Social Isolation #2: Reflections of the New Normal

There’s something about an open window in spring, listening to the birds whistle over an echo of distant thunder. This spring, in the viral nightmare of 2020, the breeze from that window serves to lift the spirits of those under house arrest. The freshness of it peels away the layers of Lysol and Clorox. Although, my doorknobs and light switches have never been cleaner.

I so badly wanted to touch my face while out in the world, forced out of solitude to find sustenance. It’s always itchy in spring: seasonal allergies. I’m trying not to sneeze, fearful to become the supermarket pariah. But I will obey the wisdom of “don’t touch your face” and “wash your hands” and “sanitize everything.” I have no qualms about heeding the advice of medical professionals and scientists, even if their voices are being muffled a dangerous, powerful, orange clown.

All of my freshly purchased groceries and necessities are temporarily banished to the garage. I’m terrified that Covid may have clung to a plastic bag, metallic label, or cardboard box. I spent $400 on food just to avoid shopping for as long as possible. There’s no fucking toilet paper anywhere because we live in a nation of greed. But I did find new toys to help my children stave off the boredom. They just can’t have them until they’re properly decontaminated. So yes. I fear-purchased groceries and guilt-purchased toys.

I need to spend time on social media to check the status of my coworkers from the past decade. I am worried about them, and I care about them. Everyone is out of work: all those wine lovers, passionate professionals, and hospitality champions. They’re scared of losing everything. Some have gotten jobs at places where they are exposed to hundreds or more people per day. It seems the poor and desperate are always the ones putting themselves at risk. But I have to check out of social media as quickly as I clicked on. The arguing, conspiracy theories, bad politics, and unfounded “facts” are bewildering and dangerous. I don’t want any of that in my head.

Instead of good wine, ugh, I have been supplementing: Rooibos chai with cream and honey, wine (if we can call it that) that comes in a box- because quantity over quality right now, and a half a pot cookie hidden in the freezer. I’m just trying not to lose my mind right now.

There are positives to remaining home. My dogs, the sweetest doggies, have been elated. They are currently spoiled rotten. They are receiving so many extra pets. They have played ball more than ever. They are the lucky ones in all of this.

My kids and I have made greeting cards to send to lonely people. My daughter has created a Pandora station so we can have Disney Princess dance parties. We have played in the soggy yard, and we have walked our neighborhood more times than I can count. We are waving at neighbors who are tending their yards, biking, playing football, exercising, and enjoying the warm promise of spring. I drive around aimlessly on less appealing days, when the sky is grey and the air is brisk. Thank God I live in such a scenic place.

The window is still open, and it is raining on my shoulders. I lit scented candles. One is vanilla and the other coffee. I do so miss going to a coffeehouse with a friend. I can see and hear the orange-bellied birds behind me. They are not afraid. They don’t fear the rain, the presence of my dogs, or the virus. They hop in the grass, happily pecking for worms. They can fly away and be free. And, unfortunately for windshields everywhere, they don’t have to worry about toilet paper.

P.S. I think someone beat me to the turkeys.

Social Isolation #1: The TPocalypse

Happy Sunday Funday, wine lovers! Welcome to deadly disease outbreak paranoia season!

Who knew that Scott tissue would become the new gold, officially backing US currency? Citizens of America have been swept up in toilet paper mania. Even though Costco fistfights are an epic way to spend a weekend morning, the mega-virus named for a Mexican beer does not cause erupting mud-butt, so please abstain from becoming a royal douche bag panic-hoarder. If I had endless storage space, I wouldn’t stock up on truckloads of Charmin, I’d scoop up all the wine in town and wipe my ass with a ratty old towel. But since I am on a budget, I’ve only purchased a couple affordable bottles and a Bota Box Chardonnay.

I’m not saying I haven’t been pummeled by the tidal wave of panic, because I have. Five minutes ago, I finished simmering about ten gallons of beef stock. I am no-waste meal planning with a detailed checklist of every ounce of food in my house. Also, what began as a joke about murdering the five turkeys that live in my neighborhood now sounds like an appealing alternative to braving the Giant Eagle.

To make matters worse, my kids are going to be mega-bored with no school or activities, and I might actually lose my mind. To quell that ominous potential reality, I plotted out some Pinterest crafts and games, and I’m praying to every god in existence for pleasant weather. Hopefully the two weeks of isolation will help more citizens make it through unscathed from illness, especially those who are compromised.

In case anybody is looking for practical advice from a hot-mess, wine-loving mom, I have compiled a list.

