Why the Wine-ing?

Anyone around here love a great glass of wine? Well, I certainly do! I think I’ve said it before, but if it’s not yet clear, I truly think a great glass of wine can be part of your healthy, delectable lifestyle.

There are, of course, a couple of great reasons to be a teetotaler, and if you abstain for those reasons, good for you. And don’t worry, some alcohol-free cocktails comin’ up soon!

On the other hand, there may be some of us out there who can handle a great glass of wine, but feel a little squeamish admitting it. In these green-juice soaked times, I think it can sometimes seem like the more hedonistic indulgences are verboten altogether. Well, let’s banish that idea right now! A great glass of wine doesn’t have to spoil your spirit(-ual pursuits) as long as you don’t overdo. I thought perhaps my personal story would help you find your own middle path.

I grew up in the wine business. Yep, that’s right, from the age of two I was on my the counter at my Dad’s wine shop, collecting tips in my Fischer-Price cash register. That first day I made more money than Dad did. I didn’t taste the wine till much, much later, but when I did it was no big deal. Like some European households, wine went with dinner, and though I rarely had my own glass I’d always have a sip to see what it was all about. For me, this developed into a love of wine, and a respect for it. As a teenager I didn’t really go out binge drinking, and definitely couldn’t tolerate vodka. I could, however, recommend a great Muscadet to go with your fish and tell you which year was the best in Bordeaux, or which off-year bottle would be a great value. And, as soon as I was old enough to order wine with dinner, I did. Nothing too crazy there, right?

Flash forward a little bit. As a newlywed with a newfound passion for food and cooking, I dove into the wine culture with both feet. My parents and I had had a couple of wine tasting trips, and my husband and I followed suit. While in France, we spent days tasting wine, took lunch breaks by the side of the highway with loaves of French bread and cheese from the breakfast room and a bottle of whatever we’d tasted in the morning, dinners involved more of the same but fancier. At home, we had wine with dinner, I recommended bottles on the fly to friends at restaurants trying to impress their dates, and we even instituted a Beaujolais Nouveau Party, which we hosted many years in a row. A bash involving 45 of our best friends, several cases of Beaujolais Nouveau, and more decadent food than you can begin to imagine. A lot of fun. Not so very moderate.

One more flash forward. Laura finds yoga, begins a daily ashtanga practice, and decides she will be “perfectly” spiritual and healthy. Uh oh. Now I’ve always been something of a perfectionist. Not that I’m so driven all the time, but I have this tendency to do something all the way or not at all. Within a month of my teacher training I had become vegan, nearly raw, caffeine free, sugar free and ALCOHOL FREE. Not that these are bad things. And I think a period of time without any mind-clouding substances is a great idea. But there was nothing organic about the way this occurred. I don’t think I was ready for that major leap. I also had some idea I should never, ever have those things again. And I held on to the lifestyle with an iron grip, until my grip failed.

Some of those times I felt healthier and clearer than ever before. But some of them, I just felt restrictive and miserable. I can remember certain family parties where my Dad brought some excellent bottle and my mother-in-law cooked her famous apple pie, and I had one sip of the wine and sat around drooling over the pie and mourning my empty glass, rather than enjoying the company. There’s nothing present or mindful about that!

Wow, this story could go on forever, but here’s the main kernel of truth that I think really defines the Life Delectable I’m pushing on you all so hard: set some parameters, then enjoy what you love in moderation. If you’re allergic or truly addicted to alcohol (or anything else) you should work to overcome the craving. But for me, a glass of wine is not a deal breaker. A slice of pie at Thanksgiving is just going to happen. Period.

And here’s how I make it worth it. I drink great wine. Not necessarily expensive, but absolutely always great. If it’s not great, I generally don’t drink it. Period. So, at a restaurant where there’s not a good option, I’ll have water or sparkling water. Or I’ll leave the glass on the table but have just a couple of sips. At home, I only drink what’s really calling to me as well. Not “whatever’s open”. But what I really want. Which sometimes means I don’t have anything, and sometimes means I open a bottle of wine and have a glass even if Brad is drinking beer.

So today, I am still telling people what to drink. What’s the best bottle on the list at your local favorite restaurant? Give me a call and I’ll tell you! (I’ve actually scoped the wine list for a couple on a big Valentine’s date, they’re engaged now!) What goes best with your red-wine braised tempeh? I’ve got a few ideas, and I’ll be sharing them with you here on the blog. And, if we can ever find 45 people who still love us, one day Brad and I will have another Beaujolais Nouveau Party—this time with raw desserts that fit my new healthy hedonist lifestyle.

And, as for the holidays, well, Dad, if you wanted to open a Chateauneuf de Pape this Thanksgiving and talk about the old days at Cork ‘n Cask, I wouldn’t say no.