Turkey Day Wine

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My favorite place to spend my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving) is with my husband’s family in Dallas. They are super low key and chill so the frenetic cliches of Thanksgiving don’t hold up at all. Dallas also happens to have one of my favorite wine shops in the country, Bar and Garden. Bar and Garden was our first stop when we finished the 8ish hour drive from Kansas City (well, we actually broke it up over two days).

I went to B&G with the intent of picking up some wines for the long weekend as well as finding some gems to take home. Boy did I find some gems! One of those was one I had only seen in magazines and on Instagram, the Partida Crues 2014 Garrut. I actually gasped when I saw this Spanish natty sparkling red chilling in the fridge. I grabbed it, winced at the $45 price tag, but bit the bullet and bought it because, hey, when was the next time I’d be able to find it?

Partida Creus is the brainchild of Italian couple, Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa, who moved from Barcelona to Catalonia in 2000 with the intention of making natural wines that were higher in acid and lower in alcohol than the traditional Spanish wines.

Garrut is the Catalan name for Monastrell or Mourvèdre, a grape originating from Spain that is often used as a blending grape. The Partida Creus Garrut is 100% Garrut however.  Garrut makes a full-bodied wine that can be likened to Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve mentioned that although it’s fall (peak November, to be exact) I’ve been far more into the lighter-bodied reds than their full-bodied counterparts like Cabernet or Syrah. So why am I️ salivating over just the thought of this full-bodied Spanish red? Well, this particular Garrut is lightly sparkling, made in the style of Lambrusco (one of my personal favs). I thought that the effervescence might cut through the full-body of the grape.

We planned to have the perfect traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, etc. and I thought the Garrut would pair nicely with all of it. I looked forward to capturing photos of the golden, buttery turkey after it finished cooking. Minor detail, when we opened up the turkey to start prepping it, we discovered that it was just a breast, a big breast, but just a breast nonetheless. Oops. This isn’t a huge deal, there are only five of us but we had plans to make a turkey stock and turkey soup and turkey sandwiches. Oh well.  

The Garrut proved difficult to open with the wax top + a not so great corkscrew but we eventually popped the cork. I asked my husband and father in law (both beer drinkers) if they wanted a glass and they both shook their heads no. However once I poured myself one, they each said “yeah, I’ll try some.” It’s a cloudy garnet color and smells like apple cider vinegar and red currant on the nose. On the palate it is straight up cranberry sauce with orange zest and garden soil. Though it’s a Mourvèdre, it feels light-bodied and doesn't really remind me of Lambrusco as much as other natty Spanish reds I've had. It’s super easy to toss back but I’m trying to savor it since it was a little on the pricy side.

Well, I hope y’all are having a lovely holiday and are drinking great wine and eating great food in your stretchiest pants. In my friend Ellen’s words “don’t stress and eat as much as you want”.

Natty Spanish Wine and Hotdish ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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We have reached peak November in Kansas City meaning the leaves are all red, orange and yellow, it’s getting dark before 5:00 p.m. and I’ve transitioned into wearing nothing but cozy sweaters and clogs (with socks). It’s usually around this time of year that I dive head first into bottles of Zinfandel and Syrah like nobody's business because to me, a good Zin or Syrah tastes like the wine equivalent of a cozy sweater. However, I’ve been sticking to the lighter bodied reds for the most part, which has been surprising especially to me.

Last Thursday I went to a Spanish natty wine tasting at Underdog where they were pouring wines from importer, Jose Pastor. The way that Jose Pastor was first described to me was that he is the Jenny and Francois of Spain. How could you go wrong with a description like that? The wines were absolutely incredible. I’ve had a few Jose Pastor Selections bottles (I wrote about the orange one here) but I’d been aching to try more. I ended up purchasing three bottles from JP, one of which I knew I had to review. It is the Vidueño de Santiago del Teide by Chingao & Envínate. An interesting fact about this wine is that it is made with 50% white grapes and 50% red. Santiago del Teide is a small town situated on Tenerife, Canary Islands with super volcanic soil. Google it, it looks amazing.

