Category Archives: Guest Blogging

Guest Contribution: The LimoncellOff

Howdy, loyal readers! First, the bad news: (1) Sadly, this edition of The Winegetter won’t be brought to you by Herr Windgätter. Alas, he is too disdainful of his fans (not to mention lazy) to write himself, and so has asked me to fill in. (2) This contribution has nothing to do with wine; it’s about limoncello: “the real man’s hard liquour” as no-one in history has ever called it. Now to the good news: I, Nils Stear, am also German, and so shan’t be violating Oliver’s strict (and politically controversial) Germanophilic contributor policy (Hooray!).

Limoncello, backlit

A few months ago I decided to make my own limoncello. The process was fairly crude. But the end-product wasn’t too bad—decent, even. Then the idea hit me: wouldn’t it be fun to have a competition to see who could make the best limoncello? All I needed now were some competitors. But who? My dogs were disqualified on account of their lack of opposable thumbs (how would they peel the lemons?), not to mention their appalling taste—I mean, seriously, who pairs salmon-flavoured kibble with tapwater? That’s just embarrassing.


How about my baby, Katharina? Her three-month-old intellect would surely guarantee my victory since (not to brag) I can already read at a four-month-old level. However, while I am merely boyishly good-looking, she is insanely adorable, an advantage sure to sway the votes of any judges in her favour. And Katharina is really more of a vermouth drinker anyway.


What I needed, then, were competitors that combined an infant’s mental acumen with a dog’s ability to lick its own perineum. When Chip and Tri presented themselves, I knew I’d found what I’d been seeking.

Chip & Vittorio copy

And so, at a dinner party hosted by friends Anne and Tri, I presented my idea. Robin, another friend in attendance, hit upon the name: the “LimoncellOff”. It was on. Chip, Tri, and I would have five weeks to make the best limoncello we could; our significant others Robin, Anne, and Fown would judge them. The prize? Pride. And 5kg of heroin (what can I say, Chip’s a fan). But mostly pride.

It was only afterwards that I realized how foolhardy my choice of competitors had been. Tri hails from Italy’s Amalfi coast, where limoncello originates. If that wasn’t enough to have me soiling my pants, his full name is ‘Trionfatore Campioni’, which basically means ‘Winner Champions’. I was royally buggered.

So, how would I make it? The first time around I had followed a recipe from The Food Network’s Giada Di Laurentiis, which called for vodka, lemons, sugar, and water. Knowing that your average American has the palette of a five-year old, I halved the sugar, which on tasting turned out to be wise. But the vodka imparted a dirty flavour, the low alcohol content made the final product slushy (limoncello is served sub-zero), and I’d peeled the lemons carelessly, including too much pith and making the drink bitter.

This time around, I adapted my recipe from a blog called Limoncello Quest run by a man as insanely driven to perfect his limoncello as I was to beat Chip and Tri. It called for:

  • 750ml ‘Everclear’ grain alcohol (75% ABV)
  • Zest of 8 lemons
  • 1.75 cups sugar
  • 2.5 cups water

I went to absurd lengths to make the best limoncello I could, zesting rather than peeling the lemons for zero pith, and quintuple-carbon-filtering the Everclear. After it had rested three weeks, I sextuple-coffee-filtered the maceration before adding a syrup made from distilled water and white sugar.


To my horror, when I combined the transparent yellow Everclear with the equally transparent syrup, the mixture went completely opaque. I had bollocksed it up! Or so I thought. Luckily, I hadn’t; the cloudiness results from what’s called the “louche effect”, whereby compounds previously dissolved in the alcohol essentially “undissolve” as the proportion of alcohol decreases. Relieved, I bottled the contents and rested them once more. Finally, two days before the LimoncellOff, I filtered the product one more time and added my secret ingredient: triple-filtered lemon juice—just a touch.

My spirits were buoyed on the big night when Tri and Chip presented their produce. Whereas my own had taken on a milky golden luminescence, theirs had the brown cloudy look of a moribund animal’s effluent.

