Professionally, I spent the entire year feeling like I was both spinning my wheels and shouting into a void. Attempts at advancement were ignored and while I enjoyed completing a certificate program I took throughout the year, some major goals I set to accomplish by the end of the program didn’t come to fruition.
Personally, I saw my family struggle with disappointment and illness. I struggled to feel a sense of direction in my life and my career and to feel like the things I did with my time mattered in any way larger than myself.
Ultimately, and whether I liked it not (and I did not!), 2015 was a year of patience and foundation building. And the foundation I’m most proud of is this blog and the things I share here with you.
So, what does this have to do with beer and wine?
Well, it’s a new year, and a new January specifically. For a lot of people that means going ‘dry’, or abstaining from alcohol as a way of wringing themselves out from the indulgence of the holidays. I was never one for abstaining, but I am starting to see the draw in hitting that metaphorical reset button.
I get the draw of a Dry January. It’s about taking a step back. About making the effort to pause your habits so you can think about what it is you really want to be doing. That is an idea I can get behind.
The tagline of this blog is ‘tasting with intention’. When I first wrote that phrase I wanted to make a statement advocating for an end to mindless drinking and turn toward more thoughtful choices in what I consumed and enjoyed. Ideally, I would either learn something new from everything I drink or welcome it like an old beloved friend.
So instead of a Dry January I’m making a conscious return to that original idea. I had a great time over the holidays slurping up whatever looked good, but we all know that sort of behaviour can’t last forever. It’s a treat to be able to be, as my friend Martha calls me, the ‘Little Funnel’. There’s a time and place, but sadly those times and places can’t be common if you want a long and healthy life.
Call it a resolution if you want. I think I’ll call it a righting of the ship. I’d rather drink less of what I love than more of what I’m indifferent toward. Wouldn’t you?
Here’s to a new year of interesting wines, fascinating beers, and deliciousness all around.
I know a fair bit about wine, but that wasn’t always the case. In my earlier wine-drinking days I made some assumptions, like we all do, that I have since realized are simply not the case.
Here are some things I thought (and possibly said out loud!) about wine, before I knew better.
Wine in a bottle with a cork is better than in a bottle with a screw cap.
Not so! In the past, ‘fine’ wine was sealed with a cork and more ‘budget’ wines tended to be sealed with screw caps, entrenching a belief that, if you were a true connoisseur, screw caps were beneath you. But nowadays cork is becoming more and more scarce and the technology used in screw caps is getting better and better, which means the line between the quality of wine and the method of sealing is blurring. These days the argument of cork v. screw cap isn’t nearly as meaningful in terms of wine quality.
Ok, they sometimes are, but there IS a reason for why they do that! It turns out that the slurping and swishing people do when tasting wine is aerating it, forcing oxygen into the wine to enhance or change the flavour. Still slightly weird and definitely nerdy, but at least there’s a good reason.
French wine is the pinnacle, and is always magically better than other wines.
I guess this one is still pretty hotly debated, but my point here is that there are great wines from places that don’t sound like the chef from the Little Mermaid. Most articles that talk about the best wine regions will, of course, mention France (it’s got this reputation for a reason!) but Italy, Spain, the US, Australia and South Africa usually get top marks as well.
Only rich (and probably snobby) people can afford to really get into wine.
It’s more important to know what wine is good according to people who really ‘know’ than according to yourself.
Ok, listen up because this is the big one. I don’t have a link to share that will illustrate by point, but it still stands. YOU are the one buying and drinking the wine, so why should it matter more what other people think of it? If there is a $10 bottle out there that you keep getting because it tastes like ambrosia, then go for it! The opinions and writings of other, more ‘experienced’ wine people is only meant to be a guide to help you learn and be able to make your own decisions. Got it? Good.
No need to be embarrassed anymore!
These misconceptions aren’t the end of the world, really. And on a brighter note, they show how far my wine knowledge and experience has come, so it can’t be all that bad to go back and revisit them from time to time. Especially since wine is an ever-evolving industry, it’s good to check your assumptions every now and then to see which ones still hold up and which might need tweaking.
So, if you’re just starting out on your wine journey and possibly feeling a little shy about it, have no fear, everyone starts somewhere!
People talk all the time about pairing wine and beer with food. But what about other things? I am a staunch believer that a well-thought out drink will make anything better. It’s like putting together the perfect outfit for a themed party, it feels perfect when things match.
It’s in this spirit that I offer you this list of holiday movies with drinks pairings. Whether traditional or modern, funny or heartfelt, I hope something will pique your interest and inspire you to create a great holiday experience.
Disclaimer: I was raised Catholic, so these movies are all quite Christmassy. Apologies to those who don’t celebrate this particular holiday! I hope you’ll still enjoy this post, if only for the suggested accompaniments.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Oh Whoville, with your adorably gentle love for Christmas! This one is a personal favourite. I look forward to watching it (and quoting along) every year and I’m not ashamed to admit that I usually shed a big-hearted tear or two at the end. Between the Whos’ handholding and joyful singing on Christmas morning, sharing the day despite the Grinch stealing everything, or the Grinch carving the roast beast for one and all – the warmth and love gets me every time! Christmas day will always be, just as long as we have we.