The first thing you notice about this wine is the aroma. It is super funky to say the least and almost has a barnyard quality to it. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t translate to the palate where it is super herbal and floral-- the qualities of the Listan Blanco (the white grape) shine through though it still has some body from the Listan Prieto (the red grape). I decided to chill this, since I wasn’t really sure what else to do with a wine that is half white. It ended up being a good idea although I may have overchilled it. This has been sitting in my fridge for like 5 days and I should have let it chill (ha, but not literally) on the counter for a bit before I opened it. Oh well.

So what do I do when the season hits peak November? I’m glad you asked. I basically hibernate as much as possible, only leaving the house for essential things like work and Target runs. I also make a lot of comfort food. It was suggested that you pair this wine with roasted meat or a full flavored seafood dish and I am doing neither. I am actually pairing this with the most comforting of comfort foods, hotdish. Do you know what hotdish is? I had only heard of it in passing until I started religiously reading Molly Yeh’s food blog www.mynameisyeh.com. She is a North Dakota transplant who cooks dishes that fuse her Jewish, Chinese and now upper Midwest roots.I made her famous Chicken Pot Tater Tot hotdish from her cookbook, Molly on the Range (but you can also find it here). Oddly enough, the wine works with this dish.The hotdish is so rich that you need some acidity from the wine to cut through the creaminess of it.I never really thought of pairing a funky light-bodied wine like this with a casserole until I happened to have both on hand and it worked.

Well, it’s almost 5:00 and basically dark so I’m probably going to curl up in a blanket and watch bad TV (I’ve been rewatching The City, which is the spinoff of The Hills and it’ pretty entertaining). I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying this season, eating good food and most importantly, drinking good wine.

Fall For Orange Wine

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I love orange wines, but tbh, I’m getting a little oranged out. Don’t get me wrong, I think that orange wines fun are funky and I will always love them. However, it seems like KC finally got on the orange wine train and I can’t get away from them even if I try (a problem I never thought I’d have). However, I also feel like I need to taste everything, so when I see orange wine at a shop or on a menu, I usually try it. I first tried this wine at my birthday tasting at my favorite wine shop, Underdog. I bought a bottle and meant to review it but instead I opened it one night when I was already a little tipsy (which is no easy feat since the top is covered in wax) and crushed it. So here we are, nearly a month later and kind of feeling over orange wine for the season, but it matches the leaves so perfectly and like what did you think I was going to review for the fall, pumpkin spice lattes? No.

The Lovamor is made exclusively from Albillo Real grapes from the Ribera del Duero region of Spain situated in the central north. Albillo Real is grown widely throughout this region as well as in Madrid. Lovamor is organic, unfined and unfiltered (just the way I like it). The grapes see six days of skin contact, leading to an amber/golden hue. The winemaker who produces Lovamor is Alfredo Maestro, whose mantra is “Wine made with only grapes, well-kept vineyards, and healthy land.” Maestro employs natural and organic winemaking techniques, using old vines and neglected land. Maestro’s wines are imported by Jose Pastor Selections, which has been described to me as the Jenny & Francois of Spain. When I heard this, I knew I would love it.

The bouquet of the Lovamor is light but floral, smelling of lilies and honeysuckle. There’s a sweetness to it, but I’ve learned this is often deceiving when it comes to orange wines where the bouquet and the palate can be 100% different. The floral notes come through on the palate in such a nice way! It reminds me of the first orange wine I tried on a trip to L.A. It was a Georgian orange wine and was so light and floral, but still had a bit of body from the skin contact. It tastes like orange blossoms (don’t sue me for comparing an orange wine to actual oranges, I know they aren’t made from oranges) and there’s a grittiness to it in the best possible way, which could be due to it being unfined and unfiltered.

