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.

Anthill Farms Dolcetto

Have you ever been in a situation in life where you honestly don’t know how or why you ended up there? That was my whole day today. It started with a meeting with a perfectly nice guy who has a strange past who I guess just wanted to meet with me to ask a favor of me. I can’t really say too much because there are legal concerns. Weird, I know. What followed was a series of strange phone calls and emails (all unconnected) and by 4:00 I was like “I NEED TO LEAVE. THIS DAY IS TOO WEIRD.” So I did. Actually, I tripped and fell down the stairs on my way out; the perfect bookend to a strange-ass day.

When I left, I decided to hit up my favorite wine shop since I didn’t really need to be home for a bit. I asked what was new and the owner showed me the Dolcetto by Anthill Farms Winery. He raved about the wine and explained that it is currently only being sold at that wine shop and on the winery’s website. I am a sucker for exclusivity as well as an attractively minimalist label (which this has) so I decided I had to have it. At around $25 it wasn’t too big a hit to the wallet.

I know little about Dolcetto but through Googling for a bit, I’ve learned it is usually grown in Piedmont in northwest Italy and can be acidic with low levels of tannins. It smells of brambly blackberry bushes and violets. The acidity is apparent on the palate but in such a pleasant way if, like me, you like acidic things (If not, wine might not be your fav). It’s all raspberries on the palate with a hint of plums. All the berries make me think of Maine in the summer. I’ve only been once and I was 13, but it was a super memorable trip for me. It was actually the first time I saw the ocean (I’m from Kansas, dude). I’d go on to visit the ocean nearly yearly after that trip. We ate a ton of berries while we were there-- berry turnovers, pancakes with berry jam, chicken marinated in some sort of berry sauce. It was all delicious.

I wasn’t aware of Anthill Farms before today and I wish I had been because they are awesome. They are a small, family-owned winery that produces a very limited quantity of wines to maintain quality. I was watching a really asinine reality show on which two women were fighting and started comparing how many cases of their respective wines they sold in the first year. One said, “I SOLD 10,000 CASES IN MY FIRST YEAR. I INVENTED PINOT GRIGIO.” Or something along those lines. I just laughed. Did they really think the goal was to sell enough wine so that it’s available at the drugstore? I don’t know, maybe so. But I really enjoy getting my hands on something that is harder to come by.

This wine is perfect in my book and maybe part of it is just knowing that there is not an endless supply of it. You always want what you can’t have and I’ll probably only be able to buy a few more bottles before my wine shop runs out. That kind of makes it sweeter though, the impermanence of it all. And luckily, after I am out of this, there will be something else interesting and new to discover. Okay, sorry to wax poetic about the ephemeral nature of life, but it’s been a weird day and I’m just in a weird place! All right, well I’m going to go continue to drink this wine while I listen to Drake and contemplate the universe or whatever.

P.S.: A special shout out to my internet friend, Stephanie Butnick, who you can catch weekly in one of my favorite podcasts, Unorthodox. She sent me some swag and is just an all around cool human. Sometimes I really love the internet!

OKNOTOK

This post is about Cab Franc, depression, tattoos and Radiohead. Don’t worry, it’ll all come together I hope.

It might come as a shock now because I’m a fairly nice, happy person but I was super angsty as a teen. I listened to a lot of Pedro the Lion and would cry fairly often. What I would learn at 18 was that my angst was in a large part due to undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I started some medication and therapy and saw vast improvements. With treatment I felt like my old self, though I wasn’t sure I had ever felt as content as I was. That’s not to say there weren’t ups and downs. There still are. I’ve been treated for depression for 10 years and I still hit lows.

Today I am experiencing one such low. I know that, as usual, it’s situational and temporary but that doesn’t mean I always know the culprit. That said, I’ve learned how to cope when a low hits. I take it easy, watch a movie or read poetry-- something low-impact that will take my mind off of things without whitewashing the situation. I’ve also taken to researching wine when I’m feeling depressed. For some reason, reading about wineries and looking at maps soothes me. That’s what I’m doing tonight as I sip Franc by Field Recordings. This is one of my favorite wines by one of my favorite wineries but I haven’t had it since winter. It is 100% Cabernet Franc grown in Paso Robles.