Suggested accompaniment – Absinthe, to match the zany, whimsical trippiness that is Whoville. And because it’s green, duh.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
How can you not identify with Charlie Brown? This poor kid, stuck in his own head, over analyzing why he just can’t get into the Christmas spirit. Now that I’m an adult (and a childless adult at that) I definitely struggle to feel the true spirit of the season (which is usually my cue to put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas). I know this Christmas special is pretty religious, what with Linus quoting the bible and all, but there’s just something about the kindness those kids show Charlie Brown at the end that keeps me coming back.
Suggested accompaniment – A hot toddy, to match the cozy comfort of this holiday classic.
I’m sure every 90’s kid gets where I’m coming from on this one. Sure, it’s unrealistic at times (not to mention sadistic!) but, like the first two I’ve talked about, it’s got a soft, gooey centre that gets me right into the holiday spirit. I’m not much for the booby-trapped house scenes – it’s the quiet ones that get me, like Kevin’s realization that he ‘made his family disappear’ and the conversations he has with the Santa stand-in and his scary not-really-a-serial-killer next door neighbour that make me watch it year after year.
Suggested accompaniment – Egg nog. Straight up if you’re 8 years old. Spiked if you’re not.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
As you can tell, I tend to gravitate toward the more mushy holiday classics, so it took me a long time to realize the genius of this movie. But I’m sure glad I did. Between the ridiculous dinner scene (that turkey! the grandparents!), the marathon bad-to-worse tobogganing episode, the hilariously off-kilter neighbours, and Gus Griswold finally losing it at the end, this movie is non-stop hilarity. If you have a personal aversion to schmaltz or come from a family that is less than perfect (and who among us doesn’t?) then this movie is for you.
Suggested accompaniment – Beer. The cheaper the better.
Speaking of schmaltz, there is nothing more schmaltzy than a heartfelt Christmas classic chock full of songs written by an iconic Jewish songwriter. Enter White Christmas. My mom and I are locked in an eternal debate over which is better – White Christmas or Holiday Inn – but this is my blog so you get White Christmas. It manages to have a WWII plot line, excellent musical numbers and a fair amount of romance (it is a golden-era Hollywood movie, after all). Plus, how can you say no to Rosemary Clooney, and snow?? Don’t try, just watch and enjoy.
Suggested accompaniment – A sparkling wine cocktail, which you can sip while pretending to be at General Waverly’s swanky celebration. My fave is cava poured over a splash of St. Germain. If you’re feeling extra fancy you can put a raspberry in the bottom of the glass.
It’s A Wonderful Life
I have to admit, this movie is not one of my favourites – even I have my sappiness limits! But I still acknowledge its status a mainstay of the holiday movie pantheon. You don’t even have to seek it out, I’m sure it’ll be airing non-stop on Christmas Eve and Day on some tv channel or other. You could probably spend a full 24 hours listening to Clarence’s sage advice, watching the rise and fall (and return) of Bedford Falls, and listening to George and Mary singing about dancing ‘by the light of the moon’.
Suggested accompaniment –Mulled wine, because I’ve decided that’s what they’re all drinking as they toast George Bailey at the end and declare him ‘the richest man in town’.
I have a somewhat unpopular confession to make – I like cheap wine. I love it, in fact, and let me tell you why.
All wine tasting and buying is a game. There are some circumstances – occasion, season, personal preference, amount available to spend – and an objective – buy a great bottle of wine. The game would be too easy if the sky was the limit in terms of price. Sure, If money allowed I’d drink lots of Veuve Clicquot, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and big California reds, but something tells me it would get a little too deliciously simple after a while. Where’s the experimentation? Where’s the intrigue? How can you know you’ve truly hit the mark on a good bottle if you’ve never missed it?
Full disclosure: In addition to being a big wine-lover, I am also a huge bargain-hunter. I relish spending the least possible amount on the largest possible return.
Everything you see in any given store is offering you something, and wine is no different. Each bottle offers its own version of value, but not every bottle’s offer will match the value you expect from buying it and tasting the sweet nectar it holds. On top of that, some wines will want you to pay more because of the name on the bottle, or the specific adorable little hillside its grapes were grown on. Francis Ford Coppola really wants you to think his wine is valuable, and so does the Champagne region in France, for example. Are you going to agree or disagree with what they’ve offering you?
Each bottle is a decision, and a gamble. How much do I think I’ll like this wine? Would I bet $10 to find out? $20? $50? More? For me, the more I invest in a wine the more I expect to love it. But it doesn’t always work like that, which is why I keep my gambles low. If wine was Vegas, I would be at the $1 buy-in tables, turning up my nose at the high-roller tables and private back rooms.