This would be the perfect wine for drinking outside on a cool fall day while listening to old-ish Radiohead, which is what I’m doing. Today I read that some dude on Fox News called Radiohead the poor man’s Coldplay. When I was able to pick my jaw up off of the floor I immediately burst into laughter. Radiohead is hands down my favorite band and has been for 10+ years. Since reading that, I’ve been alternating between listening to The Daily Mail/Staircase single and the Knives Out EP-- two of my favorites. The weather is pretty perfect, it is in the high sixties and sunny. If I had my way, I would do nothing but drink this wine outside while listening to Radiohead for the duration of fall. In reality I need to go inside and cook dinner. However, if you have some free time this week, I’d highly recommend picking up some Lovamor, taking it outside and turning on Radiohead. Oh, and I should mention that I stole the title of this post from a window display at a wine shop in Chicago. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Bichi Wines La Santa

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Mexican wine are two words that you don’t hear together often, at least in my neck of the woods (Kansas City). However, I read about this amazing-looking natty wine out of Tecate, Mexico on my wine idol’s blog a while ago and made a mental note that I should try it if it ever made it to town. Well, lo and behold, the day has arrived. When I saw on instagram that my favorite local importer had Bichi, I went full fangirl and messaged one of the reps asking where I could get it. He assured me that it would be arriving in my favorite wine shop before long.

After perusing Bichi’s website, I learned that Mexico has actually been in the winemaking biz for hundreds of years. In fact, conquistadors planted vines in Mexico in the 1500’s, before more well-known wine-growing regions like Chile and Argentina. Let’s be real, the Conquistadors fucked up a lot of shit and that is not okay. We should fight against present day colonialism and view the past with a critical lens. That said, this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a blog post and I’ll let you do your own research and activism on/against colonialism.  

The Bichi wine I chose was the La Santa. La Santa is made from Rosa del Peru (or Moscatel Negro), a grape that was also introduced in California in the 18th century but has become much harder to find. Upon first pour, it is very light in color. It smells like freshly cut root vegetables-- beets, squash, pumpkin. It is tart on the palate, tasting like cranberries and mushrooms which I know does not sound good, but somehow it is. I am pairing this with short ribs because, to be honest, I knew nothing about the varietal and just decided to chance it. Luckily, this light-bodied, acidic red cuts the fat in the beef so well.

Along with the short ribs, I’m pairing the La Santa with Transparent season 4. I’ve actually already watched it in its entirety a few times (including once the night it was released) but it is just so good. If you’re not watching Transparent you’re missing out big time. It is so interesting because while all of the characters are kind of deplorable in their own ways (especially the kids), I relate to all of them (especially the kids).

However, this season it clicked. I’m an Ali and I always have been. I’m super interested in religion and spirituality but have no interest in rules and kind of just do my own thing. I also took time before college to find myself and in college I was definitely unaware of my privilege until I started taking challenging social science courses. I feel like Ali would really dig Bichi. It’s funky af and a little irreverent in its packaging. It’s also delicious. Do yourself a favor and pick up some Bichi and binge Transparent. You won't be sorry.

Ask for What You Want

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Growing up I was VERY quiet. At 18, I learned that it wasn’t just shyness but an anxiety disorder. Either way, I rarely asked for what I really wanted and therefore often just put up with things I didn’t want, whether in a relationship or at the coffee shop. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I became more outspoken about what I did and didn't like. While this might seem trivial it is incredibly frustrating to constantly keep your opinions to yourself and put up with others’ shitty behavior for the sake of being nice. I think we condition women to think that by speaking out they will seem gruff or bitchy and no one wants to be called a bitch so we remain quiet.

It really wasn’t until the 2016 election that I realized how often outspoken women are demonized and demeaned, particularly by men simply for speaking up about their opinions. That’s when I decided that that was enough. I was going to stop putting up with bullshit mansplaining, whether I was at work or the wine shop (because yes, it has happened in both places as well as many others). I actually stopped going to a certain wine shop in town because I asked for what I wanted (a Pét-Nat) and was given a lecture about how all sparkling wines are Pét-Nats (uh, what?). I’m no somm, but I have a basic knowledge of wine and to be treated like an unknowledgeable consumer was frustrating and insulting.

Anyhow, asking for what you want at a wine shop seems pretty basic, but it’s actually hard for a lot of people, especially if you are just switching from buying your wine at a grocery store to a legit wine shop. It can be real intimidating when you thought you were a high roller when you spent $15 on a bottle. However, go often enough and you’ll develop a rapport with the staff/owner and if they ever make you feel like shit, leave immediately and find a new spot, even if it’s a wine shop in N.Y. or L.A. that will ship to you; no one deserves to be talked down to. Most places are cool though in my experience.  

