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.

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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Battle of the Cans: Foxie and Fiction

Foxie

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Foxie is the amazing collaboration from two of my favorite winemakers, Andrew Jones of Field Recordings and Josh Rosenstein of Hoxie Spritzer. This particular spritzer is made with Chardonnay, citra hops and sour cherry essence. The Chardonnay is full bodied but the hops and sour cherries brighten it up and make it feel energetic. It is fruity without being sweet, like a La Croix. Spritzers are perfect for when you want to keep your wits about you since they are lower in alcohol than straight wine. I had a friend over last night and between him, my husband and I we had like 4 bottles of wine so I am not in the mood to get crazy tonight and a spritzer is perfect. In fact, I’m pairing this with Broad City, which I have been watching in my sweats all day-- it’s a great combination. This can reminds me of the pool. It is the best shade of light blue and would be so perfect to sip poolside. I am a professional pool-drinker and one mistake I notice novices often making is choosing a beverage with a high ABV. You don’t want anything with too much alcohol because the sun and heat can deplete your energy real fast and leave you wasted by 3:00 p.m. This is why spritzers are the perfect pool drink. I either make my own or bring Hoxie with me, but now I am dying to take this Foxie to the pool before pool season officially ends.

Fiction Red

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If you read my blog religiously, well, then you’re probably my mom (hi, Mom!) But seriously, if you read my blog regularly you might be like, “Sarah, wtf? You reviewed Fiction Red a few months ago and P.S. you talk about it all the damn time!” All true. But guess what, I’ve never had Fiction Red in a can! Cans totally change the way a wine tastes so I thought it was fair to give Fiction Red in a can its own review. Here’s the story I tell again and again about Fiction Red (sorry if you’ve heard it one million times already) it was my introduction to good wine about three years ago. I have since fallen in love with everything under the Field Recordings umbrella but I still keep coming back to this solid red blend. Speaking of blends, it is a crazy blend of a bunch of stuff including Zinfandel, Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Viognier. I like chilling this wine because as I’ve mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of non-chilled wine in cans and I’m also a fan of chilled reds. This wine is bold and tastes of boysenberry jam on biscuits hot out of the oven. There is also a hint of tobacco on the palate. I hung out with a lot of poets in college and one was super into smoking tobacco from a pipe. This tastes the way that smelled (minus the pretentious tude).

Dallas

Hello! I am fresh off the plane from a quick trip to Dallas. We were in town so my husband could take a work meeting but we decided to turn his work trip into a mini vacation since his dad, stepmom and brother live there. I saw a lot of the city that I haven’t seen before (and I’ve visited quite a bit in my seven years with Matt). For instance, we went to Fort Worth to visit the Modern Art Museum. It was fantastic and I had no idea it was there! I got my Rothko fix which should hold me over until October when we go to Chicago. We also visited one of the best wine shops I have ever been to! Whenever I go to a new city, I research wine shops and wine bars to see if there is anything particularly interesting that I should check out. In the case of Dallas, a shop called Bar and Garden looked too good to pass up.

Bar and Garden specializes in natural and organic wine and their selection is absolutely incredible. I saw bottles from wineries that I have only seen on Instagram such as Dirty & Rowdy, Brea, Brendan Tracey and a ton more along with a bunch of my favorites. The staff was also so friendly and helpful. I had a 10 minute conversation with one worker about how much I love natural wine and I was in heaven being in a store that was full of it. The GM of the shop actually knew my husband’s family because her son went to school with Matt’s brother. She was fabulous and we nerded out over natural wine while my fam stood patiently silent. I can’t recommend Bar and Garden highly enough if you are in Dallas. They also have a shop in L.A. so if that’s your hood, check them out!

Here are the two wines I picked up:

Brea Cabernet Sauvignon

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Brea is the collaboration between Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars and Tim Elenteny of TE Imports. They practice natural winemaking at its finest by using organic fruit from the Central Coast and spontaneous fermentation. They produce a limited number of varietals, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. I picked up the Cabernet Sauvignon and was thrilled because I had heard about Brea for a few years but had never seen their wines. Soon after getting home from the wine shop, I opened the bottle to share with my husband and father in law. The two of them are huge craft beer lovers and not particularly into wine. Still, I wanted to hear their thoughts on the Brea. We all agreed that we noted stone fruit and bing cherries on the nose and as we tasted it, big dark fruits popped on the tongue-- plums and black currant. My father in law said “it pops, it just pops!” and I couldn’t agree more. It has a bright acidity and isn’t too tannic. It isn’t the heavy, syrupy Cab that you’ve had at every open bar you’ve ever been to. No, this Cabernet is light enough that it could be paired with a fish dish or a pasta tossed with vegetables and balsamic. I absolutely loved this wine and hope I can find a way to get my hands on more.

La Clarine Farm Jambalaia Rouge

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I was thrilled to find La Clarine Farm at Bar and Garden. The owner of the wine shop I frequent in Kansas City put in a special order so I could try La Clarine Farm. I haven’t opened that bottle yet so this was my first time trying LCF. I chose the Jambalaia Rouge, which is a great blend of Mourvedre, Marsanne, Granache and Syrah. La Clarine Farm is an incredible winery based in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills and uses the most natural winemaking techniques including no additives and spontaneous fermentation. I paired the Jambalaia with grilled chicken marinated in lime juice. It was absolutely delicious. The best way I can describe the smell of this wine is that it smells exactly like that raspberry Haribo candy that I used to eat as a kid. Do you remember those? They don’t really taste anything like raspberries but they are sugary and delightful. On the palate it tastes just like double apple hookah, which is kind of like a mixture of apple and anise. It seriously took me back to being 18 when I thought that hookah was the shit and I was living on the edge because I was smoking tobacco. The Jambalaia is tart with bright acidity. I served it chilled and I recommend that, especially if you are in 100+ degree weather like I was.

