gourmet goodies (From the Summer 2010 issue of SONOMA)
Limoncello, where is thy sting?
Those might well have been the words of Shakespeare had the Bard known the secrets of the Italian digestif that has most recently been blamed for all manner of bizarre behavior.
Danny DeVito fingered the drink as his excuse for being bombed on The View. Avril Lavigne claims she both wrote and recorded the song, "I can do better," while drunk on Limoncello. There is, as they say, something going on here.
Just ask Fred and Amy Groth. They "studied" and sipped their way through Italy long enough to be inoculated by the lemony serum and begin concocting their own. When at last they arrived in Sonoma, on the cusp of a "midlife awakening," the move signaled two seismic shifts. First, they changed careers-Fred was in environmental engineering, Amy was a wedding planner-then they decided, if you really love it, you should really make it. Limoncello, that is.
So they took the entrepreneurial plunge, launching a business making and selling limoncello and - perhaps uniquely in all the world - doing it only with organic lemons.
Limoncello di Sonoma was born, to the great joy, perhaps, of Danny DeVito and Avril Lavigne, and a growing throng of limoncello lovers, some of whom play a periodic part in production. Through a deviously clever ruse lifted straight from Tom Sawyer, Fred and Amy manage to entice a small army of friends to "community peels" where they skin the lemons in exchange for sangria, wine, food and song.
For their booze the Groths use brandy, distilled to about 170 proof from USDA local organic and bio-dynamic grapes. The high octane distillate is "to keep the 'life force' of the living grapes in the final product," so there's no corn-based alcohol in the process. Add to the mix organic agave sugar as sweetener and you get a lower glycemic index than most limoncellos and sweetened liqueurs. Maybe lower hangover headaches as well.
Limoncello di Sonoma was released in October 2009 to its first customer, Sonoma Market, and has skyrocketed into the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, Estate restaurant, the girl & the fig, El Dorado Kitchen, Saddles, Bouchon, Bottega, Angèle, the Culinary Institute of America, FARM and 40 other restaurants. Two local bartenders used Limoncello di Sonoma in the recent Martini Madness competition and won two out of the three awards.
Besides Sonoma and Glen Village Markets, you can get it at Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, and Traverso's. It's not cheap: the 375 ml bottles have a suggested retail price of $24.99. Remember, it's a sipping beverage, but don't tell Danny DeVito, who now markets his own label.
If you think it's a bit expensive, consider this: Limoncello di Sonoma took home a silver medal at the recent World Spirits Competition after a blind tasting of 1,200 spirits from 57 countries. It beat six limoncellos from Italy, something of a record for a brand-new company.
You could, of course, make the stuff yourself; many people do. But unless you don't value your time it will be cheaper to buy. And you can always go to the next community peel and beg.
(From the Summer 2010 issue of SONOMA)