Going to a legit wine shop, Underdog Wine Co. in K.C., rather than the grocery store for me coincided with the election and thus my deep feminist awakening (I was already quite feminist so post-election was like woah). After a few months of buying my wine there, I felt super comfortable with the staff and the owner. To the point where I said, “hey, I’m getting really into natural wine… can you get more of that?” And they did. I also took a trip last spring to visit my friend, Ursula, in L.A. and had so much good wine-- most of which was natural. As soon as I came back I showed the owner of the wine shop everything I tried, including one particular bottle that was life-changing and I had to have again. It was the j. brix Cobolorum Riesling Pét-Nat. So funky and volatile (see my original review here). I asked the owner if he could get it for me and guess what, he did! Sure, it took some time, but it is here now and it is delightful, as good if not better than I remember and maybe it tastes extra good because I ASKED FOR WHAT I WANTED AND GOT IT.

If you’ve always been outspoken, this post might not resonate with you, but for those of you that have stayed quiet on issues big and small, I hope you can gain some confidence and speak up for what you want, even if it’s just at your wine shop. It’s not always men that talk down to me, but let’s get real, it usually is and for some reason, I have a harder time calling them out than I do women. Here is a quote from Rebecca Solnit that helps me a lot, “Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they are talking about. Some men.” So stay strong and ask for what you want, at your wine shop and in life.

AmByth Estate Sauvignon Blanc

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Disclaimer: I started writing this post before Hurricane Maria devestated Puerto Rico, so I hope my going on about the beauty of this island doesn't seem tone deaf. I hope you will consider donating to an organization that is providing relief to our fellow American citizens such as UNICEF.

First impression of this wine: it is orange AF. I have had several orange wines and have loved them all, but they are usually more of a gold/coppery hue than truly orange. The AmByth Sauvignon Blanc is a straight up sunset in a glass. AmByth Estate uses only organically grown grapes which are then crushed by foot. This skin-contact Sauvignon Blanc ages with its skins for 9 months until it achieves the perfect apple cider hue.

On the nose, this is pure passionfruit. I wouldn’t know this except I have been doing this experiment where I buy the strangest fruit I can find at the grocery store and try it as a means to entertain myself as well as expand my palate. While passionfruit isn’t strange, it is pretty uncommon in Kansas. I think I first tried fresh passionfruit when I was in Puerto Rico a year ago. We took a catamaran out to the island of Culebra off the coast of PR and it was absolutely beautiful. It was also all you could drink and they were serving rum with passionfruit juice. It was delicious. The smell of this wine takes me right back to the beaches of Culebra.

On the palate it tastes funky like apple cider vinegar, lime blossom and, you guessed it, passionfruit. It smells and tastes just like Passionfruit by Drake, perfect, right? Well, maybe not if you’re not a Drake fan but then why are you even here? It’s so damn smooth and you just want to listen to it on repeat while you sit on a Caribbean beach somewhere drinking the AmByth Estate Sauvignon Blanc. “Passionate from miles away, passive with the things you say.” Mmmmmmm.

I also dig that this wine is unfiltered and super cloudy. I tend to prefer unfiltered, unfined wines. They tend to have more funk and be less predictable, varying bottle to bottle. Sometimes that means you end up with something less than optimal, but I’ve been lucky and have loved all of the unfiltered wines I’ve tried. While I noted that this wine would be perfect for a Caribbean beach, it is also kind of perfect for fall in Kansas City. It’s still hot here so a chilled wine is not a bad thing, but the leaves are changing and don’t look unlike this Sauvignon Blanc. The apple cider vinegar quality to it feels pretty autumnal.

Jordi Miró Ennak+

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Hello again and Shana Tovah for those celebrating! I am glad to be back after a little time off and I have the most perfect wine to review. I’ve been calling it the “cat wine” for obvious reasons, but its real name is Ennak+ by Jordi Miró. The Ennak+ is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. This wine was made using organic grapes that were hand picked, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s pretty natty. I’m pairing this with Moonrise Kingdom. Moonrise Kingdom is probably the Wes Anderson film with which I am the least familiar. However, I felt like I should rewatch it as I prepare for my Wes Anderson themed birthday party in a month. Also, there is a super cute cat in it.

