On Reclaiming Boxed Wine and Rethinking Mommy Wine Culture

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I had an epiphany today. I always thought that boxed wine was mom wine, like late 90s-early 00s mom wine because that was what was in my friends’ parents’ fridges when I was growing up. Granted, there are actual good wines that come in boxes now but I still don’t buy a lot of boxed wines generally-- it always felt like a commitment and I’m a bit of a wild card! Cut to my new life as a mother of a NICU baby (more on this soon, I promise) and my tiny bit of adult time is the the hour or two I spend at home before I go to bed during which I watch reality TV and drink a glass (or occasionally two) of wine. Well, for the first time in my life I was having the issue of all of the wine going bad before I could finish it. I switched from bottles to cans but I still couldn’t finish the damn things in one sitting and in my husband’s words “the most depressing sound is pouring wine down the drain”. Then I remembered that boxed wine existed and it was like Dionysus himself had smiled down on me. And then I realized, maybe this is why all of my friends’ moms drank boxed wine; they were too busy and stressed from keeping a GD human alive to have more than a glass or two at a time. Also, you can’t exactly get drunk and take care of a kid (or you shouldn’t, probably). Then again, it was probably Franzia and they probably just had bad taste in wine and just needed something to survive motherhood. NO JUDGMENT.

Boxed wine has come a long way since I first saw it in my friends’ fridges 20+ years ago and even a long way since the next time I saw it-- in college. While I didn’t know anything about wine when I was in college, I thought I knew enough to avoid all boxed wine because it was shit (which was fair because at the time, it was essentially all Franzia). Funnily enough, the bottles I was drinking weren’t much better at all, but I was operating under the all too common notion that all boxed wine is massed produced and terrible. It’s not! I didn’t actually learn this until I started regularly purchasing wine from a wine shop and noticed they had boxes of wine. When I had learned a little bit about wine and asked about it, I was shocked to hear that there are incredible wineries and winemakers putting their wines in boxes.

So why boxed wine? Well, aside from the obvious things like, it lasts longer and it’s more economical, there are additional benefits. If you’re not an evil human, you might care about the fact that it’s better for the environment. Or if you do a lot of entertaining, you might like that you won’t have three bags of recycling the day after your dinner party (if your dinner parties are like mine) but either way, there is quality wine that can be found in boxes— you can even find it on good wine menus, I’m not kidding.

One of my favorites is the Jenny & Francois From the Tank. It comes in a red (blend), a white (Chardonnay) and a rosé (blend). I tend to get the red blend because, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really care about white wine unless it’s sparkling. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s low-priority. ANYWAY, the red is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan and it has all of the hallmarks of a J & F wine-- hand-harvested grapes and natural winemaking techniques all the way. I first tried this wine last spring after I learned that you could actually find good wine in boxes. The great thing about it is that one box contains three liters (over three bottles of wine). Whether or not you are a postpartum lightweight like I am, it is bound to last you a little while and create a lot less waste in the process.

On the nose, this red blend has notes of super delicious blackberry jam, like good artisanal stuff, not Smuckers.It also smells a bit like a berry candy or even fruit gummies. It’s hard for me to pull anything out that doesn’t have to do with berries and this could very well be because I haven’t been drinking wine regularly for 9 months. On the palate it’s tart and a little acidic but goes down so smooth. It has the best qualities of a big, bold red like Syrah but also the best qualities of a medium red like Grenache or Carignan. It would be hard to pick a meal that wouldn’t pair well with this wine. I could see it holding up to a KC Strip or a grilled salmon. I already ate Mexican earlier but I’ll probably have my leftover enchiladas tomorrow night and I bet it will pair nicely with that too!

