The Egg Nog Riots of 1826

egg nogPerhaps no other drink is as closely associated with the holidays as eggnog.  Beloved for several centuries, eggnog as a drink has stayed relatively the same over the years.  The ingredients are simple: eggs, cream or milk, spices (especially nutmeg), sugar, and alcohol.  However, this seemingly basic drink has a long and somewhat storied history.

Eggnog became a popular drink in England and the Colonies near the end of the 18th century.  Originating in England, it is believed to have begun as a derivation of a drink called posset, which was a hot drink made with eggs, milk, and ale or wine. Eggnog became a favorite among the English aristocracy, who were the only group that had regular access to milk and eggs in England at the time.  The English preferred their eggnog mixed with Sherry or Madeira.

In America, where food was more available, eggnog became a standard drink. As the American colonists had easy access to rum, it became the standard mixer for eggnog.  This led to the nickname of “grog” which was a term that would be applied to rum based drinks of many types, but came to regularly refer to eggnog.

Once the Revolutionary War began, rum was more difficult to obtain.  As a response, whiskey became the main alcoholic mixer for egg nog.  Once the war ended, a wider variety of alcohols were enjoyed.  George Washington’s recipe called not only for rum, but also for rye and sherry.

egg nog 2The Egg Nog Riots:  On an infamous Christmas Eve in 1826, ten West Point cadets smuggled eggs, milk, nutmeg, and two gallons of whiskey into their dormitory.  This was despite (or, perhaps, because of) the strict anti-alcohol polices of the academy. Led by future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, the cadets threw themselves an egg nog party.

As with most college parties, things soon got out of hand, and the revelers drew the attention of a teacher, Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock.  Just as he arrived, Davis realized the trouble coming and shouted. “Put away the grog boys, Old Hitch is coming!”  Hitchcock attempted to end the party and return the cadets to their rooms.  The students rioted in response and the event led to the “Eggnog Riot” or “Grog Mutiny” which resulted in the largest expulsion of cadets in West Point’s history.

So this season, raise your whiskey and egg nog in celebration for the holidays, a new year, and the nineteen cadets who were expelled 187 years ago as a result of our favorite seasonal beverage.

For further reading see: “The Egg Nog Riot” Michelle Legro, Lapham’s Quarterly 

“The History of Eggnog” by Nanna Rognvaldardottir

Click here for the Maker’s Mark Recipe for Eggnog.

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Post authored by Ben Coffelt  –

The Legacy of Peter Jahant

Map via

Map via

If you are studying for the CSW Exam, you might recall that the Lodi AVA, located in northern California, has seven sub-regions:  Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumes River, Mokelumne River, Sloughhouse, and the smallest of the seven, Jahant.

I’ve always been intrigued by the interesting name of the Jahant AVA, so this morning I decided to do a bit of research. This is a small area and  information is somewhat difficult to come by, but I did find out who the area is named for, as well as quite a few interesting details about the soil and climate of the area.

The area’s namesake is a former gold prospector turned family farmer named Peter Jahant. Peter was born in France in 1827 and moved to Akron, Ohio with his parents when he was six years old. In 1850, lured by gold fever,  23-year-old Peter took off with for Sacramento with three or four friends, intending to prospect for gold. After a few years of variable success in gold mining , he bought a livery stable and settled down. He eventually married and established a family farm in the Acampo area. In 1912, Peter Jahant’s son, Charles, planted 130 acres of grapes on the original family farm and gold prospectoradditional purchased land. The Jahant name is well-entrenched in the area, with Jahant Road, Jahant Stables, and Jahant Slough (a stream) all part of the local landscape.

The Jahant AVA is located in the center area of the larger Lodi AVA, about 7 miles south of the city of Lodi.  The region is bordered by the Dry Creek River in the north and the Mokelumne River in the southwest.  There are currently 8,000 acres of the area’s total 28,000 acres planted to grapes.

While the Jahant sub-region has a slightly cooler, dryer, and windier climate than the surrounding areas, the main difference, and the defining factor in establishing the boundaries of the area, is the soil.  The distinctive pink soil, referred to as “Rocklin-Jahant,” is a mixture of sandy loam and clay left by river flooding within the last 20,000 years. The clay component makes the soil excellent for retaining water  to the point that dry-farming is possible, even during the summer.  These dry-farmed vines produce grapes of great concentration, deep color and firm tannins; the nearby Sacramento Delta provides enough cooling breezes to maintain a good, balancing level of acidity.