The Ennak+ smells like fresh herbs and concrete after the rain. It is sort of the perfect wine for the changing of the seasons, it is the last day of summer after all and the leaves are starting to turn various hues of yellow and orange but it is still warm enough to wear a summer dress. On the palate, it tastes like black pepper, plum and fig. This movie is also kind of the best last hurrah for the summer. It takes place on an island which I’m guessing is off the New England coast and centers on two runaways, one from her idyllic seaside home and one from his summer camp. It makes me super nostalgic for summer camp in the 1960’s even though I wasn’t alive then and the only camp I ever went to was a bible camp with friends where we freaked our counselor out with our liberal views.

But this film does make me nostalgic and maybe it is just for around the time I saw it. I remember I saw this in theaters with my mom, brother and now husband in the summer of 2012. It was an amazing and horrific year-- I was married and shortly after, my brother died. I’m not sure how I convinced him to see this with me as he wasn’t usually one for Wes Anderson movies, but we went and it was great. I remember that my husband got the DVD for my birthday in 2013, but I didn’t watch it until now. It’s weird when you lose someone and places and things get tied up with memories of them. Five years later, I am really starting to heal from my brother’s death and can once again face things that remind me of him.  

I didn’t really expect this movie to bring up these memories for me, but maybe it is also the changing of the seasons or the reflective period between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that have me thinking. Whatever it is, I’m always thankful to be reminded of my brother and the time I spent with him. He wasn’t much of a wine drinker but I wish we could rewatch Moonrise Kingdom together and share this Ennak+. He also loved cats so I think he would approve.

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Bloomer Creek Tanzen Dame

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I originally saw this bottle on the manager of the Union Hill Underdog’s instagram. I asked if it was for sale and he said yes but he had one bottle. I promised him I could come in that afternoon if he would save it for me. I got my hands on it and I was so excited. Bloomer Creek is a winery in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York (where my husband’s family happens to be from). I toured some Finger Lakes wineries back in 2013 and drank my fair share of dry Riesling but knew little about wine. We have been back since to visit my husband, Matt’s family, but haven’t had time to tour wineries. It is my dream to go back to Upstate New York and visit Bloomer Creek. They are a natural winery that producing amazing unfiltered wines, such as the Tanzen Dame Pét-Nat.

I saved this wine for about a month before diving into it with my friend, Meg. I wanted to open it because I think you should open special bottles of wine and not just leave them to sit for forever. So I had my friend Meg over to watch a true crime movie and drink this funky white. It was a little volatile upon opening as many Pét-Nats are, but once the bubbles settled, we poured it and took a sniff. It smelled of apple cider vinegar and lime blossoms. On the palate it was straight up limestone and lemonade. I’m not even sure what limestone tastes like, but I would imagine that it is chalky. I went to the University of Kansas where our slogan is “Rock Chalk” after the chalky limestone found in our state.

This wine made me oddly nostalgic for college although it is from Upstate New York. However, we visited Ithaca, home of Cornell University in 2013, and it felt so familiar. It was liberal and had lots of eclectic shops downtown and I felt like I could have been in Lawrence, Kansas. College towns just do something to me. We were recently in my husband’s college town of Norman, Oklahoma and it made me want to go back to Lawrence so badly. It has been five years since I graduated from college and yet it feels like no time has passed at all.

A good wine can take you back or forward in time, sometimes to a place you’ve never been. But the best place you can be transported is to the place of nostalgia and the Tanzen Dame does that for me. It simultaneously takes me to Lawrence and Ithaca. You might not think that Kansas and New York would have that much in common, but I’d invite you to visit those two towns. You should also drink the Tanzen Dame if you do.