Limoncello Bottles

Finding criteria to rate the drinks is tricky, a difficulty I’m all too aware of as a philosopher of aesthetics. Still, we had to choose some to give the tasting a little structure. You can see our metrics here:

Limoncelloff Scorsheet

It was crunch-time. After dinner, and before trying our own, we sampled a store-bought limoncello to orient ourselves: Caravella, a popular limoncello in the US, bottled in Milan. It’s a decent example of its kind—fresh, lemony, but with a thick liquorice sweetness—although, oddly, it contains food colouring. At $20 a bottle, I’d recommend it to anyone not fussed about making their own. Tri’s limoncello was next. He had made the courageous, some say reckless, decision to use grappa instead of a flavourless alcohol. The result was delicious, but it lacked the clean, lemony flavour of a limoncello; the grappa’s boozy fragrance was overpowering.

Chip & Robin Laughing

Next came Chip’s. He had innovated with lemon Juice, like myself, and brown sugar in place of white. The result was a tasty and citrusy drink that left a rich, yet subtle, spice in the mouth. Finally came mine. Quite similar to Chip’s but a touch less sweet, a touch less acidic, and with a less complex palette. I could taste victory. And limoncello. The final score gave Tri the bronze, Chip the silver, and myself the lemony gold.

Final Score modificado

So, if you’re looking for a creative and fun activity, try your own LimoncellOff. And remember: when life gives you lemons, use them to knock a wine vendor unconscious and then steal her wine.

Nils laughing


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Sunday Read: My Summer blogging series has come to an end…

My dear readers, Nina and I returned safely to A2, just in time for the opening game of football season (Nina got season tickets this year, I opted to invest my share into wine…duh). We had a marvelous trip to South East Asia, and finished it off with 28 hours in my beloved Seoul, where I lived for 5 months many years ago. It was a bag of mixed feelings, being back in that city after so many years, meeting old colleagues and eating true Korean food. Just a wonderful finish for this trip. As I mentioned before, we visited GranMonte Winery in Thailand, and I plan on writing about this estate in the near future.

Today, I want to pause a moment and do a retrospect on my summer guest blogging series. First of all, fellow writers, thank you so much for your contributions! I was blown away by your posts and the generosity with which you supplied them. It was totally heartwarming to site so many thousands of miles away in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia and see the posts come up…thank you.

Second, the series was a great success. It kept the visitor numbers pretty much stable throughout the summer, which is what I had hoped for and was glad to see. Some of the posts broke or came close to old records of mine: One post made the most likes I ever received on a post (Megan, your readers are very like-prone! :), another almost made my daily views record, yet another made it a first with a self-composed song…most importantly, the series kept the conversation going, as was visible through all the commenting on the posts.

Third, I thought the content was really great: The diversity of approaches to my theme “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea” showed what inspirational writers all of you are. I found the content to be enriching, educational and fun. To me, this is what wine writing and blogging in general is about. The most important key aspect for me, though, was to see how the personal sides of all writers shone through. It is the personality aspect, and bringing people together, which I liked most about this endeavor.

In case you missed any of the posts, here they are again, in chronological order. That should make for a long, long Sunday Read. It is good to be back home, and I am looking forward to taking up posting again. Thank you all, writers and readers, for your continued interest in my blog. It is a great place to be in.

The Wine Raconteur: Chateau Latour 1961

Linda Foxworth: Beyond the Sea, Confined by Beauty

The Armchair Sommelier: Drinking Carmenère with the Devil

Talk-a-vino: Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine – Rum

Tracy Lee Karner: 2011 Forster Kirchenstück Riesling inspires Happiness

Stefano Crosio: Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012

Erica Vitkin: Is Ignorance Bliss?

Kawavino: Trebinje – The Wine Capital of Republika Srpska

Cowboys and Crossbones: If this Wine Glass could talk

Talk-a-vino: Surrounded by the Ocean – Truro Vineyards

The Wine Raconteur: Torbreck “The Factor” 2001

Oenophilogical: Dry Creek Fumé Blanc 2011

Whine and Cheers: A Cuban and a Bottle of Carménère on Prince Edward Island

The Food and Wine Hedonist: While The Winegetter is Beyond the Sea…

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The Food and Wine Hedonist: While The Winegetter is Beyond The Sea…

