn’t find them. If you are concerned about using raw eggs, I found this tutorial on pasteurizing them at home.


  1. Whisk eggs together in a large bowl. Add milk, cream, simple syrup, vanilla extract, and brandy, and whisk until well incorporated.
  2. Distribute among four glasses and top with freshly grated nutmeg.

Our Planet

When work wakes me up in the middle of the night, I know exactly what will settle my brain and put me right back into dreamland…David Attenborough. If you don’t know Sir David Attenborough, you really should take the time. I have no idea what he did as a young man, but now, most certainly in his 80s, he narrates the most beautifully calming nature shows. Of course the cinematography is mesmerizing, but his voice is the soothing white noise I need on those nights to turn my brain right off.

One recent restless night, I started his series called “Our Planet” and the first episode included several minutes about rainforests. He talked about one area being so lush that female birds can raise chicks on their own so the males spend 100% of their life attracting mates. You may already be aware that the males of most bird species are the pretty ones – brightly colored, fancy feathers, barreling chests. But these particular birds Sir Attenborough mentioned, called Manakins, native to Mexico and South America, have quite an elaborate dance routine for attracting females.

In particular, the Golden Collared Manakin first spends lots of time clearing the forest floor of leaves and sticks. When a female arrives, he dances from branch to branch in his pristine home showing off his colors and then does a back flip to really impress. She checks out every detail before deciding if he gets the tail.

The Blue Manakin practices such an intricate dance that it involves three other males. They practice on the daily. One of the males plays the female and watches on as the other three take turns flying to the front of the line, making a short display for her examination and then moving to the back of the line for the next male to show off. They continue until the lead male performs a final move, then he flutters and waits. If she doesn’t immediately fly off then…boop boop sexy time.

On another sleepless night a few months later I made it to the second episode about the jungle. The focus was on New Guinea. It is so isolated there that it has evolved some very strange and curious creatures, including the Western Parotia. It is one of 40 species of Birds of Paradise.

The male is truly unusual. When not on display for a mate du jour, he has jet black plumage with a stunning golden-green iridescent chest and black ‘wires’ darting out from the top of his head.

In preparation for a female, he turns into the most OCD cleaning guy I have ever seen! However, I suppose you could blame the female, who visits only the tidiest of male homes.

Every morning, he clears his area’s forest floor. Not just a light sweeping, but rather he moves every single branch, leaf, and tiniest piece of debris. One rogue leaf may ruin his boop boop chances. She inspects, he continues to try to impress not only with his spotless abode, but his dance routine must also be flawless.

First, his blue eyes flash bright yellow. He fans out his feathers, gives her an affirmative head bob, and then presents his iridescent chest patch. He’s not holding anything back! She continues to be coy turning her head from side to side to continue the inspection. If she is satisfied with his cleanliness and dancing display, you know what comes next…

Now the last time I looked in the mirror, I wasn’t a male bird – no bright colors, iridescent feathers, head wires nor particularly clean home. Although I would say I have a dance move or two that may attract the opposite sex.

But every day I prepare to host a private wine tasting at our wine country tasting room or travel for a wine event, I feel like a Western Parotia.

When guests visit wine country, they are on vacation. Yes, they are more than likely coming to taste and buy wine, but for them it’s fun time – no risk, no real skin in the game. The same holds true for wine events on the road.

What all these guests (aka female birds) don’t realize is all the time, effort, OCD cleaning and personal grooming I have put in to preparing for their arrival. Just like those male birds, I didn’t wake up like this. Yet it must be flawless if we want the boop boop (aka wine sales).

Right now, I am sitting in a hotel room in Dallas preparing for a wine event this evening in fact. First, back at home, I decided which wines I would pour and calculated about how many bottles I would need for three events with about 20 people each. It’s not an exact science. I have attempted to communicate with my host my desire to invite guests that collect wine and have the means to purchase at my winery’s bottle prices. I have encouraged my host to put me in touch with their caterer or chef to put together dishes that will pair well with the wines. Please no pickled items, asparagus, vegetables from the cabbage family, spicy flavors, strong herbs or sauces. Chefs aren’t usually wine-trained and my hosts aren’t professional wine sales people so these are delicate dances.