It was a wonderful trip and I am so glad I got to spend time with Matt and his family. If you are in Dallas, definitely check out Bar and Garden. I can’t wait to go back in November and try some more wine.

Field Recordings Koligian Vineyard

This past Friday was my fifth wedding anniversary. My husband and I took a short trip to Oklahoma City because there was an amazing art exhibition I had to see-- Kehinde Wiley’s A New Republic. It was fan-freaking-tastic that we spent the entire trip just stopping each other to say, “God, that exhibition was incredible”. We also stayed in the amazing 21c Hotel. These establishments are part boutique hotel, part contemporary art museum. They mostly had pieces by artists I wasn’t aware of but had two Lalla Essaydi pieces-- she is this incredible Moroccan artist who juxtaposes traditional arab culture with feminism.

We are now back home with our cats, which is very nice, but I kind of wanted to continue the celebration. I had a bottle of wine that I had been saving for a special occasion. It is the Field Recordings Koligian Vineyard blend. If you’ve read my blog, you know what a Field Recordings fangirl I am. They turned me onto good wine a few years back and ever since, I have been eternally grateful. As I mentioned, when a wine is above $25, I will let you know. While I got this at a wine sale for about $25, it usually retails for around $34. In my opinion, it is well worth the cost. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. It is unfined and lightly filtered, which I love.

On the nose, it is straight up anise, bing cherries and new leather boots. Do you know what I’m talking about? Before my L.A. trip last spring, I bought these oxblood leather boots and they had the best smell. Nothing beats that, sorry vegans. It is so delightful on the palate and not overly tannic or acidic. It tastes of boozy cherries, you know, like a cherry that has been sitting in your old fashioned for a bit and absorbed a ton of bourbon.

Kehinde Wiley is one of my favorite artists. His style is so fascinating, imitating the style of Renaissance portraits, but replacing traditional subjects with contemporary African American men and women. His pieces consider race, gender and politics. I found a particular set of paintings interesting as they considered Ethiopian Jews and the Palestinian experience in Israel. I also very much enjoyed his pieces that featured women. The majority of his works feature men, and I enjoy those, but I really liked seeing the portrayals of women in his paintings and sculpture.

If you have a chance to see Kehinde Wiley, take it! One of his pieces is at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art if you are in the Kansas City area and it is fantastic. Also, open up special bottles of wine! Sometimes I buy a bottle and tell myself I’m saving it for a special occasion and then the occasion comes and I don’t open the bottle. It’s silly really, to save something just for the purpose of saving it. There will never be a perfect time to open that bottle of wine you’ve been saving or taking that transatlantic trip. Just go for it and enjoy. So that is what I’m doing tonight and I am absolutely enjoying this wine.

Fiction Red

Fiction Red from Field Recordings is what I credit with beginning my wine journey nearly three years ago. I had read about Field Recordings on my wine idol’s blog and thought it sounded great so when I saw it on the menu of one of my favorite restaurants one night, I decided I had to try it. I remember it being super funky and more interesting than any wine I’d had before. That makes sense because it’s a crazy blend of a bunch of different grapes: 48% Zinfandel, 15% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, 8% Graciano, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Touriga Nacional and 3% Carignan; It’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “kitchen sink blend”. I think I had three glasses that first night because I loved it so much.

It would be at least another year before I started primarily purchasing wine from wine shops so I had a hard time tracking it down. However, when I stopped by a liquor store on my way home from a very painful tattoo-removal session (my little reward system) a few years ago, I spotted it! I took it home and proceeded to drink most of the bottle while I watched the shitshow that is Real Housewives of New Jersey. It was delicious--even better than I remembered. 

Well, here we are another couple of years later and not only am I drinking a variety of wines from Field Recordings on the reg., I was able to meet the winemaker himself, Andrew Jones, in March. I know I’ve already told this story, but as he signed my bottles I said, “You’re the reason I stopped drinking shitty wine!” and he said, “Oh, you’re Cats and La Croix!” It was amazing. Field Recordings is actually an umbrella for so many of my favorite wines and collaborations: Fableist, Wonderwall, Alloy Wine Works, Foxie and more. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed.

 The Fiction Red smells like blackberries and barbecue embers, like a charcoal grill that you are going to cook some mean burgers on and maybe some corn if you get around to it. The same blackberry notes carry over to the palate. It tastes like blackberry jam and ricotta on a thick slice of toast. Also like the best dark chocolate. This wine makes me so nostalgic because after I sipped it the first time, I had the realization that wine could be really really good. It was different than anything I had had before because it was so multifaceted, full of body and depth but light enough that you could get away with chilling it.

 I had a lovely cheese and charcuterie plate for dinner, which you know is my dinner of choice, and this is the perfect digestif. It is the loveliest evening-- 83 degrees, mostly sunny and still light out at 8 o’clock. I love summer. You might not think of the Fiction Red as a summer wine, but I first tried it in the summer and damn if it doesn’t taste good tonight. You could easily pound this on the porch or by the pool, but I recommend pairing it with something meaty and delicious, unless you don’t eat meat and then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.