GREAT NEWS. JUST WHAT YOU WANTED. MORE OF ME & ADAM TALKING.
Welcome to Natural Disasters, our podcast about Kanye, Rick & Morty, and wine. Mostly wine. But who's to say. First episode is live, drinking Martha Stouman, talking about Kanye and the perils of serving natural wine BTG. New episodes every Friday. Also it’s our first episode & we will have guests soon & I promise we will get better just like that Ira Glass quote I repeat to myself every morning tells me. Don’t forget to like/subscribe/follow/comment (only nice things)/rate (only five stars). Shouts & many thanks to my boy Ted Feighan for the music, it’s not a true MAR joint without Monster Rally. ❤️
Back in March, I was asked to be the keynote speaker (!) at "The History of Women & The Cocktail" event sponsored by Pomp + Whimsy Gin. Dr. Nicola Nice, the founder of Pomp + Whimsy asked for me to talk about sexism in the industry, which I was more than happy to since I deal with it all the damn time. Not to say I wasn't nervous-- it was my first time giving a speech and not just cracking jokes and wow, I've got to say it's way harder talking in front of people when they're not laughing at everything you say.
But after the speech, I had a number of attendees ask for me to post the speech online, so I hope you enjoy it. I would also like to thank Dr. Nicola and her team at Pomp + Whimsy for inviting me to be a part of such an inspiring evening full of two of my favorite things-- women and beverages!
There is a lot in this world I don’t know. But if there are two things I know for certain, it is that men love basketball shorts, and they love telling me everything about, well, me! It’s crazy! I can’t believe no one mentioned to me while I was growing up that one day I’d become a woman, and here would be all these kind-hearted, well-researched men with full Ph D’s on Marissa Ross telling me how to live my life and do my job. And they’re everywhere!
I suppose I first noticed in in 2008, when my dad said if I dropped out of college I’d 100% become a derelict. Then in 2011 there was that old white guy in Napa who told me I had to stop drinking straight from the bottle because it was disrespectful, and no one would ever take me seriously. Then there were those winemakers in Spain who found out I was twenty-nine, and advised me to “Say nineteen. We prefer sixteen but you can pass for nineteen.” The middle-aged man from Michigan I met while backpacking in Yosemite was very helpful when he told me “I’d never know anything about wine” if I didn’t know the Bordeaux producers he had in his cellar. Really loved the guy in Oakland who told me I shouldn’t be talking about skin-contact wine publicly because I was “a woman who didn’t know anything.” The next day, two natural wine producers at a dinner in Los Angeles with seventeen other men called me a liar and said that the wine I brought to the dinner was trash, and full of sulfur that I just couldn’t taste. They dumped the bottle and then offered to teach me how to taste if I’d take off my shirt, and all of them laughed. Last summer a man wrote that my wine writing should be used to recruit for ISIS. There was also a Reddit feed about how I was “a lush with no job.” A little over a month ago, I received an award and a man attributed it to “all those bikini photos.” Three weeks ago, a famous actor laughed in my face when he asked me to teach him about “orange varieties” and I told him any white wine could be “orange.” Two weeks ago a man on Instagram told me I needed to “remember my responsibilities” as a natural wine “influencer” and I should eat a banana and some nuts instead of a cheeseburger. And nearly every day, a man reminds me how “cute” it is that I wrote a book about wine.
All very helpful tips and comments.
That I ignored.
I stand before you today, a thirty-two year old college dropout who drinks straight from the bottle with some of the best winemakers in the world, who still doesn’t give a fuck about Bordeaux, that just published a very public article about skin-contact wines, that knows damn well she can taste with her shirt on or off if she god damn pleases, whose writing encourages readers to be confident wine drinkers at every level, signed her third full-time contract with the nation’s number one food magazine, eats what she damn well wants, and knows it’s not fucking “cute” that I wrote a three hundred page book on wine, it was a lot of hard fucking work.
While we are all in different aspects of the beverage industry, all of us women have experienced this kind of “help” from men. The worst part is, I know I’ve had it easy. I’m a hermit white woman who primarily works from home alone. There are people in this room of all races, religions, and sexual orientations that have faced-- and continue to face-- vast, varied and regular degradation, disrespect, discouragement, and abuse.
It would be remiss, and disingenuous, of me not to mention that the effects of patriarchy and sexism are not only limited to men. I know I’ve faced equal amounts of those things from fellow women, as I’m sure you have too. And on the one hand, I get it. We still live in a world where women do not receive equal pay or opportunities, and we are conditioned to be in constant competition with one another. On the other hand, what the fuck?! I’ve had women tell me I’m ruining the wine industry for women, body shame me, talk shit about how I dress in the same breath they’re saying I don’t know shit about Chardonnay. About as “helpful” as men telling me I can't taste unless I take my clothes off.
This is why nights like tonight are more important than ever. Because it’s easy for me to be up here saying to ignore the hateful words, to fight back against sexism, to report abuse. But we all know it is not that simple. It is terribly hard, and it is even harder to do alone. I would not be on this stage right now if it wasn’t for the incredible women I have met, that have taken chances on me, that have supported me and my work.
I started writing about wine in 2011 on my blog, Wine. All The Time. I got like fourteen hits a month and I swear that was mostly just me neurotically rereading and editing myself. No one read it, until Sierra Tishgart of New York Magazine did a profile on me and my wine videos and writing in 2015. Suddenly, everyone had read it including my now literary agent, Rachel Vogel. The first time Rachel and I spoke, I was on the phone in my car in Mindy Kaling’s driveway while the Direc-TV guy knocked on the window and I begged him to please wait because this was the biggest call of my life. She heard the entire conversation, and still took me seriously. Rachel worked her ass off for me—helping me craft my book proposal, and getting me a deal with my dream editor, Kate Napolitano. Kate never once tried to change my vision or voice, instead she sculpted my book with insight, guidance, and endless patience. I eventually met Amy Atwood, one of the best distributors of natural wine in California, who immediately shared her wines and knowledge with me, introducing me to some of the most incredible women in wine. Amy took me on trips with her and Jenny Lefcourt, of Jenny & Francois Selections, one of the first importers of natural wine in the states. She introduced me to Isabelle Legeron who founded the Raw Wine Festivals, Alice Feiring who paved the way for female wine writers, and a whole slew of female winemakers and industry professionals I love. All of whom are not only a part of my community in wine, but I would not have a career without.
They are on my team. I’m on their team. We’re on OUR team.
Look around this room tonight. This is your team, this is OUR team. We can actually help one another. No one needs to hear from the rich guy who retired, bought a fleece vest one day and decided his new hobby would be making the same bullshit Napa Cabernet he’s been drinking since the first Bush administration. We know that guy, we know what he thinks, we know his story. We know by it by heart. And it’s really fucking boring.
But us, our team, we all have different and unique skillsets that intertwine and complement one another, perspectives that can open minds, interesting opinions and ideas and stories that deserve to be heard. Together we can thrive by listening to one another, supporting one another, and unifying under two middle fingers up to the bullshit sexism we all have to deal with. Together we can do a lot more than we can alone, and a lot more than we can with the “help” of those who actively try to bring us down. Together, we can make incredible impacts in our careers, in the beverage community, and in the world’s culture as a whole.
Apparently I still have a thing for smug, artsy dudes. Domaine de La Chappe's “André” Pinot Noir is a wild romp through brambles of high acid raspberry, black cherries and the orange-hued innards of early summer plums, wet from rhythmic suburban sprinklers. It has these overtones of Brett and whispers of VA that make me suspicious, and somehow make me love it more. It's so easy and fun, I want to fight with it, in the same way you want to fight with a grade school crush. I want to push its buttons, because it's pushing mine. It's making me want to use the word "funky," which is my least favorite descriptor. I feel like it's poking and prodding and teasing me into submission. Like I'm going to end up rolling around on the rug laughing and screaming "ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, FINE OK 'FUNKY' IS AN OK DESCRIPTOR AND ISN'T JUST A WORD WE USE TO IGNORE TRULY FUCKED UP WINES OK OK YOU WIN JUST MAKE OUT WITH ME OR WHATEVER YOU FUNKY DICK... WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG... yeah, no you're right, my mom is going to be home soon."
“Pithon-Paillé 'Grololo' Grolleau smells like the all sprinklers just went off at dusk in late July across an entire neighborhood; lawns of peppered strawberry and blackberry, wet sidewalks wafting. And it tastes like a spiced raspberry juice hot tub with the acidic shock of a peer-pressured dive into the pool. It's not THAT cold, so it's cool [bahhh-dumm-chhh] but it still fucking hits ya, man. It's a pure and simple pleasure, the kind of thing you don't have to think too much about until you decided to hit the bong because you have the worst cramps ever and now here we are. [Ahem] Yeah, I mean this wine is mad chillable & chuggable & perfect for pairing with feminist porn... not because there are ladies on the label. But because it's juicy, soft, and subtle but spicy, angular, and vibrant. It's carefree... Ah, fuck I have more to say but I have to go eat dinner because I promised Ben I would be done before dinner. Whatever the point is, yeah. I'm stoned. But mostly that this wine is really great and fun and okay, I do have to go but drink this wine I'm serious it's delicious, wait is he back? I can't see from the new desk that faces the wall... ok yeah g2g my guys”— cool review I wrote last night we’re just gonna have to go with bc we drank all the wine it was so good. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
“‘Controversial’ wine columnist Marissa A. Ross unexpectedly died last night at local pizzeria, Cosa Buona. While it is unclear whether the writer was physically crushed by a Jeroboam of Partida Creus, or virtually drown her own insides in the Vinel-Lo, sources close to Ross say this is how she would have wanted to go. ‘She always quoted that Kendrick song ya know, always saying she would die for this shit,’ her husband, Ben, told Channel Seven. Ross, just shy of 32, was most known for chugging from the bottle, cussing too much, and ‘The Watcher’ Instastory videos. She is survived by her husband, sister, dogs, and that cat no one knows she has.”
François Saint-Lô "Hey Gro!!" Varietal: Grolleau Region: Loire, France Year: 2016 Price: $27 Retailer: Lou Wine Shop Importer: Terrell Wines
There's only so long one can go before they're back on their bullshit. Approximately three months if we're talking about me and light red wines.
I've been flirting with méthode Champenoise bubbles, lusting traditional Burgundy, and sneaking around with vintage Barolo. But no matter what transcendent Chardonnay crosses my dinner table or what new wave Merlot that "gets me thinking" is poured, what really gets my thighs tingling is a light-bright, tart-pop red.
But not all light reds are the same. Just because a bottle is natural and under thirteen percent does not make it great, just like ninety-five points or a buck-fifty price tag doesn't make a bottle even enjoyable.
Same goes for hip-hop. And François Saint-Lô's "Hey Gro" Grolleau drinks like a Chance the Rapper album. Yes, you can party with it-- it's extremely fun and poppy-- but at the same time, it has a real flow, is engaging, and worth musing over. Its acidity pulls off energetic spikes effortlessly and its vibrant red fruit notes ring with raw enthusiasm ("AH! AH! AH! AHHH!"), like an Echo iMessage of the full-grinned emoji in your mouth. It pulls you in with its technique, and holds you with soft roots of spice. It's bold, it's bouncy, it's quick, but it's also rhythmic, smooth, and at times emotional.
Perhaps that last part is just me.
Some of the recent conversations around natural wine have been disheartening at best. At worst, they have been uninformed, petty, and/or downright fucking crotchety. But when I drink a wine like this, I can taste with every bud on my tongue and feel with every ounce in my being that those people are wrong. Natural wine isn't just poorly made bullshit with "cool" labels, and glou-glou is still great, god damn it.
And if you'd like to try to stop me, I'll be the crazy "Hey Gro!!" fan waiting in the lobby.
Tasting Notes: Translucent but cloudy, red poppies on the eyes. Goji berries and cranberries tossed with white pepper & allspice on the nose. Light bodied and high acid, the palate is bright and bursting with tart, crunchy cranberries, jellied raspberry seeds, and a lasting air of salty eucalyptus and breathy tannins. There is Brett, but well-integrated. A truly joyous bottle that is easy to drink yet interesting and endlessly delicious. Good open for hours, although I dare you to not drink it all in thirty minutes flat.
Also, revisited a bottle I opened three days ago and had in the fridge corked, and I'm floored that it is still good! The Brett is more pronounced, a little VA, and there is the slightest hint of mouse, but as someone who is super sensitive to mouse, I don't think most people would notice it. I mean, I'm currently having a glass of it, that's how good it still is. Fine. I had two glasses. Who's counting.
Ross Test: I know pearl clutching usually refers to someone reacting to something scandalous or heinous, but you can also clutch your pearls and rip them off out of pure ecstasy as proven by chugging this wine. #1 ROSS TEST OF JANUARY 2018 FOR SURE.
Potek Blanc de Noir Varietal: Pinot Noir Region: Santa Rita Hills, California Year: 2013 Price: $65 Retailer: Potek direct!
Full Disclosure: This bottle was gifted to me by Dave Potter of Potek, but not in trade for review or any other pretenses or promises of coverage. Just wanted to tell you guys about it while also telling you about our event at Potek Winery in Santa Barbara.
The day I met winemaker Dave Potter was the same day I was coming to shoot footage for a pilot presentation with him at his Municipal Wine tasting room in Santa Barbara after another Dave overheard me drunkenly complaining at a Silverlake Wine tasting about how I didn't have a winery to shoot at. And that's the kind of dude Dave Potter is, the kind who is down to let a total stranger come film in his space, put him on camera, and drink all of his wine. This was back in 2014, and he had no reason to be so generous with me. But he was. And always has been-- generous, affable, and a great winemaker.
This past weekend, Dave once again opened his arms, wines and space to me to celebrate my book at his winery, Potek. Potek is an incredible space, and I really wish I had had a chance to take photos, but thankfully I had quite a few books to sign (fucking sucks when no one shows up to your book signings TRUST, so ❤️ THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CAME OUT ❤️ ). The evening was such a blast. Literally, considering Dave decided that not only should we celebrate with his latest vintage of Potek's sparkling Blanc de Blanc, but that I should also disgorge the bottles myself.
Disgorging is the technique used to rid sparkling wines of their lees (dead yeast) after they have been riddled (kept basically upside-down for awhile so all aforementioned dead yeast collect in the neck of the bottle). Now, I had never disgorged before. And while I know I seem brave in the sense that I put myself out there a lot, but I am an anxiety ridden scaredy cat about basically everything besides my work. Anything that can physically harm me, I'm pretty much out. Jumping off a top bunk? Nope. Won't do it. Seriously won't do it.
As you can see, I was very nervous the first time I disgorged.
Disgorging at Potek, Part One - YouTube
But by the second time! I was still a bit nervous. Mostly about my shoes. Who was more nervous though? Obviously that dad in the background clinging to his kid for dear life.
Disgorging at Potek, Part Two - YouTube
While I am drinking the Blanc de Noir and not one I disgorged, this wine is delightful. It has the homeyness of a big bowl of toasty cereal topped with fresh fruit, but also a great pop of acidity and the salt of the central coast's teal blue ocean. Its minerality makes it great for hanging out and day-drinking, maybe also popping open some oysters, but its well-integrated oak also makes me want to serve it with dinner.
I'm so happy I was able to make it up to Santa Barbara. The 101 was still closed this past weekend, and it was insane getting there. But now that the 101 is back open and SB is only two hours away rather than four & a half, I can't wait to spend more time there hanging out at Potek. Seriously it's a dope spot with a brewery and a BBQ spot all in the same zone. There's also a cool furniture store I didn't allow myself to go into because I get drunk and love buying shit. ALSO, WINE. LOTS OF WINE.
Tasting Notes: A pretty pale dandelion on the eyes. The nose is sweet, toasted corn flakes topped with peaches, nectarines, with sliced strawberries, a drizzle of honey, and a dash of salt. The palate is tart peaches with lemon zest and a briny sea breeze blowing white sand through palm fronds.
Ross Test: Delicious! Just don't forget to get through half the bottle first so it doesn't explode out your nose.
Lucy Margaux Wildman Blanc Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc Region: Adelaide Hills, Australia Year: 2016 Price: ~$35 (Sorry I was buzzed when I bought it & can't find the receipt) Retailer: Ordinaire Distributor: T. Edward
My father-in-law is quite a character, the kind of guy who is usually addressed as The Danimal and starts most of his stories with, "Well, we were on quaaludes..." This past weekend, he was telling me about this time he and his buddy were waterskiing when they decided to drop their trunks and proceed to drop into a bay that was home to an upscale resort. They literally blew by, waving at stunned onlookers on the shore. The cops eventually came, looking for a green boat and two nude dudes, but with their shorts safely on, they denied any involvement with the heathens.
If there was ever a wine to pair with such beachy debauchery, it would be the Lucy Margaux Wildman Blanc. Unlike the grassy, green Sauv-Blancs from down under, this bottle is rip-roaringly fruity, fun, and fucking delicious.
The Wildman Blanc smells like you just won a Hawaiian vacation on K-Earth 101. (They don't call it the Hawaiian Vacation Station for nothing.) Stunningly tropical, you are whisked off to an island paradise as soon as your nose dips into the glass. Passionfruit, deep papaya, pineapple, mango, those little Cuties, yeah, they're all there. In their bikinis. Covered in tanning oil. Piña Coladas in hand. Being like, COME! COME WATERSKI WITH US! NAKED!
It doesn't taste much different. In fact, it tastes exactly like it smells, but add bitter grapefruit pith. And the fact that your clothes are already off, a refreshing acidity breezing through your buttcheeks as you ride along the salty waves with a minerality that jabs at you like seashells along the ocean floor. Part of you is like, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON I'M WATERSKIING NAKED WITH A FRUIT BASKET COME TO LIFE. And the other part of you is like, LET'S DO IT AGAIN!
It's wild, man. But in the best way possible, because while it's completely different than any other Sauvignon Blanc I've ever had, it's still extremely accessible. In fact, it's quite possibly one of the most accessible natural white wines I've had. Its fruit-forwardness will please even the most timid drinkers while the complexity of all that fruit will intrigue even the most heady wine nerds.
Tasting Notes: Peachy keen and cloudy on the eyes. Again, the bouquet is very tropical and citric with hints of coconut suntan lotion, and same with the palate, but pithy and salty. It's one of those wines that is so delicious it makes you forget alcohol is involved. Extremely juicy and pure, yet dry and textured, this is is a must-drink wine. It does take on reductive notes the longer its open, but still drinks very well even the next day. Sans soufre AND very stable? A WINNER in my book.
Ross Test: HEAVENLY. ALTHOUGH FAIR WARNING, IT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR SHIRT OFF.
Ah, Lasagna, or as I like to call it, "Sweatpants for your insides."
Frankly, the lasagna and the wine didn't pair very well together and I knew it wasn't going to, but frankly my dears, I GAVE NO DAMNS. Because when you want to drink Lamoresca, you drink Lamoresca, because nothing else will do.
Their Mascalesi is one of my favorites. This blend of Nerello Mascalese and Frappato is like drinking a bright sweater woven with 50/50 cranberry wool & black cherry cotton that was tossed in the dryer with Bounce sheets made of pressed red roses, pepper & thyme. Volcanic and grippy, yet light enough to drink leisurely, this is hands down one of the best wines to curl up with on a cold evening.
And while this warm & fuzzy sweater didn't quite match the sweet tomato bolognese sweatpants, it's still an ensemble I'd gladly wear every night around the house.