I kind of joked about the wine my friends’ moms were drinking probably being bad and I know that that’s just probably this gross mommy wine culture we have permeating into my brain. It seems like so many wines and wine-related products (even products for babies and kids) are marketed toward women and moms simply because they are women and moms. If I get another GD ad for a bib that has some joke about how I love to drink wine, I might snap. Sure, I love wine, but my kid’s bib doesn’t need to reflect that. Also, most of the wines that are marketed toward women seem to be pretty crappy (and I’m guessing the marketing is done by men because none of it appeals to me or any women I know) and have everything to do with needing a drink because motherhood is hard and nothing to do with drinking wine because you actually enjoy it.

That’s the sort of fucked up thing about our culture, a lot of people use alcohol as a means to and end and don’t enjoy the process of drinking it. If I am going to spend what little disposable income I have left on an alcoholic beverage, it had better be good! Honestly, I think a lot of this is changing as we see more women winemakers and wine bar/shop owners in the industry. They are proving that you don’t need to have a glittery pink label to sell wine to women, you do need to appeal to their intellect and maybe even sense of humor though. I hope I can be a part of this sea change by supporting women in wine and writing this little blog because, hell, I’m raising a daughter and I will not have her grow up in a world where women feel like they have to drink shitty wine with cutesy labels.Life is too short for misogyny and shitty wine.

Rosa, Rosé, Rosam & the 2017 Eclipse

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There was an eclipse on Monday, did ya know? Of course you did because people wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it! I wasn’t originally that excited, but then I realized that I would have the chance to put together a charcuterie plate and pop some good wine and I changed my tune. My husband and I were out of town up until the day before the eclipse so I didn’t have time to go to the wine shop and purchase a bottle. Luckily I had the Rosa, Rosé, Rosam by La Grange Tiphaine on hand. I thought to myself “I was saving this for a special occasion” and then I realized that a total solar eclipse was like kind of special so I decided to bring it with us.

The area just north of Kansas City was in the path of totality for the eclipse meaning that the moon would completely block the sun and we would experience a few minutes of total darkness. We decided to head up to a state park in Kearney, MO. I know nothing about Kearney except that when I was 18 I briefly dated a guy from there. He was nice and I think I stole his Band of Horses CD. Oops. The traffic wasn’t too too awful and cheese and wine were a good motivation to keep on keepin on. When we made it to the park, we found a big grassy field to set up in. We had three types of cheese, two were from our favorite local cheese producer, Green Dirt Farm. We also had assorted smoked meats and a ton of crackers. As I opened the Rosa this dude walked up and said “wow, y’all know how to picnic”. I took great pride in this compliment since there are few things in life I take more seriously than good wine and charcuterie.

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The Rosa, Rosé, Rosam is technically a Pét-Nat which I was super excited about because a. that is probably my favorite style of wine and b. I had never had a rosé Pét-Nat before. The Rosa smells like bright red berries, more specifically like fresh strawberries and raspberries. On the palate it is all cranberries and hay and a little barnyard-y. It’s delicious and funky and like all of the best qualities of rosé and Pét-Nat combined. This particular rosé is a blend of Grolleau, Côt, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. It is a fuller bodied rosé which I’m not always the biggest fan of, but with the effervescence, it really works. My husband is more of a beer drinker and he turned to me and said “I think this is the best wine I’ve ever had. I REALLY like this.” It is definitely one of my favorites as well.

I was originally going to bring a full-bodied red wine and that would have been a huge mistake because it was muggy AF out. The Rosa was so refreshing and perfect with the charcuterie plate. Both were a great accompaniment to the eclipse. It was super strange watching it progressively getting darker until it eventually looked like sunset. Then we reached totality and could look at the eclipse without our glasses. It was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. As the moon kept moving and the sun started shining again, a rooster started crowing. It was so bizarre to hear at just after 1:00 p.m. Eventually it was full sun again and we packed up and headed back to the car. I hadn’t mentioned this but it had been storming all morning until just about 20 minutes before the eclipse and it started up again just after. I felt ridiculously lucky that we were able to experience a cloud-free totality.