I lugged a 12-bottle hard case filled with wine into the car and through the airport. I also shipped myself wine and picked it up at a local Fedex shop. I then moved these boxes and case of bottles in and out of the rental car and then onto a hotel cart and in and out of my hotel room every night because I don’t want the car to get broken in to. Also, it’s warm and humid here – not good for wine.

Once in the room, I cleared out the min-fridge to fit bottles of white to chill. I have a queue of red wines on the desk waiting for their turn in the decanter. Stuffed in my suitcase I have printed out order forms, a list of large format wines, a display large format dummy bottle that I had carefully wrapped in a tablecloth in my bag brought to inspire and encourage large format sales in advance of Christmas coming up. I have wine keys, pens, decanter, funnel, black napkin, a black outfit for me (in case I get red wine on myself), wine club information – all which I packed with my clothes and then load into the car for each event.

I arrive about an hour early to the event – typically the hosts’ private home, but sometimes a private dining room in a local restaurant or their country club. I never exactly know what the layout will be so I find an area – corner of the kitchen island, counter in their bar area, side table – and begin clearing my forest floor. I display the large format bottle with an updated list of available bottles for sale. I put order forms listing the wines we will taste that evening either at each place-setting if a sit down, coursed dinner or several in a clipboard laid around the event space if a heavy app reception. Don’t forget a pen with each form! I get the whites back in an available fridge or ice bucket. I check the reds to see if they need more decanting time.

(Momentary pause to swirl the decanter in the hotel room.)

Then now that my area is clear of debris and looking sparkly, the guests begin arriving. I flash my brown eyes blue, put on a wide grin, turn on the charm and puff out my chest. I do my very best to impress – talking about the fancy vineyards, barrels, our winemaker; sharing details about the winery’s history, how we are special. I listen to the comments on my initial display and pivot to capture and keep their interest. I subtly layer in talk of small, limited production, difficulty in getting the wines, the order forms, the large formats, the wine club, visiting the tasting room in wine country – whatever will get me that tail!

This goes on for several hours and only when I observe people picking up their pens and beginning to write on the forms do I know my display may indeed work. Cautiously optimistic fluttering and waiting. When they motion me over to ask a question, I get a whiff of excitement at their interest. When I see several bottle quantities circled, my excitement grows. But the deal has not yet been done.

Not until I receive the completed form…

A case order, a multi-case order, wine club membership, large formats or library wines included – that’s the sexy tail I want. Then I know all those hours of work cleaning every branch and leaf from view, my plumage, my dance moves – they worked!

This is a hard way to live.

Sir David Attenborough didn’t mention the stats on these male birds’ boop boop success, but I imagine it is rather low. Just like in wine sales. That’s not to say I never sell wine – I do pretty regularly after people taste and I dance.

But most sales are just a few bottles and some people attend events (more often than not for free where the host bears the venue, glassware and food costs), drink and leave. These are the rudest kind of guest that, if karma lives, I hope will go straight to a special circle of Dante’s hell reserved for leeches.

The amount of work hours that go in to wine sales is extraordinary, but then there’s the emotional impact. I don’t know how the Western Parotia feels when he doesn’t get any, but when I don’t sell wine or just a few bottles, after all that physical work, emotional commitment and business expense I’ve made to display and impress, it gets me down. Now I have to pick myself back up, somehow recharge, and get back out there for the next opportunity – usually the following day. It’s exhausting, especially when travel out of state is included.

Yet when I am successful, like a recent trip to the south, where everyone bought cases and joined the wine club, it’s just the drug I need to energize me for the next display. It’s what keeps me coming back. It’s what keep me motivated to clean my forest floor. It’s why I practice my dance moves. It’s why I’ve been in sales for nearly 25 years.

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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!