Apocalypse 2020 pointers:

Wash your hands! Scrub them as if your five year old made you hold her hand while admitting she just used it to dig “stuff” out of her butt.

Your essential oils are worthless now. Don’t even try to put up an argument, Linda. Recommending eucalyptus oil in a hot bath to open airways is all I’m going to let you get away with.

STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION!!! If you’re not a reputable news person working with the CDC, WHO, or a state or municipal health department, shut it. I’ve seen more conspiracy theories and dumbass opinions today than I can count. And, like my daughter, I can count all the numbers. Loudly.

Do something nice. Have your kids color pictures for folks in nursing homes who cannot receive visitors. Write thank-you letters to healthcare workers. Leave a bag of candy for your mailman. Telephone an at-risk neighbor and ask if they have enough food. You don’t have to be a jerk just because the world is in a panic.

If necessary, and if it’s legal in your state, order some wine online. Get that case of fermented grape goodness delivered to your front porch, give the delivery guy the sexiest wink you can muster in the pajamas you’ve worn for three days, Lysol the shit out of the outside of the box, then haul it in and enjoy.

To Somm or to SET?

That is the question. And what’s the deal? Is there a huge difference when it comes to the job market? Is there a huge difference in the amount of knowledge bestowed to the students in each class? I’m Googling, I’m looking into wine study peer groups, and I’m not finding any definitive answers as to which certification is king.

Here’s the deal:

WSET classes are cheaper in my area, but I’ve missed the signup deadline. If I move, they will cost the same as the CMS. If I wait and take them here, then I have to wait. Did I mention that I hate waiting?

CMS classes are more expensive (triple and then some) than the WSET classes available in my area, but they will be available in the right area on the right timeline. And who doesn’t love Aspen? Anyone? Shine up my snowboard?

I take the study of wine very seriously but let’s get real: with two kids and lots of bills there’s no way I can swing $700 for a test. I could sell my wedding dress, and if that’s what it takes I hope to leave Aspen with a certification, a bottle of Champagne, and a pair of gold-plated skis.

So I decided to Google: “selling my body for 700 bucks so I can afford a class and test.” All I found was a lot of porn. Thanks, Google.

There was a time, an innocent time before my second child where I thought I had my boss greased up enough to pay for part of it, but he’s no longer my boss and my can of squeaky grease has run dry.

For the sake of this blog in the sake of my own learning experience, I have decided do study a downloaded PDF of the WSET classroom outline. My plan is to study along with a couple of feisty young ladies who are attending the actual class at the cost of $200. I’m assuming they didn’t need to sell their bodies for that. I’m so pissed I missed that deadline.

I have also borrowed The Oxford Companion to Wine by the brilliant Jansis Robinson and I’m studying my butt off while drinking Chardonnay from a box.

Someday I will figure out the cost and put up or shut up. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to tell you what I have enjoyed over several hundred years of bartending, managing, and product testing in the service industry. Wish me luck!

Inside the Lips

I remember the first time I tasted Tempranillo. I was a novice, no, an infant wine drinker at the time and didn’t expect the rugged flavor or chunky mouthfeel. It filled my mouth with tobacco and rich leather. Another unexpected quality was the higher than average alcohol content. I recall intentionally enjoying only one glass. I imagined an unexpected, cigar smoke-filled visit to Hemingway’s study but at a sprawling chateaux in Spain.

Ah yes, mouthfeel. As my kiddo would call in “texture.” And oh how texture makes a huge difference, especially with Mac and cheese. If I were to, for instance, hide some cauliflower in that Mac, you better believe my five year old would detect it on texture alone and spit it directly into the garbage while giving me the look that says, “nice try.”

Texture is tricky when it comes to wine. You may ask, isn’t the texture “liquid?” My original thoughts exactly. But after drinking copious amounts of wine with many wine snobs and professionals, I began to detect the texture for myself. My early descriptions of textures in wine were less than desirable, I admit.

I remember my first experience with Gewürztraminer. I’d never tasted lychee before. The touch of sour fruit left the same sensation on my palette as a handful of gummy bears. So in my notes I wrote, “gummy bearish” for texture. Maybe not my finest moment, particularly since I love to read things aloud. I’m pretty sure I heard some snickers.

As I became more accustomed to detecting textures in wine, I would enjoy a glass at home where I didn’t feel like basic Becky for noting the creaminess of Chardonnay or the delicate smoothness of a good Pinot Noir. I wasn’t quite into my Valpolicella or Bordeaux phase quite yet.