Tempranillo,  Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel are among the most widely planted grapes of the Jahant AVA.  The Viaggio Estate Winery and Michael David Vineyards both have vineyards in the area.  White grapes also do well; the Lange Twins Family Winery has a lodi grape vinevineyard in the area planted to Sauvignon Musqué, a clonal variant of Sauvignon Blanc that produces grapes with a more pronounced floral aroma – and less of the herbal/cut green grass character – of a typical Sauvignon Blanc.

For more information about the Jahant AVA, click here. 

Click here for the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

Wine Book Review: “The Nose” by James Conaway

the nose red wineThe Nose, a novel by James Conaway, in a nutshell:  Agatha Christie meets Sideways meets Bonfire of the Vanities in a delicious tale of  the perfect wine and a vain, self-satisfied, and extremely influential wine critic on the loose in Napa Valley.

This is a fun book:  not long after we meet Clyde Craven-Jones, aka “The Nose,” we’re invited to join him for a typical Thursday morning, consisting of blind-tasting the week’s crop of newly released vintages and grading them on his patented numbered scale.  (The lead character’s similarity to another (never named) influential wine critic with a similar such graded scale is hard to miss.)

Not long after the nose sniffs out his weekly winners, a mystery bottle of Cabernet arrives at his door.  He sniffs, he sips, he spits, and declares it to be a perfect 20 – an accolade he has never granted before.  The mystery begins as C-J tries to locate the producer of the “perfect 20.”  His quest comes to an abrupt end when our critic is found, face down, floating in a vat of newly-fermented Cabernet. The scene somehow manages to be gruesome and funny at the same time.

The NoseAfter C-J’s untimely death, his widow continues the quest to find the producer of the perfect Cab.  Along the way, we meet a bumbling cub reporter, a biodynamic farmer, a blonde bombshell, and more than a few greedy producers of cultish techno-wine.   A friendly crew of wanna-be wine writers, fashionistas, and wine lovers savant try to help solve the mystery but mostly just hang out and drink amazing wine at a seedy bar called The Wine Glass – and you just can’t help but want to join them.

James Conaway’s books on the California wine scene – including Napa: The Story of an American Eden and its sequel, The Far Side of Eden, are surely already well-known to both fans and serious students of California wine. Wine lovers, as well as those that enjoy a good mystery and perhaps even a slightly snarky comedy-of-manners, California style, will enjoy The Nose as well. (Holiday Gift Alert!)

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

Cash and Prizes: E-O-M Quiz for November 2013

New CSW VitiEvery month, we offer an end-of-the-month quiz – with prizes, of course.  Quiz questions cover the educational material posted to Wine, Wit, and Wisdom for the month. This month’s quiz has 10 questions that cover the topics and information included in our posts for the month of November, 2013. Everything you need to know to pass the quiz is here on our blog!

This month, our prize is a copy of our newly released CSW Study Guide - hot off the presses and in all of its full-color glory!


To refresh your memory, our posts for the month of November were:

  • Toro de Osborne (November 1)
  • The Real Thing:  Grenadine (November 5)
  • Grape Stems into Grappa (November 12)
  • “The Wine of the Crunchy, Rust-Pink Sands” (November 21)
  • The Wines that Made America (November 23)
  • Minervois-La Livinière (November 25)

New CSWEveryone who takes and passes the quiz with 100% of the questions correct by December 10, 2013 (midnight CST) will have their names put into a drawing for the prize! You can take the quiz over and over again if you like…it’s all about the education! The winner will be notified via email on December 11! Click here for a link to the quiz. If you have any questions, contact us at: .

Update:  Congrats to our winers – Dena, Jonathan, and Keith – we hope you enjoy your new Study Guides!

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Minervois-La Livinière

minervois windmillThe wine region of Minervois, located just north of Corbieres in France’s western Languedoc region, is named for the village of Minerve, which is itself named for Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom.

The region has a long history of wine production, dating back to early Roman, or even pre-Roman times.  In modern times, the Minervois was granted an AOC in 1985, and since that time, the wines of the area have increased in quality due to significant investments in equipment, infrastructure, and improved vineyard management.