The traffic sucked on the way back and the clouds rolled back in. I desperately wished we had more Rosa and charcuterie. My friend texted me “I miss the eclipse” and I totally knew how he felt. It was so cool and so short and impossible to capture with my camera. It almost made it cooler that I couldn’t get a good picture, I’ll just have to remember what I experienced. Apparently there is going to be another solar eclipse in 2024 and both Dallas and upstate New York are in the path of totality (we have family in both). In my fantasy, I will be watching the next eclipse from the Bloomer Creek vineyard in the Finger Lakes, drinking one of their Pét-Nats. Oh, and in this fantasy, Trump will have been impeached by 2018 and Elizabeth Warren will be on her second term in the White House.

Just before totality 

Just before totality 

Isa Rosé

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this a few months ago when all I was drinking was rosé but didn't want to overwhelm the blog with rosé posts. However, last night I dominated a round of trivia called Rosé All Day, so I thought I would post this in honor of that. Enjoy!

Here is one of the many things I love about rosé-- it is easy to find great stuff that won’t break the bank. Take the Isa Rosé from Chemins de Bassac, imported by Jenny & Francois, for example. This organic and biodynamic wine was less than $15 at my local liquor store that specializes in wine. Sometimes natural wines can be intimidating either because of the price point or the unpredictability of them, but once you find a great importer, you’re golden. I trust anything brought to me by Jenny & Francois and am always impressed by the price point.

Chemins de Bassac is owned by winemakers, Isabelle and Rémy Ducellier. It is located near the city of Béziers which is in southeastern France, near the Mediterranean Sea. The Ducellier family has owned the 19th century vineyard since the mid-nineties and offer a red, white and Pinot Noir in addition to their rosé. This rosé is made up of Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Syrah (basically a rosé version of GSM).

It is a lovely shade of icy pink, like that frosted lipstick that was popular in the early aughts and I mean this in a nice, nostalgic way, not disparagingly. No way would I be caught dead wearing that shade now, but I may have donned it in my seventh grade school picture WHICH I WILL NOT SHOW YOU. Anyhow, it’s a lovely shade of light pink that I could have compared to way more topical things like the NARS eyeshadow in Goddess, which I am coveting hardcore. There, that’s better than frosted lipstick.

Let’s move on from makeup comparisons. This rosé smells like raspberries, red plum and parsley. It is super subtle on the palate and almost has notes of green apples and green peppers like a white might. There is also a briny/sweatiness to it that could be influenced by being grown so close to the sea. It is light but dense, with so much depth to it. It could hold its own with a heavier dish like pasta or steak easily, but you could also pair it with something lighter like fish or chicken. I’d recommend using some fresh herbs in whatever you’re making.

I’m enjoying this tonight on my porch contemplating World Refugee Day and reading Nayyirah Waheed. I really can’t believe the political mess that is our government right now. If you want to know more of my thoughts on this topic, read this post. I’m trying to move forward. The best thing to do is to support local organizations that do good political work. My favorite in Kansas City is Jewish Vocational Service (JVS). They serve our refugee population and people with disabilities, oh and I should note that they aren’t religious. Weren’t we all immigrants at one time? I think we should care for one another, that should just be a basic tenant we live by. If that’s not your philosophy then I hope you stop reading my blog cause we are all about helping people out around here. And helping people find good wine.  

Petit Cochon Bronzé

I always overcommit. I don’t know if it’s my Jewish guilt or that I get serious FOMO when I see people doing interesting things on social media, but I regularly end up scheduling something every night of the week. This is all fine and good, but it can leave me feeling drained and oh, not seeing my husband, so that sucks. It’s all good stuff that I’m doing-- work meetings, volunteering, drinks with friends, but it’s still exhausting. I’m trying this new thing where I only schedule things two weeknights per week that way I can prioritize important things like working out, cooking at home, seeing my husband, oh and watching The Handmaid’s Tale (duh). Note that this rule does not apply to the weekends which are a fucking free for all.