It smells brightly of fennel and black pepper. On the palate, the black pepper holds true while some dark fruits come into play as well. Notes of plum and black cherry pop on your tongue. It is the perfect balance of acidity and lightness with a body to it. This would be perfect with black pepper chicken thighs but could hold up to a pasta dish as well. It is also the perfect wine to pair with a bit of feminist poetry and some Radiohead.

The Radiohead album I’m listening to is OKNOTOK, a reissue of OK Computer released 20 years after its debut in 1997. I learned about this a few months ago and was thrilled because Radiohead is hands down my favorite band and has been since high school. OK Computer is also one of my favorite Radiohead albums, Let Down and Lucky being my two favorite songs. I loved the idea of hearing previously unreleased tracks but was also obsessed with the title of the album. Can’t so much of life be described as OKNOTOK? Someone asks you how you are and you say fine but really mean anything but. Maybe this is just what comes to mind with someone who has depression but it rang true for me. So much so that I decided to have it tattooed on my body.

I decided I wanted the tattoo about a month ago and luckily have a friend who is a tattoo artist. I went in yesterday for my appointment and was thrilled with the outcome. It’s kind of like a constant reminder of my own struggles with mental illness/health but also just a general reminder it’s okay not to feel okay from time to time. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when we are inundated with photos on Instagram and posts on Facebook about people living their best lives. But guess what, a lot of that is bullshit. Even the most put together person doesn’t enjoy their life 100% of the time. It’s helpful to remember that when you’re feeling down.

I struggled with deciding whether or not to post this. It’s more about me than the wine I’m drinking. But I feel like we desperately need to hear stories from people who struggle with mental health and are in recovery. I am so happy to have found a treatment plan that works for me but I am so aware that it is not as easy for a lot of people. If you are struggling, I hope you can take some time for yourself and do something you enjoy-- whether that’s meditation or researching wine. And just remind yourself that it’s okay to not feel okay. It’ll be okay eventually.

Burgers and Bubbles

I’m not a huge fan of the Fourth of July. This may come as a surprise because I love grilling, drinking and pool parties but I just have memories of being dragged to the local park by my parents with what felt like a million other people to watch fireworks. And guess what I hate-- crowds and loud noises. I have an anxiety disorder, dude. Seriously, the only way I make it through large concerts is a small dose of Xanax beforehand. So there you go, it isn’t my favorite. However, my husband and I usually just chill out, maybe have some friends over and make something delicious on the grill. Oh and drink. 

Tonight we are making some simple cheeseburgers-- so easy and so good. I was contemplating what wine would pair well with cheeseburgers and of course I decided I had to go with a red. Red is always my go to when I’m pairing it with something meaty and delicious. However, it is legit hot and humid so not just any red would do. I needed something that could be chilled a bit and was light but still had the body and depth to stand up to the heartiness of the meat. I decided to go with a sparkling Shiraz I had tried a few months ago when my local wine shop had just gotten it in.

This Shiraz is from Flegenheimer (whew, that’s a mouth full) Bros and is made with grapes from South Australia. You might not think that a medium to full-bodied red like Shiraz would be very good in chilled/sparkling form but it totally is. On the nose it is so bright, oozing with notes of cranberries, tobacco and sage. Sage is one of my favorite scents and the bouquet of this wine takes me back to college when I used this sage soap I purchased from the French Market downtown. It was delightful. I love finding an herby red. 

There is a hint of sweetness on the palate, but it is not overwhelming at all. I am a fan of drier wines but I actually like a red with a little sweetness from time to time. I used to buy this Lambrusco from Trader Joe’s and it was a little sweet and so delicious. It was also like $5 and probably filled with so many additives. This is a nice grown-up version of that. The wine is so fruit forward and tastes just like blueberry pie which is actually perfect for Fourth of July. The light sweetness cuts through the fattiness of the burger in a great way.