The Minervois AOC covers dry red wines based on Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, which together must make up at least 60% of the blend, and may be rounded out by Carignan and Cinsaut.  The region’s white wines, which may be dry or sweet, are generally made from a variable blend including Bourboulenc, Vermentino, Rousanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. A sweet version of the white wine, made from late harvest and/or dried grapes, is referred to as Minervois Noble, but does not have its own appellation.

minervois la liviniereAlmost immediately upon the granting of the 1985 Minervois AOC, the producers of La Livinière, a small corner in the northern portion of the area, began to lobby for an AOC of their own. In 1999 they were successful, and the Minervois–La Livinière AOC, for dry red wine only, was born.  The area covered by the appellation includes the village of La Livinière itself, as well as five others nearby:  Cesseras, Siran, Felines-Minervois, Azille and Azillanet.

The 30 or so producers of Minervois-La Livinière, tucked into the Petit Causse foothills of the south-facing Black Mountains, abide by a slew of standards that are quite a bit stricter than those that apply to the wines produced under the “basic” Minervois AOC.  For one, yields are 45 hectoliters per hectare (hls/ha) vs. the 50 allowed for the basic wines, and eight additional months of aging are required.

languedocAnother tough rule involves the “agrément” tasting that is done in November, the year after harvest.  Each stage of the three-stage tasting involves a producer, an enologist, and a merchant; and the final outcome is pass or fail.  If a wine passes, it can wear the title of Minervois-La Livinière, and if not, it can be bottled under the “basic” Minervois AOC.  The tasting panel, it seems, is tough; the M-LL board rejects between 30 – 40% of all wines submitted.  This is a higher rejection rate than any other appellation in France; the percentage rejected for the country as a whole is closer to 5%.

Wines that qualify as Minervois-La Livinière are authorized to use a specific label style which includes a cap with the La Livinère logo and a quality guarantee number. Minerva, and Minervois, should be proud!

For more information, see the entry on Minervois-La Liviniere wines at

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

The Wines that Made America

22947164_mlWhat do Lincoln’s top hat, Neil Armstrong’s Space Suit, and Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay have in common?

They are all part of a new collection curated at the Smithsonian Institution called “101 Objects That Made America.” Chosen from among the Smithsonian’s collection of over 137 million artefacts by Richard Kurin, the Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture, these 101 objects tell the cultural history of America.

Other artefacts chosen include the American Buffalo and the Bald Eagle from among “Wild America” and Lewis and Clark’s Compass, representing “Discovery.” Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and FDR’s microphone were chosen to represent “The American Voice.”

101-Objects-America-vintage-california-wines-88-963Vintage California wines, represented by Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 were chosen as emblematic of “America in the world. The bottles of wine, which are currently on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, are accompanied by the story of the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine tasting that brought California wines to the world’s stage for the first time, as they won first place in a blind tasting contest featuring California wines vs. French wines, as evaluated by Fench judges on French soil.  Often referred to as “the vinous shot heard ‘round the world,” the event shocked the Old World wine establishment to the core and set the stage for California wines, and other wines of the new world to come into their own.

See the website of the Smithsonian Institution and Smithsonian Magazine for more information.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

“The Wine of the Crunchy, Rust-Pink Sands”

“If any Beaujolais can outlast a dog and grow in stature with the years, it is the wine grown on the crunchy, rust-pink sands which anchor this windmill, this Moulin-à-Vent.” 

          Andrew Jefford, The New France

5063906_mlWhat a great quote, from Andrew Jefford.  It’s so good that I did not even attempt to write a better introduction to today’s post,  which, by the way, is written with a tip of the hat to today’s world-famous release of Beaujolais Nouveau. But instead of focusing on the party drink of the day, I thought we’d look at Moulin-à-Vent, considered to be the most noteworthy of the ten Crus of Beaujolais.