Where does mouthfeel or texture come from in wine? According to Wine Spectator: “Mouthfeel is influenced by wine components, as acidity can be sharp, alcohol can be hot, tannins can be rough and sugar can be thick or cloying.” Gosh I love the word, “cloying.” It reminds me of cats for absolutely no reason.

Once before my professional days I described a Cabernet as hot. And it was. That particular vintage had a very high alcohol content. But I’ve never used rough. I often describe tannins in unfiltered wine as “chunky” rather than “rough.” And I’m not the only one. I’d rather eat a Chunky bar than a rough bar if I’m stealing my kid’s Halloween candy. Nobody wants a rough bar.

Other fun descriptors, both positive and negative that can and should be used while consuming: viscous, supple, flabby, watery, thin, aggressive, smooth, and fat.

I like to compare mouthfeel to other taste sensations like lip smacking, or gummy-bearish. Because everyone has smacked a lip, and gummy bears are wonderful. And I will never, not ever ever feel shame for using my own fun descriptions while tasting wine.

I haven’t purchased a bottle of Tempranillo in some time because I hate to waste and can’t drink more than one glass in a sitting-even still. But one day I will. And hopefully it will transport me back, by yacht of course, to that imaginary Hemingway study off the coast of Spain.

Aglianico and Awkward Moments

Building a wine list often involves pitfalls like running out of a product because it’s no longer available from the producer, importer, or distributor. That inevitable hole on the shelf means one thing: time for tastings.

“Tasting wine is the worst part of my job,” said nobody ever.

Let’s talk about a tasting that was entirely botched up by awkwardness. It was then saved, of course, by wine.

First, I’ll introduce you to Dom.

Dom is an importer who once gave me a bottle of fancy olive oil for free, so naturally he’s one of my favorites. Dom is organized. He has famous friends. He imports wines with his family, and he carries a laminated map of Italy with him to every client. The first sip of wine he ever consumed was a beautiful, bold red made by his father and consumed at a large Italian family feast.

We agreed on a Tuesday appointment which also happened to be my sixth ten-hour shift in a row. I was recovering from a horrible cold and I had issues pronouncing “Aglianico” for the same senseless reason that I have issues pronouncing “Worcestershire.” So I practiced while driving to work: “ally-yawn-nico, ally-yawn-nico.” Onlookers at red lights fully enjoyed the show.

I had marked our meeting on my calendar and prepared to greet him as he ascended the stairs.

“Good ho,” said my dumb mouth.

I don’t know what happened. I think I wanted to say “good day” and “hello” at the same time and “good ho,” is what tumbled out. Of course my pasty, freckled skin can never hide the inevitable blush of shame. So I giggled off the awkwardness then arranged some wine glasses on the marble bar top, plus some water and a container for spitting wine. Awkward moment over. Moving on.

Dom introduced me to a robust red blend before busting out the Aglianico. I swirled my glass and enjoyed the peppery nose. As I took my first sip, I felt myself suddenly about to sneeze. I tried to suck the sneeze back into my face in a panic to avoid spraying Dom with a red mixture of saliva and snot. I succeeded, but sucked back too hard, choking on my wine. Lovely.

After recovering from a choking and coughing fit that produced actual tears, I apologized and emptied my half-full glass into the spit receptacles. As tragic as it was to waste the wine, I was ready to move on from yet another embarrassment. I didn’t realize until using the restroom later that I had smeared mascara all around my eyes, so I spent the remainder of the tasting looking like a raccoon. (And did I mention that every time I cough I pee just a little?)

Dom, being a kind soul, asked if I was ok. I gulped down my entire glass of water, wiped the remaining tears away and apologized again before we moved on to the main event: the Aglianico.

First, Dom presented a bottle of the ‘Siir’ San Martino Aglianico del Vulture, 2017. Aglianico itself generally has an ageing potential for 5-10 years, and the longer it ages the more thick and meaty the flavors become. At its two-year mark, it expressed flavors of fig, rich dark cherry, a bit of pepper and the all-too-familiar Italian staple of graphite or dark earth. Dom mentioned floral undertones in the tasting notes, but my palette didn’t pick them up. The bottle itself had bright red, soft green and yellow birds on the label so the graphics had an appealing pop for table presentations. But, dear ‘Siir,’ it was not meant to be…

…because Dom busted out the queen of Aglianico: Elena Fucci, ‘Titolo’ 2015.