Donkey & Goat Gadabout White Blend

One thing I love about Instagram is that I’ve made all of these internet friends. I’ve never met most of them IRL and I don’t even know many of their names, but I feel as though I know them because I’ve seen their lives play out on my phone screen. This has become especially true of the wine community in Kansas City. I’ve started interacting with so many wine lovers and wine professionals in the city, most of whom I’ve never met but constantly chat with on the Gram. One of my Insta-friends posted about a natural wine tasting at a local liquor store I had never been to but was within walking distance of my office. I decided I had to go.

When I showed up, I was glad I did because I saw a host of wines, some of which I had had before and loved (Dufaitre Gamay, for instance) and ones I had been dying to try. One such wine I had been dying to try was the Donkey & Goat Gadabout white blend. I had read extensively about Donkey & Goat’s sustainable practices and interesting blends but had a hard time locating their wine in the city. I was contemplating ordering some online but that shipping fee is a bitch! Also, I didn’t want to take the chance of it sitting outside in a box in the Kansas July heat. So I was thrilled to see it was in the tasting line up and available for purchase!

Donkey & Goat is owned by Tracey and Jared Brandt who are pioneers of California natural winemaking. They make small batches of wine without filtering or fining anything and list the ingredients on the bottle. What’s not to love? Gadabout literally means, “a person who travels often or to many different places, especially for pleasure.” This was music to this hedonist’s ears. I’ve often told people that I work to live, not live to work. I am lucky enough that I absolutely love my job, but I am not one to put in 50-60 hour work weeks. I enjoy my time off immensely and I think I am a better worker for it.

You can tell the wine is unfiltered as it appears fairly cloudy. I for one love unfiltered wine and find it to be way more interesting and funky than its filtered counterpart. The bouquet of the Gadabout is so subtle, smelling of ginger tea and a used bookstore, more specifically The Dusty Bookshelf, my favorite bookstore in my college town of Lawrence, Kansas. On the palate it is super floral, tasting of fresh jasmine and pear blossoms. I think I would be my happiest if I could take a bottle of this into The Dusty Bookshelf, sit on one of their worn chairs with Alice, the cat, on my lap, reading a book and drinking this wine.

One of my favorite movies is Before Sunset, part of which takes place in a Parisian bookstore, Shakespeare & Co. Independent used bookstores always remind me of that movie and make me nostalgic for the first time I watched it in high school. It’s kind of the perfect film, in my opinion. It takes place in real time and is basically just a filmed conversation between two people who may or may not be in love with each other (watch and find out…) There is little background music and you quickly get lost and the film and then, like that, it’s over.

The Gadabout makes me nostalgic for walking the streets of Paris with my lover which I have never even done, so it’s powerful shit. I know I’ll make it to Paris someday with my lover in tow; I took seven years of French for Christ’s sake. But until then, I can sip Gadabout and watch Before Sunset, dreaming about being a gadabout myself and traveling often or to many different places especially for pleasure.

A photo I took at a local bookstore today.

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!

Charcuterie with a Side of Dystopian Film

Note: this post is best read while listening to Radiohead’s “Life in a Glasshouse” (which is featured in Children of Men but sadly not included on the soundtrack).

I'm a charcuterie purist. No fruit or honeycomb here, sorry. 

I'm a charcuterie purist. No fruit or honeycomb here, sorry. 

I love anything dystopian if it’s done well: film, TV, books, music. I discovered this in high school when I watched Children of Men in theaters with my best friends (what up, Amanda, Renee and Kacie). What I remember most vividly is the completely silent drive home. That movie made me think and I wasn’t used to that. I liked it. Fast forward 11 years to when I was watching the premier of The Handmaid’s Tale with friends. I asked if anyone had seen Children of Men since a lot of themes are present in both. A few of my friends hadn’t seen it so I believe I said “Two weeks. Watch party. My house.” Not sure, I was kind of drunk TBH.

But here we are, about two weeks later and I have five dear friends coming over to watch a depressing film with me. YAY! I refuse to host any sort of party without the appropriate accoutrement so I decided to throw together a cheese and charcuterie and plate-- one of my absolute favorite things in the world. Seriously, if I could eat charcuterie for dinner every night and not go broke while simultaneously getting heart disease, I would. And this being my party, there had to be wine. Good wine. I chose one wine that I know and love and another that I’ve never tried before. Both have fantastically dystopian labels (I hope the winemakers don’t take offense to this because I mean it with the utmost respect).

