Immigrants Make American Wine Great

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.14.46 PMThere was a moment after Trump’s election when food and drink writers stopped working for a few weeks, frozen–does our work even matter? Aren’t these topics so petty that we should now cease to scribble our hard-researched sentences on so-and-so chef, or this ancient grape, and just crawl under a rock and let the political writers do their work? Someone tweeted: “We are all covering politics now, no matter what your beat.” I haven’t forgotten that statement.

For Vice MUNCHIES, I reported on recent raids on immigrant communities across the Northwest, through the lens of wine. The lens also could have been agriculture more broadly, but of course, wine is my strongest beat. I’m glad I was able to shed some light on the injustices happening in our country right now through a subject I’m knowledgable about. It’s atrocious that (at least) three Dreamers–people whose status was protected under Obama in a program known as DACA, established in 2012. Read my article on MUNCHIES here. If any of you reading this live in the Northwest, I would strongly suggest calling your local elected officials who may have some sway in those individuals’ fates.

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Latest Writings + Travels From Oregon + California

Finally, this hot, humid mess of a summer is nearing its end. Despite not having AC in my apartment, traveling excessively, breaking my laptop, and living out of suitcase across continents and coasts, I’ve had a very productive past few months, and I’m really excited about what the fall will bring. I know already that it will mean larger writing projects, travel to Champagne and South Africa, a food-and-drink crawl in L.A., and a new collaboration with a talented illustrator.

I’m still coming down from the high of a week in Napa and Sonoma during harvest. I’ve been in wine country during harvest before, but for some reason this trip was particularly enthralling. I think those California gold hills, with their rugged stature and sprawling woods, got into my soul a little. My heart was captured by the vineyards of Sonoma in particular, where the cool air kissed my skin and the sun warmed my back as I rode on a tractor through rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. 

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Before that, there was Oregon, where I spent a fascinating week visiting producers all over the state, leading up to the International Pinot Noir Celebration. I wrote about some exciting aspects of Oregon wine on Vine Pair, which you can read here; I also have a freshly published piece up on Vogue.com about the killer urban winery scene in Portland. Read that one here. I’m looking forward to writing some more detailed features on the bustling wine culture of Oregon, so be on the lookout for that in the near future.

Scholium Project bottles

As I go through my notes from Napa, Sonoma, and the Central Valley, where I spent a day helping the team at Scholium Project (read my 2015 profile of Abe Schoener here), I’m enthralled to know that American wine is so diverse, so forward-thinking in many aspects, and so, so delicious. And speaking of delicious, I should also mention that Food Republic published my round-up of San Francisco’s best new spots to eat and drink (based on research from an earlier trip), read that here.

Before I left California last week, I spent a day in San Francisco. Walking around the Mission, I came across the “Free Box” outside Dog Eared Books, and there was a copy of M.F.K. Fisher’s Gastronomical Me. How perfect, I thought, to have a collection of essays from one of our country’s pioneering literary food writers, to read on the plane back to New York. I opened it up and read the first sentence of the prologue: “People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?” 

I laughed and held the book to my chest, reassured to know that, back in the 40s, Fisher was grappling with the same question that often occupies me. I believe she wrote this forward in the middle of WWII, and while we aren’t in exactly that situation on a global scale, it’s unquestionable that conflict and suffering dominate great swaths of our planet, near and far. Knowing that so many issues in my city, our country, and this world are deserving of the power of the pen, I do sometimes wonder why I dedicate myself to writing about food and wine, something which seems on occasion quite petty, self-serving, and limited to a small, well-heeled population. But I knew right away where Fisher was going with that question. I think my answer, today, is not too different from hers: “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” And I would add that it’s about beauty. If you’ve ever stood in a vineyard with the late afternoon sun setting over ripe grapes, as a farmer details each soil type on every hill on his property, and looked out onto the fog rolling in from the mountains, you’ll understand what I mean.

 

Syrah, A Beguiling Grape + The Question of Sulfites / Sulfur In Wine

This week, my Eater column came out, this time on the noble and somewhat shape-shifting grape, Syrah. I focused on French and American iterations of Syrah, because that was a useful parameter for talking about the grape’s history. Check it out hereSome really great bottles in this line-up–find one of them and get drinking!

And, in my Vine Pair column this week, I took on the controversial topic of sulfites / sulfur in wine. Read here

As always, I would love to hear feedback or questions from any of you! Thanks so much for reading

Tempranillo Time on Eater!

photo by Alex Ulreich for Eater
photo by Alex Ulreich for Eater

I discovered some really amazing bottles of Tempranillo while working on this article. I think it’s really cool to study a grape this way, and see how variations in climate, viticulture, and oaking practices can produce radically different versions of the same varietal. It also sounds like some really interesting, political changes are at work right now in the Spanish wine industry, something I plan to keep my eye on!

Check out my article on Eater here. Happy weekend, all!

 

Cassoulet Weather In Full Effect, Plus Where To Have A Great Lunch

IMG_7314It’s finally cold in NYC! In addition to writing about the City’s best hot chocolate (there are some seriously above-and-beyond cups of cocoa out there–article here), I recently spent a glorious day testing a recipe for Cassoulet, the iconic Southern French dish, which I wrote about for Vine Pair along with some reviews of wines from the Languedoc, one of France’s lesser-known (but very important and wonderful) wine regions. Check it out here(P.S. if any cookware brands would like to sponsor my future articles, I am officially accepting Dutch ovens, skillets, and, well, whatever else because I have basically nothing in my humble freelance writer slash single woman’s kitchen.)

Also, I’ve been working on a series about where to have lunch in New York City, for Gothamist. It’s specifically aimed at people who work full-time jobs, so it encompasses all kinds of lunch, from grab-and-go to sit-down to the infamous “power lunch.” Writing these round-ups has involved a lot of footwork, a few tasty meals, and many afternoons spent reading Yelp.

Measure_RachelSignerIf you want a laugh, please check out how the grumpy and indignant owner of Park Italian responds to bad Yelp reviews from his customers. Here are the latest few: Midtown West, Midtown East, and the Financial District (which I refuse to call “FiDi” of my own accord). If you know of great lunch spots in other neighborhoods, please send tips my way!

And if you missed it, my send-off to 2015 included a round-up of somms and beverage directors around the country sharing their best wine experiences of the year. Some pretty amazing stories came my way; check out the article here. Cheers to a fresh start for 2016.

Exciting things happening in the Willamette Valley!

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 8.52.01 PMOne of the most rewarding aspects about wine journalism is tracking the amazing people and projects I encounter through my stories. A few months ago, I wrote on Eater about Brianne Day’s plan to create a winery that aimed to be a sort of incubator, a space where upstart winemakers could get their hands dirty helping her with harvest and producing their first vintage.

And then, this harvest season, it actually happened! I watched from afar, through Brianne’s Instagram, as she brought in fruit, crushed, fermented, and had what looked like an incredible amount of fun with young people from all over who were so excited to work with her and make wine. Brianne’s passion is conveyed through her constant obsession with the grapes, the juice, the fermentation process. Despite having worked 8 harvest at top wineries around the world, and having made her own wine for a few vintages now, Brianne retains a certain curiosity toward winemaking, that reflects a naturalist’s approach, where the process it is about negotiating whatever idiosyncracies come with the current vintage.

Check out this short video from Ross Maloof, wine director at Philly’s Vedge, which serves delicious vegan food and amazing natural wines; it is just one example of the amazing spirit that took hold of people at Day Wines (as Brianne’s winery-collab is called) this fall. I can’t wait to taste these wines and see what will come of this ambitious project.