Tonight is one of my “off” nights and while I didn’t have time to work out, I am making dinner. I decided to make two of my favorite go-to recipes, garlic salmon and Fattoush, which is hands down, my favorite salad (also, I usually make mine with naan because oddly enough, naan is easier to find than pita in KC). I am pairing all of this with Domaine Rimbert’s Petit Cochon Bronzé Rosé, imported by Jenny & Francois. I don’t know if I tend to pair salmon with rosé because they’re both pink or maybe because they both have that briny, seawater quality to them, but either way, these taste great together.

I first tried this rosé at Underdog at a Jenny & Francois tasting. It was April, but it was still kind of chilly and I wasn’t in full rosé mode yet. Well, here we are in late June and I am now in FULL fucking  rosé mode. Seriously, it has been work not to consistently post about rosé because that is most of what I have been drinking this summer. This wine smells like a rose garden with a bit of fennel mixed in. It is super subtle on the palate with notes of apricot and pink peppercorn. It is comprised of 80% Cinsault and 20% Syrah and is the palest shade of pink with an orange hue. I would legit wear a dress this shade because it’s understated and beautiful.

I’m drinking this and listening to Rilo Kiley’s “The Execution of All Things”. I cannot believe that came out in 2002, it’s still so good and relevant. It’s kind of the perfect summer soundtrack and pairs so nicely with the Petit Cochon Bronzé. I read this article a while back that basically said that you will always think the music you listened to as a teenager was the best ever. I think it holds true, at least for me. While I’ve added some new bands into my repertoire, I still rely heavily on the same stuff I listened to in high school-- Radiohead, Neko Case, David Bazan, etc. This wine is a little bit like that too, super good and super nostalgic. Even if you’ve never had it before, you’ll have memories of swigging it straight out of the bottle on hot summer nights in the mid-aughts. Go with it.

A Guide to Day Drinking

This is my most sacrilegious post thus far. I’d apologize, but I don’t really care. If you’re a rabbi or super religious Jew, maybe just skip this one.  

The cool thing about working for a Jewish agency is that you get a ton of random days off throughout the year. I mean, they aren’t random, they are for Jewish holidays. But when you aren’t the most religious Jew, you can just sleep in and chill most of the time. This week happens to be Shavuot. Here’s the extent of my knowledge about Shavuot: we eat cheesecake. Also, maybe some people tried to kill us thousands of years ago and we survived or something. I don’t know, that’s just a guess but it’s usually the case.

 I reached out to my friend Andrew, who also works for a Jewish agency and is probably even less religious than I am and I asked if he wanted to day drink one of the days we were off. His response was “you had me at shalom.” So yes, he was down. He also informed me that he thought Shavuot was actually a celebration of the harvest ending, or something, and that people do some sort of two day party/rave (sounds Biblical, right?). Let’s go with that! 

Here’s the first thing you should know about day drinking, you need to be careful what you choose to imbibe. You want to steer clear of anything with too much alcohol because you’ll be shitfaced by 3:00 and hungover by 7:00. I recommend going with a white, rosé or even a light-bodied red since these will all be lower in alcohol than, say, a big fat Cab (which I do love in the right time and place). Here’s the other thing about day drinking, weather permitting, it should be done outside. Whites, rosés and lighter-bodied reds are going to be better outside anyway, because you know you want something chilled, if like me you’re day drinking on a warm, midwestern late spring day.  

I decided to go with a sparkling wine and light-bodied red. The sparkling wine I chose is the Pét-Nat from Field Recordings. Please don’t ask me to tell you the scientific definition of pétillant naturel (Pét-Nat) because I’m terrible at chemistry and in fact was kicked out of AP chem as a senior because I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. However, I do know that it is a naturally sparkling wine that continues part of its fermentation process in the bottle, thus creating a funkier, and sometimes more volatile, finished product. Field Recordings’ was the first Pét-Nat I ever tried. Actually, I found it at a different wine shop than I usually go to and had to deal with a real mansplainy dude to get it. He tried to convince me that all sparkling wine is pétillant naturel if it’s made in the Méthode Traditionelle and I was like “Uhhhh I don’t think so?” Don’t make me question myself just cause you’re a pretentious Somm.