Les Grandes Vignes

I tried and tried and could not get a good pic of this. But trust me, it's good.

I tried and tried and could not get a good pic of this. But trust me, it's good.

The only thing I love more than the color black is the combo of black and red. In fact, my favorite outfit in the fall/winter is my black jeans with my bright red sweater (preferably with black or red nails). Also, so many of my favorite album covers are black and red like the aforementioned Amnesiac by Radiohead or anything by The White Stripes. So I love this wine label and find it just a tad on the dystopian side (something about the ghostly looking vines or trees or whatever they are). It was super hard to find much information about this wine, but what I know is that it is a Cinsault from Côtes du Rhône, a massive wine-growing region in Southeastern France. I can also tell you that it is delicious. At less than $15, this is one of my go-to wines, year round. I would basically trust Jenny & Francois with my life (as far as wine is concerned and maybe in general) so I knew I would love this. It is tart but earthy, without a ton of tannin or acidity. It’s fruity, with notes of stone fruits like plum. There is a minerality to it, like slate (which I might just be thinking of because my charcuterie board is made of it. I'm not one for licking rocks though I respect your dedication if you are).

Valravn Old Vine Zinfandel

Okay, I totally went based off of label for this one because it’s not super common to pair a big bold red with charcuterie. Then again, I don’t really listen to wine rules. I went with this particular wine because ravens are creepy in the best possible way and I’m also a superfan of Zinfandel and think it’s the perfect accompaniment for a post-apocalyptic film. The Valravn is actually from the winemaker who produces Banshee wines, whose rosé I love. This Zinfandel's big body pairs well with the heaviness and existential dread casually floating through the film. Its fruitiness, on the other hand, pairs well with the prosciutto I'm serving and the light acidity cuts through the creaminess of the brie. Also, I bought my favorite crackers: cracked pepper water crackers that taste just great with this wine since Zinfandels are typically pretty peppery. This is great with charcuterie but you know what would also be delicious? Some Kansas City BBQ. Burnt ends from Joe's, to be exact. I wish you could BYOB at Joe's because, while I love a Tank 7 with my BBQ, this wine would legit pair well with anything on their menu. Again, I say, don't overthink food and wine pairings! 

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka + Young Vines

I want a t-shirt that says “Yotam Ottolenghi Is My Homeboy” because he is basically my Israeli-British food savior. Author of Jerusalem, Plenty, Plenty More, and others, he is a London-based, world-renowned chef known for his global dishes and fantastic vegetarian fare. Also, he has master's degrees in philosophy AND comparative literature, so he's just an all around badass. He is featured on the Jerusalem episode of Anthony Bourdain’s, Parts Unknown, and his genius shines through. He mostly recommends vegetarian items, but Bourdain doesn’t even notice because they are so good. (Side note: I am so pissed they took Parts Unknown off Netflix. Sure, the theme song sucked, but the show was great. Just go ahead and buy Jerusalem and DRC. Trust me.) <- JK, did they not take it off? So confused. His shakshuka is one such dish that is vegetarian but oh so savory and filling. I like to throw a little feta in mine and garnish it with fresh parsley. I find that the cheese enhances the richness of the lightly poached eggs. If you serve it on fresh challah, you’re golden. I also made a little fattoush to serve on the side for some extra greens (and carbs).

It might seem obvious to serve this tart and spicy entree with a white wine, maybe even a sparkling one at that, but I had something different in mind. I went with a light-bodied Mediterranean red that wouldn’t overwhelm the flavors in the dish but would complement the shashuka. Shakshuka traces its roots back to the Maghreb but was introduced and popularized in the Mediterranean (Israel, in particular) in the 1950's with the influx of Libyan and Tunisian Jewish immigrants moving there.