The appellation Moulin-à-Vent, located just around the middle of the northern section of Beaujolais shared by the ten Crus, sits just south of Chenas and to the north and east of Fleurie.  As there is no actual town named Moulin-à-Vent, the vineyards themselves are located in either the commune of Romanèche-Thorins or Chénas. The name Moulin-à-Vent comes from on old windmill standing to the northwest of Romanèche-Thorins, now preserved as the last remaining specimen in the Beaujolais region.

gamay grapes beaujolaisThe richness, full-flavor, and longevity of Moulin-à-Vent can be traced, at least in part, to the unique soil of the region.  The soil here is a pink crumbly granite with a uniquely high level of the mineral manganese. This is toxic to the grape vines; not enough to kill the vines, but enough to cause chlorosis, a vine disease that reduces the ability of the plant to produce insufficient chlorophyll. This alters the vine’s metabolism enough to severely reduce yields and contributes to grapes with intense, concentrated flavors.

Young Moulin-à-Vent tends to have the cherry-berry-smoky-spice aromas and flavor profile typical of Beaujolais, with a bit more tannic structure and even a hint of oak (and definitely minus the banana candy-bubbly gum profile often seen in Nouveaus).  However, with age, the finest examples can mellow…many people say that Moulin-a-Vent is best consumed at around six years old, and some can be cellared for 10 to 20 years.

As the wines age, they lose some of their fresh fruitiness, and develop more Pinot-like beaujolais vineyardscharacteristics.  You could say that as they age they start to resemble Pinot Noir. There’s even a word for this process:  Pinoter.  The definition for “Pinoter,” if you can believe it, is to “develop Pinot Noir-like characteristics with age.”

You might see the term ““fûts de chêne,” meaning “oak casks” on the label of an oak-aged Moulin-à-Vent.  In addition, the following lieu dits can be added to the label: Les Carquelins, Les Rouchaux, Champ de Cour, En Morperay, Les Burdelines, La Roche, La Delatte, Les Bois Maréchaux, La Pierre, Les Joies, Rochegrès, La Rochelle, and Les Vérillats.

I read through about 100 wine reviews (and tasted one outstanding version of Moulin-a-Vent, the Domaine Diochon 2011) while researching this post, and found the following tasting terms to be the most used:  rose aromas, touch of mineral, violets, cherries, raspberry, blackberry, well-structured, complex, elegant…and my favorite, “piercingly fragrant.”

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

Grape Stems into Grappa

Grappa GlassSome say the name “Grappa” is based on the Italian town of Bassano del Grappa, located in Italy’s Veneto Region.  Others say it is based on the fact that the word grappa literally means “grape stalk” in Italian.

We may never know exactly where the word came from, or where grappa was first made, but we do know that grappa has been produced, as a by-product of the Italian winemaking trade, since the Middle Ages. Itinerant distillers used to travel from vineyard to vineyard, distilling the fresh pomace (called vinaccia in Italian) on the spot, and providing the vineyard workers with a raw, potent spirit to ward off the cold.

The tradition of vineyard distillation is no longer practiced, as the stems present in the pomace tend to produce a small amount of methanol, which is toxic and must be carefully removed during distillation. Thus, current Italian law does not allow distillation to take place at the winery; winemakers must bring their pomace to a distiller (or run their own operations, separate from the winery premises).  This change has actually help to transition the reputation of grappa from the “moonshine” of yesterday to the artisanal spirit of today.

Modern grappa is produced via column stills, pot stills or traditional steam distillation. Grappa is generally bottled at 40 to 45% alcohol by volume and may be produced from a single variety, known as a monovitigno, or, more commonly, from a mixed batch.  After distillation, grappa may be aged for several months in glass or other inert containers before distribution as a clear, unaged spirit.  Some grappas are oak aged and may be labeled with terms such as vecchio (old) or stravecchio (extra-old).

GrappaGrappa is often served as a digestif, or, as a caffè corretto (corrected coffee), with a shot of espresso. A variation of this is the resentin (“little rinser”), where the espresso is consumed first, followed by a swirl of grappa served in the same cup.

In the European Union, the term “grappa” is restricted to use for products produced in Italy, parts of Switzerland, or San Marino. However modern craft distillers in the United States and elsewhere, such as Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery and Clear Creek Distillery, are making artisanal pomace brandies labeled with the term “grappa.”

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –

The Real Thing: Grenadine

tequila sunriseGrenadine:  it puts the sunrise in Tequila and turns simple rum-and-pineapple juice into a glamorous Mary Pickford. It sits on every back bar in the world, gleaming with an unnatural, almost nuclear-red glow.