 I know I’ve mentioned that I am more of a red wine drinker, but I could seriously drink Pét-Nat everyday, especially when it gets warm out. There is something about the funkiness to it that I just find so delicious. It’s also easy to throw back, which is perfect for day drinking. Like I’ve alluded, it’s super interesting with a barnyard quality and a brackishness to it. It smells like apple cider vinegar, in the best way. Like when you’re trying to be super healthy and take a shot of ACV every morning. It almost tastes like a ginger kombucha, which I love and also freeze dried mangoes. It is so effervescent and lovely and so unlike any other sparkling wine out there.

 The red wine I chose is a biodynamic Gamay from Didier Montchovet and imported by Jenny & Francois. Didier Montchovet sounds super dope. He started his vineyard in 1984 in Bouze-les-Beaune, a town in the Burgundy region of France and uses sustainable practices to produce his wines. This Gamay is so fruit forward. It kind of smells like barbecue but tastes like the pith of a grapefruit rolled into the pit of a plum, with black liquorish at the end. It’s even got notes of black cherry warheads, if you remember those. It is so full and lush and tastes amazing lightly chilled. It is perfect for porch-sitting with a friend or even on your own.

 So here I am, lightly buzzed and watching Transparent with Andrew while we sip La Croix. We also just tried a baby pineapple and a passionfruit because I am trying this new experiment where I buy strange fruit and eat it to hopefully expand my palette. Day drinking is super fun, especially when you can do it with a friend on a random holiday. Again, I highly suggest going with a lower alcohol wine like a white, rosé or light-bodied red so you can keep your wits about yourself at least until it's socially acceptable to really let loose. The wines I chose did not disappoint. They were light but energetic in two totally different ways. So go forth and day drink!

Note: Here 's my mom's take on Shavuot: "Shavuot celebrates when God gave the Torah at Sinai and the Jewish people accepted it. It is a pilgrimage festival and everybody used to go to the Temple to drink wine. You had the right idea all along." Thanks, Mom!

Ode to a Gamay

I heard about gamay long before I tried it and I was convinced I would love it because well, everyone else did. But I tried it a few years ago and was less than enthused. It was way too acidic for me and bordered on tasting sour. Maybe the bottle I had was corked (or just bad) but I avoided it for a bit. I decided to try the Prémices by Laurence & Rémi Dufaitre because I thought the minimalist label was dope and I tend to love anything imported by Jenny & Francois. I’m glad I did because this wine has been my favorite of the season! Seriously, this is like my fifth or sixth bottle this spring.

The first time I tried it was at my synagogue’s communal seder. I’m not sure the winemaker had matzah and haroset in mind as pairings, but it worked. Okay, I deleted it but I just went on a tirade about how this seder is technically BYOB, but everyone tries to steal your shit. Bottom line, I was not having it this year and guarded this bottle with my life, sharing it only with my friend John because he brought a sephardic matzoh pie. #worthit

But let’s get onto it, this wine is the shit. It smells like alcoholic roses (does that make sense? Like funky flowers with a little bit of alcohol.) Also like overripe bing cherries and Sweet Tarts, which is interesting because I don’t remember the last time I had Sweet Tarts. This wine is tart and acidic without being overwhelming like the first gamay I tried. I recommend chilling it for just a bit and then chilling with it for a bit. This is so versatile, you can serve it at a seder (or a normal dinner party) or just drink it on the porch with friends. It’s also the perfect spring/summer wine for red-wine lovers like myself. It is light-bodied but so smooth.

I will be drinking a lot more of this wine the next several months. So long as Underdog keeps it in stock, they will make a good deal of money off of me. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.