The Thymiopoulos Young Vines provides the perfect acidity and funk to pair with this rich tomato and egg dish. It was hard to find much information about the Young Vines online, but here’s what I know: it’s from Naoussa which is a wine-growing region in the northern hills of Macedonia and looks fucking amazing just by doing a quick Google image search. Also, it seems up for debate whether it's spelled/transliterated as "Noussa" "Naousa" or "Naossa" in English. I get it, it's kind of like translating from Hebrew which is a bitch. On that note, there are myriad ways you can spell shakshuka.

While we don’t often see a lot of Greek wines lining the aisles of our local liquor stores, Greece is actually one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and produces a plethora of both red and white wines and has done so for thousands of years. You've probably heard of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, fertility and a bunch of other stuff. Clearly the Greeks take their wine pretty seriously and have for some time.

The Young Vines is super tart and acidic, with a medium body. It's a light garnet color; really pretty. I noted to my friends that it had a brininess to it and maybe that was because it was a coastal wine. They didn't disagree but maybe they were just humoring me. It's spicy with notes of dark fruits like cherries and blackberries. This wine is pretty perfect with shakshuka but I would also love it just by itself on my couch watching Parts Unknown (which, to be honest, my guests have left and I am doing!) The cool thing about having friends with kids is they like to head out early and you can just pursue your real passion of chilling with good TV. 

I like making shakshuka because it's way easier than it seems and is always a crowd-pleaser. I've actually been perfecting my recipe over the past few years. The first time I made it, the eggs were rock solid rather than delicately poached (poaching is a serious acquired skill) and the sauce was a little liquidy. I learned (by accident because I bought the wrong tomatoes) that using whole canned plum tomatoes rather than diced tomatoes leads to a better consistency. Crushed tomatoes are also okay, but you have to let the liquid cook off for a bit. Those are just some shakshuka tips from me to you. Oh, and drink this wine.

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.

Farewell to TJ’s Etc.

When I turned 28 in October, I resolved to stop buying shitty wine. Sure, I’d had some good wine at restaurants around town (I tried Fiction Red in like 2014 and felt really good about myself), but I habitually bought wine at Trader Joe’s or my local liquor store whose wine selection consisted of generic, mass-produced reds and whites (I don’t even think they had a rosé or sparkling wine in sight). Before you call me a snob, let me explain that I don’t care where you buy your wine. It’s America, drink what you want! But if you’re buying at TJ’s or a liquor store (unless they specialize in wine) it is super hard to find quality wine at a decent price point.

So I found a local wine shop, Underdog, that I started stopping into every week or so for a bottle. But I won’t lie, I supplemented with the shitty stuff, more out of my own anxiety than anything else. I was worried that the wine shop staff would berate me for not knowing how to pronounce “Viognier” (Vee-og-ner?) or not knowing that Valdiguié was a red (¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

However, it was after a particularly bad bottle of red that I had in November (all I could think was “THIS TASTES LIKE FAKE OAK BULLSHIT” all caps, cause I was mad) that I truly committed to never again buying from a grocery store/crappy liquor store. The next day I walked into Underdog and purchased the Fableist Merlot at the advice of one of the staff. I didn’t even think I liked merlot, I thought that was like an old person thing from the nineties. I tried it and immediately wrote a PSA on my Instagram about the pros of buying from a wine shop (pro: you can find stuff just as affordable as at the liquor store! Pro: it probably won’t taste like shit!)

All of this to say, It’s been quite a long time since I purchased a wine anywhere besides a wine shop and I’m never looking back! As a bonus, I’ve gotten to meet a few of my favorite winemakers or the people who work with those winemakers (Field Recordings! Jenny & Francois!) and have gotten to try some new, amazing stuff just for being a loyal customer.

I am six months into my wine journey and I am basically a wine shop evangelist. I’ll just admit that up front. Also, I don’t claim to know a lot about wine-- I’m not a sommelier or a wine writer; I just love wine. This is a space where I’ll write weekly about the wines I’ve been drinking and loving. You’ll notice an emphasis on smaller winemakers and low-intervention wines, because these just happen to be what I dig. Also, most of what I’ll feature will be well under $30 and I’ll let you know if I spring for something pricier. Please let me know if you have any recommendations, qualms or critiques. But if the criticism is too harsh, I might need a drink first.

Cheers!