Somewhere, beyond the Sea

Somewhere, beyond the Sea

This is the final post in my summer guest blogging series “Somewhere, Beyond the Sea”. I am happy to present to you my friend John, The Food and Wine Hedonist , whom I was able to strongarm/pester/lure into writing something for this series. John,despite never writing about wine, is definitely a wine hedonist, at least given what I have seen of his cellar. He has been one of my earliest blogger friends and him residing in Ann Arbor has made us hang out a number of times already. He is definitely one of my coolest friends in A2. John’s blog, for those unfamiliar with his writing, is sometimes loud, mostly hilarious, often thoughtful and at times disgusting (Like when he talks about some of his man crushes or boy band choices). It’s a cornucopia of fun for sure…and he did not let me down with this post. Thanks, John! I’m already looking forward to seeing you soon….

The Winegetter asked if I’d be interested in submitting a guest post for him while he’s on vacation. In the two years that I’ve been blogging I’ve had a few people guest post for me but, oddly enough, I haven’t done any guest posts for anyone else. So when he asked me to do a post about wine based on the theme “Beyond The Sea” I jumped all over it. Well, as much as one can define responding 5 weeks later as “jumped.”

My immediate thoughts went to waxing eloquently about how I began my love affair with Rose wines at our very favorite beach destination in the world – St Barth’s. It’s a French-owned island in the Caribbean with gorgeous, undeveloped beaches. There are no cheesy tiki huts , shysters harassing you to go jetskiing, or people selling trinkets. In fact, there was only one beach on the island that had a hotel on it. The food there is absolutely divine with its strong French-influenced cuisine modified to tropical ingredients.

The island itself is accessible only by puddle jumper or ferry from St Martin.

I took this picture of Colombier beach from the puddle jumper

I took this picture of Colombier beach from the puddle jumper

Or if you’re like Jay-Z and Beyonce who, along with many of the rich-and-famous who frequent the island, you take your pimped-out yacht.

But it’s expensive. VERY expensive. Like, we’re still paying off our trip from a few years ago expensive. For example, we had lunch at Eden Rock with a few drinks and walked away with a 180 Euro tab. But that’s also the beauty of the place. You won’t find ANY rubes in cut-off jeans and wife-beaters or pasty Midwesterners with fanny packs and white sneakers. And since everyone has money and they (in our case WRONGLY) assume you do, they don’t try to flaunt it. So you can be hanging out with Italian billionaires (which we did) and they didn’t care what you did for a living.

It was there that I gained my appreciation for Rose wine. We had it with every meal and it went perfectly with the weather, all the tropical ingredients, and even grilled meats. One day, Boom Boom (my wife) and I went to the beach with a new friend and proceeded to swig down six bottles of French Rose. I’d show pictures from that day, but this is a family blog. Maybe someday I’ll go into detail in my own site.

Fast-forward to present day…

With my kids away at camp for two weeks, we were planning on making a return trip to our paradise. But we also just bought a new house, so any well of money that would go towards the trip has completely dried up. And you wouldn’t believe HOW PISSED I am that I can’t go.

So while the Winegetter and his lovely bride are on a whirlwind tour of Asia, and I’m a little bitter about not being able to take a whirlwind tour of St Barth’s again, I figured I’d take a whirlwind tour of…

The Winegetter’s place.

WG Door

The first thing you encounter when entering Casa de Winegetter is the kitchen.

Dude, you gotta wash dishes before you on vacation.

Dude, you gotta wash dishes before you on vacation.

Then I had to go to the bathroom as the previous night’s Indian food was coming back to haunt me. I’ll go ahead and spare you guys the picture of that mess. But I did get inspired by Geraldo Rivera’s recent foray into Tweeting a selfie. So here’s that picture.

WG selfie

I did find his stash of beloved Schofferhofer –

You don't mind that I vanquished the last three, do you?

You don’t mind that I vanquished the last three, do you?

All that breaking-and-entering was exhausting, so I figured it was a good time to chill out and catch some rays!
WG relax

Later that night we decided to have a few friends over to sample The Winegetter’s Reislings.

If the neighbors ask about the donkey, just play dumb...

If the neighbors ask about the donkey, just play dumb…

Anyway, thanks Winegetter for giving me this opportunity to write this . And for leaving town!

PS – Ollie, you’re out of toilet paper.

PPS – Maybe this is why I don’t get asked to do many guest posts.

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