 I didn’t actually like burgers until a few years ago. Growing up, my dad would attempt to make healthy burgers. He used what I can only assume was 99% lean beef and cooked them until they were VERY well done. They were pretty tasteless and I didn’t get what the hype around burgers was so I just stopped eating them. Then, maybe two years ago, my husband convinced me I had to try a Town Topic burger. Town Topic is this old school burger stand in Kansas City and their burgers are SO GOOD. After one bite I was sold. Then I experimented with making my own burgers at home. I was drawn to the simplicity, whether on the grill or the stove, they are one of the quickest, easiest meals to make. For me, the perfect burger is cooked medium and served on a pretzel bun with some kosher cheddar, preferably accompanied by a nice glass of wine and NO FIREWORKS unless I’ve had my Xanax. Happy Fourth, y’all.

I hate champaign flutes so don't even start with me.

I hate champaign flutes so don't even start with me.

Marichal Tannat

I don’t condone violence of any kind, but remember when Richard Spencer got punched in the face and it was like the best thing ever? I have a story that’s kind of like that but not quite as good because what’s better than a Nazi getting punched in the face? Okay, I used to work for this misogynist pig who sexually harassed my entire department. It was disgusting and regardless of the fact that everyone reported it again and again, he kept his job. I was one of four to leave within a year and while he wasn’t the entire reason I left, the atmosphere he had created with his general douche baggery was a part of it.

I moved on to a new job that I am completely in love with and kind of forgot about that tool. Well, today, my friend who still works there texted me telling me that over the weekend the douche was bitten in the face by a dog! My immediate response was laughter. Again, I don’t condone violence or wish ill-will toward anyone but sometimes you just wonder if the universe has your back. Maybe if you are nice to people a dog won’t bite you in the face. I don’t know, plenty of nice people might still get bitten by dogs but it was hard for me not to chalk this up somewhat to karmic retribution. And I’m basically an agnostic Jew who doesn’t believe in anything!

So I went to my wine shop after work with a skip in my step because maybe all was right with the world even if just for an instant. I decided to look for something interesting and funky but not expensive. I found a wine for $15 and it was both from a region and a varietal I’d never tried. The winemaker is Marichal, a family-owned winery in Uruguay that is passionate about sustainable practices and only hand-picks its grapes. The varietal is Tannat, one I had never heard of or seen before but is popular in Uruguay, even called the national grape by some.

The Tannat smells like raspberries and baking spices with a nuttiness. I went to Whole Foods a few weeks ago and was accosted by an employee telling me that raspberries were two for $3 and imploring me to buy some. I wasn’t really in the mood for raspberries but I’m also not one to turn down a great deal, so I bought two packages. When I got home I snacked on some and realized that I rarely eat raspberries on their own and they have a complex flavor profile and even a nuttiness to them that I’d never realized. This wine encapsulates the raspberry.

On the palate it is bright and acidic tasting like rhubarb straight from the garden-- not a strawberry rhubarb pie, just rhubarb with some yogurt or something. This also tastes like cranberry juice, like the organic stuff without all of the sugar added. I think I’m just trying to say that it’s uber tart but in such a good way. It’s really hard for me to do big bold reds during the summer. They are my favorite, but when it gets hot, I just want something light-bodied that I can throw back on my porch. This wine checks both of those boxes.

Well, I hope I don’t seem like too big an asshole for laughing at my old boss getting bitten in the face by a dog. Then again, I don’t really care if I do because he’s an asshole and a large part of me thinks he gets away with it because he’s a privileged white man. I’m just going to keep drinking this wine and throwing middle fingers up to that patriarchal nonsense. I hope you’ll join me!

 

U Cunt Touch This/Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

A few weeks ago, my friend Adrienne and I went to go see Wonder Woman. Afterwards, we were filled with an unreasonable amount of vigor and chutzpah and definitely didn’t want to go home. Adrienne asked me if I wanted to go see her coworker perform in a punk show. I said “SURE!” So we blasted some music and headed to Midtown. It was in some record/thrift store that I’d never been to and the only beverage being sold was canned beer for cash. I looked around and noted that we were definitely the oldest people there with the median age probably being 23. It was fine, we drank our PBR and watched as a band full of dudes stripped down to their boxers and proceeded to play a song. They were sweaty and not in the best shape, but it was pretty funny and made for a great Instagram story. I’m not sure if funny was what they were going for, but we were amused. We eventually headed home since Adrienne has a toddler and I have two cats to take care of or whatever, but I’m sure the party lasted well into the night.

Inspired by our punk rock adventure, Adrienne and her husband Daniel decided to throw a punk rock band party. They are legit the coolest parents out there. So the premise was that we would get together, record the worst version of a Devo song ever and drink copious amounts of beer. I’m not a huge beer drinker, so I decided to bring a bottle of wine. I asked my wine guy what the most punk rock wine in the shop was and he suggested Mouton Noir’s Horseshoes & Hand Grenades. I’d had this wine once before on election night and enjoyed it despite being thrown into a pit of despair (from the election, not the wine). The musically-inclined recorded the song while the rest of us created album art. The majority of people in attendance work for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (where I used to work) so the album art was actually pretty legit.

The wine smells like tobacco and leather and tastes like big dark fruits like blackberries, bing cherries and plums. It is tart but jammy. The Horseshoes & Hand Grenades is made of a blend of Oregon Syrah and Washington Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. You’d think a big bold red wouldn’t be ideal for a summer night, but we’ve had a bit of a coldsnap in KC (a.k.a. it’s like in the 70’s and 80’s which is uncommon for June) so it’s pretty perfect. I paired this with a Tangerine La Croix, which is a flavor I have never had and am now obsessed with, and some pizza while I colored in the lovely album art created by real artists. It was wonderful. Oh, I should mention, the band’s name is U Cunt Touch This so there were a lot of vagina drawings in the album art. It was a fantastic night and a great wine. You can check out the song and some of our album art below.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne 

Photo courtesy of Adrienne 

 Girl U Want by U Cunt Touch This

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)_/¯.

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!

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.

Fable 373: THE ANT OR THE GRASSHOPPER?

I drank The Fableist Cabernet Sauvignon on the night of the election. Actually, I posted the above pic on Instagram election day with the caption, “What do we think would pair best with a Clinton presidency or the world going down in flames?” As you might have gathered, I was displeased with the outcome of the election to say the least. In other words, I went into a deep depression November 9-? (still working on it-- Trump should seriously foot my therapy bills). I hadn’t bought this wine since. Not for any particular reason, but I decided to get it the other day when it was gray and chilly and I wanted a big bold red. This wine is delicious and sumptuous, full of big berries and dark fruits. I get a lot of overripe plum. It’s tart but bold with a spiciness that lingers on your tongue. The Fableist is a collaboration between Field Recordings and Sans Liege. I’ve tried three of their wines (all reds) and they have all been fantastic.

Field Recordings was my intro into good wine. I had Fiction Red at an anniversary dinner three years ago and was in love. I started regularly buying bottles of Fiction, Wonderwall and The Fableist not realizing they were all under the Field Recordings umbrella. I was lucky enough to meet Andrew Jones, founder of Field Recordings, in March (and he even knew me as @catsandlacroix) at Underdog. I told him “Your wine convinced me to stop drinking shitty wine!” And he laughed and signed my bottle "Undercat" which made my year.

The Fableist cabernet is so rich and totally outlives its former reputation as the election night wine. Oh the election. I could write a tome about my post-election feelings. In essence, I’m still hurt and confused. I will never understand how we could elect a person who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women (not to mention all of the other egregious shit he has said/done and continues to do) to the highest political office, but here we are. All we can do is keep drinking good wine and resisting, preferably at the same time. Call your reps & drink this wine!