This impressive bottle came in its own little wooden crate with a brochure that identified every detail of its origin, the land, the process, and tasting and pairing notes. I examined every detail of the booklet like I was cramming for a pop-quiz. But the wine needed little introduction: it spoke volumes through the rich ruby color, the intensity of the cherry, currant, tobacco, spice and what I savored as a hint of bacon fat. The ‘Titolo’ was everything I would ever want to pair with hand-cured meats and cheeses. Although I considered that the ‘Siir’ may have increased our profit margins, I believe that every wine enthusiast is craving a “wow.”

 ‘Titolo’ is a wine I wish I would have tasted in chichi attire with friends and a charcuterie board rather than sitting in slightly damp pee pants with mascara all over my face at work. I shook Dom’s hand as he left and apologized again for all choking, crying, and calling him a ho.

Most wine experts, beverage managers and sommeliers make beautiful notes about their luxurious wine experiences. Mine, it seems, will always tell a story that is exponentially more sloppy than chic.

November 11, 2019

https://www.elenafuccivini.com

http://www.allorawinegroup.com

As always, check out my Instagram: @momtosomm

The Tiny Person Who Gets into Everything – a Tribute to the Sippy Cup

Last night after I pulled the baby out of his bath, I was getting him diapered up, and he dumped baby powder all over his face and into his mouth and nose. I had the powder sitting below his feet, a full 10 inches from his reach. Right on the label it says, “keep out of reach of children,” so given that I’m not a complete dumbass, I’m aware of my responsibility. It’s like the label on the iron warning users not to hot iron their clothes while wearing them. It’s pretty obvious.

I love that my baby inherited my husband’s looks but not particularly grateful that he inherited his freakishly long monkey arms. The poor kid looked like Scarface snorting a mountain of cocaine.

I can’t keep anything from this kid and Lord knows I try. He pulls everything off of shelves and out of drawers. He gets to his sister’s toys which instigates a sibling battle royale. My little wiggle monster could pull off my hat while standing at my feet with his go-go Gadget baby arms.

All of this means that I can’t drink out of a glass while he is awake. Coffee goes into a sealed, insulated cup with a closure. Water goes into a bottle with a lid. Literally as we speak he is trying to drink from my coffee cup which he inexplicably removed from the side table.

Because that’s what this kids needs: coffee.

For the wine-loving moms who need a sip or two before the kids go to bed, there are options for you. I have been the lucky recipient of a couple of sealed wine tumblers. Yeti makes one that comes in multiple colors and has a sealed lid just like your coffee cup. I haven’t used the Yeti tumbler yet, but I’ve seen it in multiple friends’ cupboards and the reviews on Amazon are positive. I’ve even seen them on the shelf at Target and a targeted ad from Walmart.com.

Tasteful pink and purple wine tumblers at Target.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t plan on using the wine sippy cup in order to get sloshed while caring for my children. I originally received my first one as a gift from the hubby so that I could enjoy wine on our boat without spilling it all over myself. Since that time I wound up taking it to an outdoor concert and to the park so I could watch the sunset with a little moscato. Mine are the less expensive plastic ones with the fake stem inside. I didn’t opt for the more expensive model. That’s just who I am. Plus I am a stickler for drinking wine properly, so they’re scarcely ever used.

Since I can’t keep anything in arms reach of my toddling tyrant and his Stretch Armstrong arms, safety and seals are a must. And keeping all potentially dangerous things picked up at all times is a full-time job. Today he was sticking loose ends of the dog’s rope up his nose and trying to eat a refrigerator magnet. My portable goblets leak, so I don’t use them around my kids. I don’t want him accidentally consuming alcohol.

I’ve linked a few different reviews from all around the web for travel wine cups. I don’t recommend my personal ones- again because they leak- and the plastic wears and cracks after washing. So if you decide to go on a camping trip, a nice vacation, or to an outdoor concert; or if you’re just trying to enjoy wine on a lazy Sunday and have it away from your kids, hopefully these reviews and my little rant about safety will help.

Some tumblers are only available on Amazon. Yeti is available direct from the retailer. Try to avoid “deals” on tumblers on discount sites. Good luck, wine lovers!

https://www.thespruceeats.com/best-insulated-tumblers-4171480

https://www.bustle.com/p/the-4-best-insulated-wine-tumblers-18713169

https://www.wineturtle.com/best-wine-tumbler-reviews/

What To Do When Your Baby Shits Up His Back:

  1. Yell FUCK. For no other reason than its going to happen whether you want it to or not. Remind your older child that it’s an “adults only” word later. Then attempt to take a deep breath while avoiding smelling anything. This is going to get messy.
  2. Remove his clothing. Do this slowly, so the mess doesn’t spread, but quickly because he’s thrashing around like a crocodile that’s just been tackled by Steve Irwin. Then be careful not to brush the soiled clothes up against your clean, white shirt or it will never see the light of day again.
  3. Deal with the diaper. Ok now. This is ground zero: the epicenter of the atomic shit that blew up a diaper, a onesie, and the cutest pair of overalls he owns. It also somehow got on his socks and in his hair but don’t lose focus on the diaper. Grip it firmly, fold it into itself if possible, and dispose of it with two fingers like a bomb disposing robot handling an incendiary device. Get it into a plastic bag if you can. This is it: the reason why you’ve had all those trips to Target: free atomic diaper disposal bags.
  4. Use every wipe in the box. This will assure your baby becomes as clean as he can get in an Applebee’s bathroom. Get the butt, the legs, the arms, his hair, somehow his ear now, his feet, all of it. Don’t forget your own hands and your tears.
  5. Replace his outfit with the backup outfit. It was his sister’s romper from 5 years ago. It has a pink butterfly on it. But if your friends gender shame your baby then they’re bigots so fuck them.
  6. Give the older sibling lots of one-on-one time later. She needs it. This baby is taking away all the attention. Being a mother of two is insanely hard.
  7. Drink wine. Not a glass, the whole bottle. Don’t be a bitch. You’re a good mother, but sometimes you need a mini-vacation inside the bottle of a rich Napa Valley Cabernet.

Wine and Steak…with Kids

My somm goal seems insurmountable when my mom life has me constantly on my toes. For example: I made a beautiful ribeye and homemade cheesy zucchini tots for the family last evening. I poured myself some wine to pair with the steak, fully intending to take detailed notes. I have now learned that I have a better chance of dining with Godzilla on roller skates than researching wine while my little monsters are present. I’d like to walk you through our Monday evening feast.

I carried both the kids’ plates and drinks from the kitchen to the dining room in one trip so nobody would become irrationally angry that one received their dinner before the other, I’m happy I spent 20 years in the service industry or that may have been disastrous. I then fetched my own plate and sat, ready to enjoy my beautifully cooked steak (thanks to my cast iron skillet and some years of grilling experience) and the wine I received as a Christmas gift.

Minute 2 of dinner: I discover an open, bleeding wound on the baby’s eyelid. I don’t know what happened because whatever had happened he didn’t cry. I had to get up, run upstairs and fetch the Neosporin.

Minute 5 of dinner: my 5 year-old exclaims that a booger fell out of her nose. It was hard and gooey, and it was huge. It was booger-found-on-public-restroom-door huge. I’m not really sure how it ever fit inside her nostril. Then it was hell or high water to find a tissue because they somehow always disappear. So I ran around the house frantically to find anything that could wipe a giant green nose goblin from my daughter’s finger.

Halfway through dinner my son began to look like a tiny drunk because he managed to get one sock off, one button on his shirt unbuttoned and he spilled his drink down the front of his vest. He was chewing his little bits of ribeye while I was watching then feeding the rest to our dogs. Good thing he’s cute.

I finally bit into my now-cold steak while my daughter dipped her perfectly cooked ribeye in ranch.

At the very least, my wine, a Zinfandel blend from Colorado- my lovely gift from my lovely husband- didn’t disappoint. I thought it would taste jammy and youthful, yet it was more earthy and refined. So…surprisingly amazing.

Generally, after the kids all tucked into bed, I can relax and drink my wine. Drink it, research it, rate it, explore it. That’s when I can stay awake long enough for adult time.

It may be a little while before I can rate a wine paired with a home-cooked meal again, but at least the company is entertaining.

Into the Glass

Sometimes it’s stemware. Sometimes it’s a sippy cup.

One time I found a pop tart in my purse- no wrapper, with a bite taken out of it. You will never find me in a fancy ski lodge sipping an ‘87 Duckhorn in the company of investment bankers or sloshing organic Viognier in a goat yoga class. My Instagram is “meh” at best, and I can’t contour my makeup. I barely have time to write this introduction between my two kids, two dogs, and full-time job.

I’ve done the leg work: I’ve bought wine, sold wine, made wine and watched competent wine makers make wine. And I’ve done my homework: extensive reading, proper (occasionally improper) notes, worshiping Wine Folly, and asking the experts.

Let’s enjoy some wine together as real people who occasionally curse and don’t look like Vogue models. I raise my glass to all the busy moms, students, and damn-hard workers who burn the candle at both ends and the center until it’s just a puddle of scalding wax. And my glass, of course, has been poured far beyond the proper 6oz.

Cheers.