It glows - unnaturally red – that is, if you buy store-bought Grenadine.  Like most bar mixers, Grenadine is mass produced and widely distributed.  You can probably pick up a bottle at your local grocery store, and your corner bar most likely orders it by the case.

But you might want to think twice before you pick up your next bottle of Trader Vic’s or Rose’s Grenadine.  A popular brand of commercial grenadine – let’s just say it represents just about all commercial grenadine products – lists the following ingredients on the label: high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate (preservative), RED 40, natural and artificial flavors, BLUE 1.

GrenadineGrenadine was originally made from pomegranate juice, sugar, and water, although black currants are just as likely to flavor today’s commercial versions. The name “Grenadine” originates from “grenade” – the French word for pomegranate.

Pomegranate syrup, which can be found in most Middle Eastern grocery stores (as well as Whole Foods Market), is made with pomegranate concentrate and sugar, and can serve as a decent substitute.

However, like many things to be found on the back bar, Grenadine is simple to make, and house made products are far superior to the mass-produced versions.   I’ve tried several recipes over the last few weeks, and have come up with my favorite version.

Try it for yourself – and let us know what you think!

Grenadine (The “Real Deal”)


  • Pomegranate Juice1 cup Pomegranate Juice – fresh squeezed is best, but a good brand like “Pom” will work as well
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh Lemon Juice
  • 4 drops Orange Flower Water
  • Optional:  1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses


  1. Heat the pomegranate juice until steam rises from the surface; do not heat beyond this point – you want to turn the heat off before (of as soon as) you see any bubbles start to form.  Remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Add the sugar and stir.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then stir again until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Add the lemon juice, orange flower water and optional pomegranate molasses.  Let the syrup cool to room temperature (about an hour) and transfer to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Stored in the refrigerator, your homemade grenadine will stay fresh for about a month.  If you would like to extend the life of your grenadine, try freezing a portion of it, or adding a few tablespoons of vodka to the cooled syrup.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –


Toro de Osborne

Toro_Osborne_Cabezas_de_San_JuanThe Osborne Bull:  regarded as the “unofficial” symbol of Spain, he weighs sixty tons and stands as tall as a four-story building. There are currently 90 of them scattered throughout the country, many of which are protected as national monuments.

His image can be found on stickers, key rings, and, at sporting events featuring Spanish teams or athletes, embedded in the middle of the Flag of Spain. The free-standing bulls are so emblematic of Spain that separatists have, on occaision, attempted to tear them down at various times in Catalonia, Mallorca, and Galicia.

The “Toro de Osborne” was designed by famed Spanish graphic designer Manolo Prieto in 1956 as an image to be used on bottles of Osborne’s “Veterano” Brandy de Jerez. Over 500 “Billboard versions” of the bulls, with the name “Veterano Osborne” painted across them in red, were soon scattered strategically throughout Spain, along the roads and highways.

Osborne BullBy the 1980’s, the Bulls had become so indicative of the Osborne brand that the company stopped painting their name across the bulls.  Today, there are only two signs in Spain with the word “Osborne” still painted on them; one at the Jerez de la Frontera Airport, and one in the town of El Puerto de Santa María, where the Osborne headquarters is located.

In 1998, a Spanish law was passed that prohibited billboards and other advertising along Spanish roadways.  It seemed as though the bulls were to be torn down to comply with the new law.  However, an unprecedented popular movement caused the Spanish Supreme Court to “pardon” the Osborne Bull due to cultural and artistic interests.  In the words of the Spanish Supreme Court, the Osborne Bull had “exceded its initial advertising sense and has been integrated into the landscape.”

Osborne Bull flagThe original bulls were carved, true to Manolo Prieto’s original drawing, out of wood.  However, the wooden signs soon weathered and were replaced with a sturdier metal version.  Today’s metal bulls are created from seventy individual pieces of iron held together by 1,000 bolts, four scaffolding-like turrets held in place with bases that weigh a combined 55 tons, and decorated with 20 gallons of black paint. The Osborne Bulls are maintained by the family of Félix Tejada, one of the leading “metalúrgicos”  (metalsmiths) of Spain.

Click here to visit the Bodegas Osborne website.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator –