#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 2: Amandine Brillanceau, Cellar Master at Louis Jadot

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Next up, featuring Amandine Brillanceau, Cellar Master at Louis Jadot

Amandine is from Deux Sevres which is just south of the Loire Valley in France, so it’s no surprise that she has *cultivated* an impressive wine resume. She studied at the Agronomic School in Bordeaux and earned degrees in both Agronomy and Oenology. Her passion for wine grew through travel and interning alongside inspired French winemakers. Amandine’s experience in winemaking spans across several renowned regions including New Zealand, Australia, Oregon, and South Africa. She’s combined her passion and experience to grow into the role of Cellar Master in two prominent French regions: Rhone Valley from 2014 to 2017 and Burgundy where she now works at Louis Jadot.

Located in Beaune, Louis Jadot has incredibly deep roots in Bourgogne dating back to 1859. I like to refer to Louis Jadot as “America’s Sweetheart” because the wines are well-known here in the US and loved by so many for its tradition and quality. Louis Jadot is one of the most celebrated exporters of French wine and marketed as America’s #1 French wine for good reason. These red and white Burgundies are not only accessible, they are approachable and affordable. Louis Jadot’s portfolio includes everything:  inexpensive Burgundy and Beaujolais, wines from Chablis and Côte de Beaune, as well as grand cru wines from France’s top vineyards.

When I think about the rich history of Louis Jadot an instant sense of tradition comes to mind. The thing that really impresses me as a consumer/wine student/creator is how the Louis Jadot brand and Domaine has not only grown and evolved with the times, but how they’ve done so while upholding the region’s deep tradition and values. To me, that is just really cool. The wines are a benchmark for Burgundy and they’re delivering a product that appeals to novice and expert level enthusiasts. I personally loved learning that Louis Jadot has a female Cellar Master and one with such an exciting background and fresh perspective. It all makes sense now!

Without further ado, our virtual interview:

Ashley: Can you provide some insight into your day-to-day operations as Cellar Master?

Amandine: Cellar team management (7 people). Planning work and adjustment, tasks follow-up. Daily tastings enabling to organize the cellar work, traceability, various projects monitoring etc …

Ashley: You have experience in both new and old-world wine regions, how has this contributed to your success in Burgundy?

Amandine: Adaptation ability due to the fact that I worked in very different winery profiles (different material/tools, different company and organization profiles).

Openness and curiosity allowing me each time to tackle different challenges.

Ashley: What do you find to be the most interesting part of your job? What are some challenges you’ve overcome?

Amandine: Never bored! The wine world has no limit, it is always moving ! My biggest challenge was to enter Louis Jadot. Burgundy was a dream and every work experience was slowly helping me to get closer to Burgundy. Leading a team was also a new challenge I had to take up, because it was a first experience to me. Showing my skills and my competence to my team enabled me with time to get closer to them.

Ashley: Of the wines in your portfolio, can you share a favorite (and unexpected) food pairing?

Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes paired with a wok full of Asian flavours: the Combottes vineyard produces a very aromatic Chardonnay wine, with intense flavours. It is the best companion to sweat-and-sour notes, it’s nice tension enhances such dishes.

Ashley: In winemaking, is one more important than the other in terms of tradition vs innovation?

Amandine: Tradition is a key value in Burgundy – it represents a bridge between Burgundy history and today’s winemaking science. It is crucial to me in order to build a harmonious whole. Therefore, it is a never ending process swinging between past acquired experiences and today’s knowledge. Always innovating and constantly searching for perfection.

Amandine, thank you for taking the time to share your experience and insight with us. Cellar Masters wear a bunch of different hats. From managing inventory to knowing the ins and outs of harvest and more. It’s inspiring to see you manage a wide range of responsibilities for such a prominent French producer. 

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 1: Leah Jorgensen, winemaker and owner of Leah Jorgensen Cellars

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

First up, Leah Jorgensen of Leah Jorgensen Cellars

Maker of Oregon’s Premier Cabernet Franc

Oregon is not only cool in climate, but just straight up cool. The state is leading the US in terms of organic vineyards, biodynamics, and sustainable practices. These are some of wine’s biggest buzz words and that’s not changing anytime soon because it’s cool to care about nature. Personally, there is no better sense of the word “terroir” than a wine that is made with minimal intervention and/or biodynamically. Combine this approach with with cool, rainy climate along with pristine soil types and *viola* – world class wine from vine to glass. Leah is a prominent member of the winemaking community in Oregon with deep family roots. Oregon is known for Pinot and Chardonnay that align with Burgundian palates, but what I love most about Leah’s wine is how she is leaning into grapes and styles of the Loire Valley (think Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc). While her Cabernet Franc is hands down show-stopping, I have to give a shoutout to “Tour Rain” which is not only a clever play on words, but truly one of a kind in taste. It’s made with 40% Gamay Noir and 60% Cabernet Franc, which is actually a classic Loire blend. Imagine fresh blooms mingling with bright red fruit and undertones of pepper – it’s enticing. Be sure to check out her wines!

Without further ado, here’s our interview:

Ashley: Why did you choose to become a winemaker? 

Leah: Honestly, I grew tired (and bored) with working in winery sales and marketing – which I had been doing for about a decade before shifting gears to work in the cellar.  I was always interested in wine production, but having worked my way up the ranks in a steady upper management position (and salary), I was afraid to take the plunge into cellar work.  For one, it would be a major pay cut.  I was also concerned with the instability of part-time seasonal work that comes with harvest internships – a necessary step in the winemaking journey.  When I finally decided to “go for it”, I just trusted the process and turned my attention to learning and studying.  I enrolled in a local winemaking program while working local harvests.  I managed to pay the bills with part-time evening work at a Portland wine bar while doing some winery marketing consulting on the side.  After my first crush, I knew I was headed in the right direction and I made it my purpose to learn everything I possibly could about winemaking.  While cellar internships are essential, I found the classroom to be critically important in taking serious steps to become a professional winemaker.  So, I guess I would say my obsessive “curiosity” drove me to study winemaking because I really wanted to understand and learn everything I could possibly learn about how wine is made, what can happen during the winemaking process, and most importantly, how to be competent about what is happening during the winemaking process.  I tend to believe if you are truly passionate about something, you don’t want to learn a little bit about it.  You should become voracious about learning everything about your passions, right?  Cutting corners or skipping the classroom experience wasn’t an option for me.  By the time I completed the 2year program, it was clear to me that I was right where I wanted to be – and I had the tools I needed to have confidence in my ability to make wine professionally.  To this day, I read research assays on winemaking all the time – published via UC Davis, the AWRI, etc.  I’m not in winemaking for any other reason but to continue to learn and understand the nuances of a subject that is really exciting, complex, and interesting to me – and then putting that knowledge and expertise into practice.

Ashley: Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female winemakers?

Leah: Not really.  But, I do think it depends on who you’re asking.  There are certain consumers out there who would prefer it if my husband was the winemaker in my family.

What do you find to be the most interesting part of your job?

Most interesting: the fact that no two vintages are the same, so my work is never the same.  My work as a winemaker is to look closely at what each vineyard site and what each vintage is giving me.  I make all decisions based on those two things. It’s never predictable and once the fruit comes in the doors, after deciding when to pick, I get the joy of putting that knowledge about site and the vintage to work to create something that will forever reflect a specific time, place and moment in history.  I mean, how many people are lucky to experience something like that?  I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a life’s work, a study, if you will, on my chosen discipline.

Ashley: What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve? 

Leah: It is my intention to see that Oregon is included among the most important places/regions in the world for growing exceptional Cabernet Franc.  I am passionate about the vineyards I work with – I’m committed to them, even during challenging times like right now with two years of dangerous drought impacting Southern Oregon.  Climate change is affecting the whole west coast – we can’t be complacent and think it’s only a problem in some regions.  We all need to consider this impact on American agriculture.  

It is also my intention to help reshape the narrative on American Cabernet Franc.  California has long held the standard to which American Cabernet Franc style has been expressed.  I think it’s time to change the standard.  Cabernet Franc is one of the most elegant, ethereal, complex varietals in the world of Vinifera – and I’m definitely challenging the status quo style by not using new oak, picking earlier, using irrigation methods and canopy management systems to influence plant chemistries (especially in reducing the production of methoxypyrazines), etc.  

It’s my goal to get credit for pioneering American Cabernet Franc Blanc.  As a woman winemaker I have already watched other winemakers take the credit.  I’m not interested in being the center of attention; I’m interested in fairness, gender equity, and making sure credit is given where credit is due.  This is not just for me but for any marginalized winemaker today and in years to come.   If I don’t claim it, someone else will.  One way to help put an end to unfairness and challenges for women and other minorities in winemaking is to make sure we amplify their good work, that we probably credit them for the contributions they make.

Last, it’s my goal to create a distinguishable, classic Oregon Cabernet Franc.  My hope is that one day when somms and professionals taste Oregon Cabernet Franc they are able to identify it as Oregon Cabernet Franc.  Our region is unique.  Just as the Willamette Valley isn’t Burgundy, the Rogue Valley isn’t the Loire Valley or Bordeaux’s Right Bank.  It’s a special place that happens to have soils and climate and elevations that are home to world class Cabernet Franc vines.

Leah, thank you for sharing your insight and wines with us. The Social Grapes appreciates all that you do to encourage women to meet their full potential, which includes donating a portion of the sales from this rosé to women’s academic scholarships – especially in STEM studies.

#ProstEveryMoment with Wines of Germany

This time of year in Germany is incredibly special because Christmas is a really big deal for the entire country. The temps have dropped, crowds are merry, and snow is falling. Big and small towns everywhere are covered with decorations and beautiful lights, while Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets) take over the streets. The concept of Christmas Markets originated in Germany but are now setup around the world, including here in the US. December
is the perfect time to go out with a bang and explore something new, something you may be unfamiliar with as a wine novice…. and that something is German wine. Why Germany? For the Christmas vibes and rich history, of course! Travel may not be in the cards for everyone this year, including us, so the next best thing is to escape by glass. This past weekend we imbibed in all things German – from the amazing varieties and comfort food to German Christmas
songs. I’m officially in the holiday spirit thanks to German Wines USA! I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love German culture. I studied the language in High School all four years including AP classes and had the best teacher who would get carried away with tradition – it was contagious. German class influenced my perspective and had a positive impact on the person I’ve grown to be. That’s why this German Wines feature is very exciting for me! The
best way to learn is through taste, so let’s dive into some well-known varieties, but first let’s raise a glass and “Prost” which is the German word for cheers. Ready? Eins, zwei, drei…. Prost!

The region: Baden

(pronounced like Baa – den)

Baden is located in southwestern Germany, making it the warmest wine producing area and most
southernly anbaugebiete aka wine region. It’s the third largest winegrowing region in Germany and a great travel destination if you’re interested in adding Alsace, France or Northern Switzerland to your itinerary. Vineyards grow between the Black Forest and Rhine River, so it looks like a narrow strip that meanders down about 250 miles to the Swiss border. The best vineyards are planted on south-facing slopes atop Kaiserstuhl which is an extinct volcano with soils that give off a little extra heat. The volcanic soils, south-facing slopes (important because it receives more direct sunlight) and southern location of the region means that the wines here are full-bodied and concentrated with some of the highest alcohol levels for German wines. Baden wine producers are making some fantastic Spätburgunder aka Pinot Noir as well as Riesling and Grauburgunder aka Pinot Gris.

Wine producing countries in the European Union (EU) are categorized into zones according to climatic conditions. All of Germany falls under zone A with the exception of Baden. Baden belongs to wine-growing zone B which is the same as Loire, Savoy, and Alsace in France. If you’re a fan of wines from those three French regions, and to be honest it’s hard not to be, you really should consider exploring Baden as well! Fun fact: in German, Baden means baths. The name refers to warm mineral springs and the history dating back to Roman times – this was thee hub for Roman bath culture. Royals and nobles would travel near and far to embrace these magical “healing” baths and their positive effects.

Since we’re on the subject of translation… let’s break down a couple interesting translational tidbits about Baden’s wine, starting with Spätburgunder. In German, spät means late and burgunder means Burgundy which makes sense because Spätburgunder is German for Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir is thought to originate in Burgundy). The “late” part could literally mean that the fruit is left to hang on the vines a little longer, giving the grapes more ripeness and the wine a more concentrated flavor. However, the warmer and more arid climate of Baden compared to Burgundy may play a role as well. This could be a more romanticized translation and less factual, but I think it’s a fun anecdote to consider. Next up we have Grauburgunder (sometimes spelled Grauer Burgunder), or Pinot Gris. In German, grau means
grey. The color of the grape skin is greyish-blue, even though it’s a white wine.

Die Weine

Let’s start with a 2015 Grauburgunder, but not any Grauburgunder… Schloss Ortenberg GrauererBurgunder made with fruit from Alte Reben (old vines). This estate has deep roots dating back to WWII. It was once a hospice for the people of Offenburg, but was impacted by the events of the war and became property of the city, which it is still owned by today. This is a small production wine, so if you love it like we do, stock up! This rare beauty is smoky and nuanced with spice, ripe apple, and pear. It’s lean with bright acidity, so we paired this with homemade Bavarian pretzels and fancy mustard. Wowza, I think I have a new favorite wine + snack pairing!

Next up we have a 2019 Riesling Trocken from Weingut Burg Ravensburg located at the northern end of Baden. Riesling is really an exciting variety – it’s versatile and intriguing. It can age beautifully and drinks well young! It’s delicious dry or sweet, still or sparkling. If you’re all about dry wines, make sure to look for “Trocken” on the label. This means it’s dry while “Halbtrocken” is off-dry. Makes sense since halb means half in German so it’s halfway between sweet and dry. Burg (German word for Castle) Ravensburg is one of the oldest estates and towers high above the hills in Kraichgau where wine has been produced since the 13th century. All that to say it’s no surprise this wine is an absolute showstopper. It’s mineral driven, precise, and well balanced. The nose is perfumed and enticing as well while green fruit (apple and pear) mingle on the palate with fresh citrus and minerals. This wine goes down easily on its own, but I highly suggest pairing it alongside German Potato Salad. Shop this incredible bottle – I highly encourage you to stock up! We paired this with German Potato Salad and du meine Güte… this flavor combination made our spirits bright.

Our final wine of Baden is a 2015 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Freiherr von Gleichenstein Hofgarten. Hofgarten translates to “noble house,” so this really is some elegant juice! This estate has been in the family for about 400 years in Oberrotweil which is the largest of the seven wine-growing communities near the town of Vogtsburg in Kaiserstuhl. This wine is earthy with mushroom flavors, juicy red apple, cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, subtle minerality and rose petal. This 2015 is drinking like a dream right now! We paired this with homemade spaetzle which is actually easy to make! Here’s a tip and probably my best idea of 2021: sprinkle in truffle zest AND sub your olive oil with truffle oil for the spaetzle. You can thank me later!

There you have it!

The perfect ending to 2021 starts and ends with German wines! I hope you feel inspired to treat yourself with some of these exceptional bottles from Baden, Germany. I hope we can make the pilgrimage in the new year, but until then I feel lucky for what we have.

Thanks for sipping with us!

Ashley | @smashleythegrape

National Pinot Grigio Day with Mezzacorona Wine

I’m here to remind you that National Pinot Grigio Day is today, May 17th! I never met a wine holiday I didn’t like and this one is no exception. Few things are as refreshing as a chilled, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio and I’m honoring this grape with Mezzacorona Wine. Lets travel by glass to Trentino – one of Italy’s northernmost regions where you will find Mezzacorona Winery, established in 1904. This producer has over a century of winegrowing experience in this unique climate which is cooled by breezes from Lake Garda, the Adige River, and glaciers from surrounding alpines. Many associate red wine with Italy, but Italian whites are just as noteworthy.

Pinot Grigio is one of the most planted white grapes in Italy and thrives in the Adige Valley region aka alpine territory. This style of wine is zesty, crisp, and refreshing – if you want to experience saline minerality in wine, this is the one for you! Mezzacorona cultivates their Pinot Grigio vines on hillsides where they are trellised in a traditional pergola style. This variety is characterized by delicate honeysuckle, green apple, lime, lemon, and stone fruits such as nectarine or white peach. This wine’s hue is typically straw yellow with hints of green. It’s medium+ to high in acidity, light to medium bodied, and hangs in the low to medium abv range. Mezzacorona is consistently making a delightful, classic example of Italian alpine Pinot Grigio and this 2019 vintage tastes like spring in a bottle – plus, it’s an exciting value for around $15. 

Here are some fun facts about Pinot Grigio:

  1. It’s birthplace is Burgundy, France
  2. Pinot Grigio is a mutation of Pinot Noir – that’s why the grape color is grayish-blue
  3. Pinot Gris (French) and Pinot Grigio Italian) are the same grape
  4. It ripens quickly and is usually harvested first to retain brilliant acidity
  5. The ideal time to open up your bottle of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio is within 5 years
  6. Pinot Grigio grows in tight clusters that resemble pine cones and that’s the translation; Grigio means grey so this is a very literal translation/description
  7. This grape is incredibly versatile and grows well in warm climates and cool; each climate expresses a different style

Pairing Pinot Grigio

The pastabilities (see what I did there) are endless when it comes to great wine pairings, but my favorite this spring is linguine with clams + Mezzacoronawine Pinot Grigio. Linguine with clams is elegant and surprisingly simple to make. Pair this dish alongside Pinot Grigio and you will be transported to Trentino aka the heart of the Italian Alps. This single varietal wine captures the essence of the Adige Valley – it’s incredibly vivid, crisp, and mineral driven. Here is our go-to recipe for this iconic dish!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of linguine (about 1/2 lb or so)
  • 3 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
  • 2 cans of chopped clams (16 oz total)
  • 1 cup of dry white wine (Pinot Grigio is great for this recipe)
  • black pepper (start with about 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (dry parsley works too)
  • 1/2 lemon

STEPS:

  • As pasta boils in water with a few pinches of salt, melt butter in a skillet and add in the garlic
  • Let the garlic cook for a few minutes and then add in the clams and cook over medium heat
  • Pour wine into the skillet and let clams simmer for about 5 minutes
  • Add linguine, about 1/2 of the parsley, and lemon zest into the skillet and toss all ingredients over low heat for a few
  • Serve and garnish with remaining parsley

*CHEF’S KISS*

Bonus pairing tip because charcuterie is basically an adult lunchable. Pinot Grigio is characterized by its high acidity so it pairs very well with soft, creamy cheese such as mozzarella, Brie, or midnight moon. This is literally my favorite combination of flavor components! Let’s go ahead and coin the phrase “Mezza and Mozza” for this heavenly pairing. When it comes to creating a cheeseboard, it’s all about the aesthetic. For me, a charcuterwreath makes any occasion special! It’s an incredibly simple, versatile concept that works for Christmas and spring time! Here we have a caprese inspired board with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, grapes, and rosemary for an enticing aromatic delight. Top with a pinch of salt + pepper and balsamic and enjoy!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape on Insta

A Mother’s Day Gift Guide For Every Mom!

T-minus 18 days. Can you tell I’m ready to be celebrated?

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I want to help you treat that special mother in your life because moms make the world go round! We do it all: clean, cook, teach, love, work, plan, etc. One of my favorite quotes about motherhood: “Mom is a title just above queen” and when you think about a queen, there’s a lot to her. She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders all while wearing a crown. The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess – able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally or diagonally. There is not a single obstacle she cannot overcome. It’s a powerful concept that applies to moms. There is a force within us fueled by a love that cannot be measured or explained. We take the hard hits and get back up over and over.

I cannot begin to explain what a wild ride my first year as a mama has been. Our first year journey has been out of the ordinary (read our birth announcement post for more deets) and our road to parenthood had ups and downs. I feel strongly that motherhood begins the moment you make a conscious effort to care for your own health in preparation for your child’s arrival. The parenthood journey is unique for every person and equally special. From the day you want to embark on that special journey until the arrival of your baby and loooong after, you will change a thousand times and learn a thousand different lessons. I was 7 months pregnant a year ago and a completely different person – this is why it can be tricky to find the right gift for mom. She evolves and grows with each phase of motherhood.

They say a baby’s brain grows most rapidly in the first year and this is a critical period for learning. In my opinion, the second most critical period for growth and learning is throughout motherhood. Wherever you are in your journey please know there is a sisterhood surrounding you…. cheering for you – believing in you – empathizing with you. Sure, there are those who judge other moms and raising a baby can be sooo incredibly political, but that’s not what The Social Grapes is about. Every mom is welcome to sip with us, complain, brag, laugh, cry, stay in pjs and just be who you are! With that said, here are some of the things that are helping me in this phase of motherhood. Also included some things that helped me through the days of wishing, hoping, and praying for our baby to arrive. If you are reading this and your partner or bff is fighting a silent battle or feeling discouraged, send her a reminder that she is amazing. Mother’s Day can be such a difficult time for women and a small gesture can go a long way in helping them through this day.

You are loved. You are supported.
  1. Angelite is not only gorgeous, it helps us connect to our higher self and the angels protecting us and guiding us on our path. It is believed to be connected to guardian angels of our future children.
  2. Overcome Rainbow earrings – wear these to remind yourself that you are more powerful than anything that arrives to break you, even if you don’t feel that at times. Let the rainbow guide you through. Check it out!
  3. Affirmation cards – a positive line a day can help increase positive energy. Love this set!
  4. Rose quartz is for love and acts as a purifying energy crystal and is said to aid in overall fertility.
These are a few of my favorite things!
  1. I own this mug and it both encourages me to stay strong while acknowledging that being a mama is tiring af (the back says tired as a mother)
  2. We all have moments when we feel like the worst mom, so remind her she’s the greatest. Also a to go mug is key for moms since we’re now always on the go and a thermos helps from spilling all over the place!
  3. This diaper bag is chic, clips to your stroller, and fits all the crap you need for venturing out with a tiny human.
  4. The first 5 months or so you will find it difficult to care about your hair. I lived in chic headbands and trust, you will too!
  5. You’re not just any mother, you’re a phenomenal mother and you should own that shit!
  6. I want all the mama branded things like this necklace in case this baby on my hip didn’t scream “I’m a mom!” loud enough.
  7. Fanny packs will be your best friend. I legit walk with this every day around our hood, hike with it, take it to the beach. I like a nice fanny, what can I say?
Elevate her wine game!
  1. Coravin bc when she is nursing you won’t be able to pound a bottle a night and dads, don’t bogart the wine!
  2. When the world is back to normal and park days are upon us, safely transport your vino and enjoy responsibly.
  3. I love these wine glasses – my favorite baddie designed them – Jancis Robinson. Enough said! I’m giving away a set in a couple weeks!
  4. Mirabelle Selects has monthly wine subscriptions. Since the thought of traveling abroad with a baby is terrifying and exhausting, let her travel there by glass. They source sustainable, boutique wines from family owned wineries in Spain and France. Here’s the Mother’s Day wine box!
  5. Bubbles! Because you’re a mom now and any time you can enjoy a bottle is a cause for celebration. We Drink Bubbles is female-owned by a San Diego mama and she sources the coolest bottles from all over the world.

Never was a tech lover, but Alexa legit has my back all day.

  1. My phone is never more than 10% charged and dies once a day. Portable chargers are all the rage for new moms. We’re using our phones for music, taking a ridiculous amount of photos, and recording every cute moment. I burned through one already and now this cute Rifle Paper Co. one is on my list (hint hint, Greg)
  2. Photoshoots are expensive and every day moments are precious. Let her have some fun with that creative side and step up her photography skills with this easy to use DSLR.
  3. Echo can connect to every smart device in your home and I shout at her daily to play “Baby Shark” and she always comes through. She sets alarms, makes calls, and reads you the news so you can pretend to be dialed in still.
Self-care is key, embrace all the cozy things!
  1. This silk scrunchie is kind to your delicate postpartum hair and helps prevents creases. It also looks adorable af in a high pony. I’m all about a fast, convenient boost to my up do and this is it!
  2. I own this Skims robe and it has changed my life. It is so incredibly soft and makes me feel like a million bucks.
  3. A foot bath needs little to no persuasion. Moms feet are aching after a day of chasing the kiddos around, probably without shoes on bc #pandemiclife. Bonus gift: make a promise to mom that you will keep it clean for her.
  4. These slippers say mama bear and I’m here for it. These are comfy and light for the upcoming summer months!
  5. Make her feel sexy with some satin pajamas but also this matching set comes with an eye mask. Never used an eye mask until having a baby and it WORKS! She will love — also the mask functions as a “do not disturb” sign.

I hope you enjoy these ideas! Tag me if you shop for these — I love connecting on the gram and seeing what you enjoy 💖

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes

Sauv Blanc, hold the alcohol.

Introducing the world’s first alcohol-removed Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zeland: Geisen 0%!

The Why:

YOU GUYS! I am so excited about this for several reasons. First of all, I’m a lady who plans on growing a family and I’m also an avid wine drinker. Having gone through one pregnancy, let me tell you… alcohol removed wine is a real treat! Surprisingly, I loved taking a break from alcohol for 9 months and instead sipped on delicious mocktails and alc-removed wine; that’s not to say I didn’t think about wine from time to time. The one I missed most during my pregnancy was Sauvignon Blanc – probably because I had intense cravings for all things citrus throughout the second and third trimesters. Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough is known for being deliciously tart with flavors of lemon juice, lemongrass, lime, grapefruit, pear, and passionfruit – basically all the things this mama bear craved! Also, if you’re nursing and on the fence about whether or not to consume wine, because lets be honest there are arguments on both sides, this is a really great option! Secondly, dry January is becoming a very real trend and I actually love this concept. Greg and I decided to partake in a modified version we’re calling *damp* January. We’ve cut out alcohol Mon – Wed, allowing ourselves to open bottles Thurs – Sun. I’m not gonna lie, some days are harder than others which is why this option of alcohol-free wine excites me! For us, wine isn’t just about getting a nice little buzz. We enjoy the social aspect and how it reminds us to slow down and take time to relax. We also enjoy food and wine pairings – a great way to treat yo’ self for surviving parenting + work during a pandemic day in and day out. Giesen 0% allows us to do all of this while sticking with our goal of cutting out the buzz part-time. Lastly, the Giesen brothers have a great reputation for making fantastic wine from the top Sauvignon Blanc regions of Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand for almost four decades. Marlborough is at the top of my list for wine travel once the pandemic ends!

The How:

Giesen uses premium, full-strength Sauv Blanc in their process and combines tradition with modern technology known as an advanced spinning cone. Spin cone technology contains upside cones – half of which spin while the other half are fixed. In an environment that feels like it’s in a vacuum, cones start to spin until wine transforms into thin liquid films. A cool vapor-like element rises from the wine, carrying the yeasts and volatiles away from the liquid film. Using this advanced tech, first the aromas are removed followed by the alcohol. Aromas are collected reintroduced into the wine so you don’t miss out on the enticing nose. The final blend of Sauvy B grape juice + natural yeasts adds texture and body. This results in a dry, refreshing, aromatic, and delightful wine sans alcohol.

The Where:

More on Marlborough because if you love Sauvignon Blanc, you need to explore this region since Sauvy B makes up a majority of the plantings here. Most vineyards are planted to either Awatere Valley and Wairau Valley which is the larger of the two. In Wairau, the days are long and sunny, resulting in tropical flavors in the wine. It’s an interesting spot though… there are many sub-valleys that have different altitudes and aspects, so producers have various elements to work with. On the other side, we have Awatere Valley which is drier, cooler, and windier than it’s big sister. This makes a style of wine with pronounced herbaceous flavors and higher acidity. Giesen uses Sauvignon Blanc grapes from both regions, so you get the best of both worlds: passionfruit, pineapple, lime zest, lemongrass, grapefruit, and green bell pepper. It’s high in acidity, crisp, and light – medium bodied. I would pair this with a salad or chips and guacamole. Of all the alcohol removed wines I’ve tried, and I have tasted my fair share, this is the best!

This wine glass was specifically made for sipping Sauv Blanc – highly recommend trying this!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes

Follow me on Insta for daily wine inspo @smashleythegrape

Make Your Holidays Sparkle

Sure, champagne is always a good choice and I can’t get enough of it. But, today I’m advocating for sparkling wine outside of the Champagne region. Although these bubbles hail from other regions they are just as delicious, budget friendly, and unique in their own right.

1. Crémant… ever heard of it? It’s a group of sparkling wines made in 8 appellations throughout France. It’s a great alternative to champagne and won’t break the bank! Crémant is made like champagne using the traditional method with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. The cool thing is that a wider range of grapes are used in crémant winemaking and I’m here for it. You can expect varieties like Gamay, Cab Franc and even Chenin to name a few. Here are some of my go-to choices!

2. Let’s talk about Sekt, baby. Let’s talk about you & me… had to throw in at least one #momjoke! Did you know that Sekt is a German word for sparkling wine? Ja, darling. Grapes used to make Sekt range from Riesling to Spätburgunder, Pinot Gris to Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer to Pinot Meunier and many others. Similar to champagne, Sekt can be made in a range of sweetness levels from Naturherb (0-3 g/l RS) to halbtrocken (32-50 g/l RS) and even mild which is >50 g/l RS. The thing to know when shopping for a bottle of Sekt are the quality levels. Starting from the bottom we have Sekt. Wines labeled as Sekt are basic & made with grapes from literally anywhere bc imported grapes can be used. One level up is German Sekt – this means the grape juice comes from just about anywhere in Germany. Now onto the good stuff… Sekt BA indicates that a minimum of 85% of the grapes are sourced from one of Germany’s 13 wine regions. The best of Sekt is Winzersekt, made with 100% estate-grown fruit in the traditional method & spends at least 9 months on the lees. Winzersekt labels must include the varietal and vintage, so you know you’re getting the good stuff! Ich liebe Sekt, especially the one below!

3. Cava aka the champagne’s Spanish sister. It’s made in the Traditional Method, the same way Champagne is made, with secondary fermentation happening in the bottle. Cava is made with some of Spain’s native grapes including Macabeu (Viura), Xarel-lo, and Parellada. Expect flavors of pear, citrus, green or yellow apples, chamomile, and almonds. Checkout some of my favorites below!

4. Prosecc-ho-ho-ho… ok I lied, one more #momjoke for the holidays! Prosecco is highly underrated but nevertheless beloved in this house. Probably bc the hubs and I have an affinity for all things Italian wine. This is Italy’s no. 1 sparkler and hails from Northeastern Italy. This one is made using the tank method. That means there are 2 fermentations, no oak aging, or extended time on the lees. The first fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks to preserve fruity and floral flavors. Fermentation #2 happens in a sealed tank capable of withstanding the pressure of CO2 as it dissolves into the wine. Fun fact: Prosecco is a region in Italy and the grape used in winemaking is Glera. To be labeled Prosecco, the wine must contain a minimum of 85% Glera, the other 15% can be made of other Italian indigenous grapes. Expect flavors of green apple, honeydew, pear, and cream.

5. California Sparkling Wine – I’m a Cali girl through and through so I obviously love bubbles from my home state. There are so many fantastic producers making bubbly on trend with champagne… same grapes (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay) and same winemaking method which is the Méthode Traditionnelle we chatted about above. I could go on and on with recommendations, and I plan to, but for now here are my favorites!

There you have it! 5 of our favorite sparkling wines. These bottles will dazzle your guests this holiday season. I could on and on about bubbles, but it’s time for this mama bear to hit the hay. Don’t forget to follow along on Insta for daily wine inspo and more wine edu. As per usual, feel free to reach out with any questions. Tag me if you purchase any of these – I love hearing your thoughts!

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes

@smashleythegrape on Instagram

VinGarde Your Wine with VinGardeValise

https://vingardevalise.com

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’ve done it. We all do it, everyone’s doing it. We travel for wine. It’s how we experience other cultures and the perfect way to relax. If you’ve traveled into wine territory there’s a very good chance you’ve purchased your favorite bottles to bring home. There’s no judgement here, Greg and I are notorious for finding insane, crazy ways of getting our bottles home. Most of the time we’ve been successful, but there is one major loss we’ve suffered. Last May we went on the trip of a lifetime to Piemonte in Northern Italy and wine tasted our way through Barolo and Barbaresco. We visited some amazing wineries, one in particular was literally on top of a mountain. We drove vertical up a hill to a small, biodynamic farm with fantastic wine. We bought a few bottles to enjoy on the train and take home, but we were going to Switzerland from Italy.

Swiss wine country was basically the entire itinerary and we visited some remote, under the radar, unknown wine regions. I don’t know if you know this, but Switzerland does not distribute Swiss wine outside of the country. To get the wine, you have to go there. Long story short, we were tired of lugging around a half case of wine so we left our gems with our hotel in Zurich – the staff said they could ship the wine home for us, but as soon as we caught our train to our next destination they called to let us know this was impossible. We ended up selling our wine from across the pond bc we just couldn’t get it home. I still think about those lost bottles every single day. If we had known about VinGardeValise, I wouldn’t be living with the pain and regret of leaving those bottles behind without a secure plan.

Now we know and I hope this horror story helps the future you. VinGardeValise is absolutely necessary for wine travelers. In addition to making life so much easier, VinGardeValise is a wonderful way to get your bottles home in great condition. Allow me to explain…

In order to get the best out of wine, storage and temperature are key! If bottles are incorrectly stored, exposed to too much heat or light, or even moved around too vigorously for too long, the wine will become faulty. Wine should be stored in a cool, dark place. Exposure to too much heat will cause a wine to lose it’s freshness and flavors will become muddled or even resinous, and not in a good way in my opinion. This is why VinGardeValise is my new favorite toy and the ultimate travel solution. Each suitcase has sturdy foam inserts that protect your treasures from breakage. Additionally, you can add chiller sheets to preserve freshness and travel with ease knowing that your babies are safe from harm’s way. In a perfect world wine should not exceed 18°C / 64°F. VinGardeValise suitcases coupled with their sleek, flat chiller sheets protect your bottles from irretrievable damage caused by heat. We have two of these suitcases and two chiller sheets because we take this very seriously.

Let’s talk about the VinGardeValise® Piccolo. This is the perfect size for weekend getaways. It’s got a hard shell, is FAA and TSA compliant, has a crazy good lock system, and it’s a smooth ride. You can store clothes and books on one side while 5 of your bottles rest in their cozy foam homes on the other side. I’ll be reaching for this luggage every time I need to travel. It’s as essential as a passport or drivers license.

VinGardeValise® Grande 05 is the stuff dreams are made of. This suitcase holds 12 bottles securely, it’s got a hard shell to enhance the integrity of the product, this one glides like a dream and it comfortably fits bottles with longer necks. Again, this is a travel essential for us. We usually pack one large suitcase and one travel size, so I’m very excited that we have the proper equipment to lug wine around safely. It’s providing some much needed peace of mind!

I wouldn’t trust my wine with anything other than VinGardeValise® — even Condé Nast agrees! To sum up why we love it, here are my top 5 reasons you need to invest in this product:

1. Your wine is protected from breakage. I literally shook and scooted the suitcase across the floor and my bottles didn’t budge.

2. It’s secure. This is my first piece of luggage with a lock. The lock is easy to use and adds a layer of protection from theft.

3. This is covered by a 10 year warranty. I’ve broken a handful of suitcases over the years. We even had to buy a replacement in Prague. Although we’re only traveling locally right now and using this for holiday travel to see family and share wine with them, once covid is gone we are on the first place out of here. And we won’t stop traveling! It’s nice to know we’re protected from wear and tear.

4. Temperature matters. There are some amazing accessories available, like chiller sheets. These sheets are reusable and help moderate the temp of the wine to keep it fresh.

5. It will save you money in the long run. Shipping wine is expensive and somewhat of a hassle. Keep your wine with you at all times and simply check your bags.

6. BONUS REASON: VinGardeValise® is running amazing promotions for the next few weeks — like rebates and free magnum inserts. Now is the time, people!

Thanks for sipping with us! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @smashleythegrape 🍾

The Social Grapes

Featured

Amelia Belle Lewis

Welcome to the world, little one.
Holding Amelia in my arms for the first time on 5/16

Amelia Belle Lewis made her debut at 2:13 pm on 5/16 weighing 6.5 lbs and measuring 19 in long. It was quite the journey for both of us, but she’s here! It feels appropriate to share a little context about her name before I dive into the complicated details of labor. Her name is inspired by Amelia Earhart, a strong female icon who was an aviation pioneer. Fitting since her dad is a pilot & mom is a firm advocate of strong females doing badass things! We also love the meaning: work & industrious. Amelia has already impressed us with her strong will and determination to fight through the challenges presented to her since she was born. Belle means beautiful in Italian/French. She’s not only a gorgeous little girl, but we hope she has a beautiful heart full of love grace. Her middle name is also special bc it’s one of our favorite wineries! Together we have a diligent, hard-working, beautiful, strong baby girl who exceeds these meanings and inspires us!

It’s taken some time to get the words right for this post. The first 48 hrs of parenthood have been the most devastating and challenging days of my life, but for the first time since her birth I’m feeling some hope!

Early & active labor went off so smoothly considering I was induced. I was naturally dilated to 4 cm and with the help of some Pitocin, my body was ready for Amelia to come out. By end of Friday night I was about 4 cm dilated and ready to push by 10 am the next morning. I was motivated and ready to take on the final step in delivering a healthy baby. The first hour of pushing was actually pretty great and I enjoyed it, but 3 hours later we had made no progress. The hospital doesn’t allow pushing past a certain time and our time was up. This is where things started to slip.

Saturday 5/16 saying our goodbyes before Amelia was transferred to another hospital in prep of her surgery.

It was at hour 3 that I got an infection, temp spiked, become physically ill and was taken to OR for an emergency c section. I have only a few memories of what happened between hour 3 of pushing and her arrival. I remember briefly coming to and seeing her beautiful face but she wasn’t crying. I heard one doctor say to another that the baby was in shock and they immediately took her away. After about 10 min I finally heard her first cry! It was the best sound in the world. Next thing I know I’m being wheeled off in one direction while Amelia was taken to NICU for further evaluation. I was feeling relieved bc the hardest part was behind us. We did it! It was a challenge but we made it over the hill.

I was swollen everywhere and hardly coherent in recovery when the NICU dr stopped by to provide an update with tears in her eyes. My heart sank. Was I about to get the worst news a mother could receive? Did she not pull through? The dr started with good news… Amelia was stable and breathing. Then she followed with the bad news. She was diagnosed with vacterl – a rare syndrome that 1 in 10,000 infants are born with. It’s not something that can be diagnosed or detected during pregnancy. Ultrasounds can’t find this so it was a complete surprise. The underlying issue is that Amelia’s esophagus was disconnected from her stomach, so she had no way of receiving food and needed surgery ASAP. She was transferred over to Rady Children’s Hospital that night. I was wheeled down to NICU and spent about 30 min cuddling and praying over Amelia. She was so sweet and perfect, it was heartbreaking to let her go.

Day 2 of Amelia Belle post surgery on 5/17

I don’t remember much else from the night of her birth. I had some complications of my own to recover from. Blood in my urine, fluid in my lungs, low oxygen, an infection, low blood pressure and inflammation in the cardiovascular area along with a surprise diagnosis of the uterus that prevents me from delivering naturally – my OB hasn’t seen anything like this and it wasn’t picked up on any of my screenings before trying to conceive or even while I was pregnant. None of this compares to the pain of being separated from our newborn and recovering at two different hospitals.

On Sunday Amelia was scheduled for her big procedure. It’s a high risk surgery with a couple different ways of going in. Luckily, Greg’s boss and his wife have been so supportive and were able to get me in contact with Greg so we could weigh out the options and risks of each method together as parents. After a few hours, I got a call from Amelia’s dr and the surgery was a success. The process of attaching the esophagus to the stomach was a challenge but they successfully managed to fix it. There was one complication with her trachea during the procedure but the surgical team handled it well and prevented any further damage while fixing it. Amelia also received a blood transfusion during the operation. She came out of this beautifully with healthy vitals and in a stable condition. She’s been resting peacefully, connected to tubes, and being looked over 24/7 by her nurse. Amelia is such a fighter and stronger than anyone I know. I wish I could take on her pain but for now all I can do is pray, stay positive, and stay healthy so I can be by her side as she recovers in the hospital for another 5 weeks.

Day 3 of Amelia Belle – breathing tube was removed today on 5/19!

This experience has been challenging and I’ve cried more times than I’ve laughed over the last few days, but the pain is only temporary. I’m so blessed to have my parents here helping with everything. I’m beyond grateful that both hospitals allowed my mother to go in and out so she could be there for both Amelia and myself. We weren’t sure how things were going to play out with the pandemic still in effect. It hasn’t been easy and I wish we could see more family, but for now I’m blessed and thankful for what we have to work with. I was discharged late afternoon yesterday and spent time with our baby before my body needed a break. I’m full of hope and motivation to get better so I can be there for Amelia every day until she’s home.

Thank you for all the prayers, messages, and texts. Your love and support means more than you know! It’s beyond difficult going through this without Greg while trying to recover from surgery, but it’s been possible bc of our amazing and uplifting support system.

I’ll do my best to update here but for now my focus is on baby and my own recovery. Please continue to keep Amelia in your prayers as we inch towards being home together as a family 🙏🏼💕

Mom holding baby’s hand for the first time in 3 days! So much love.