Wino

My favorite wine is a dry Gewürztraminer, a white wine traditionally from the Alsace region of France. Fruity and floral, it’s smooth on the tongue and lavishly coats the inside of the mouth. I also like it because the name is hard to pronounce on the first (and second) try. Guh-Voorts-Truh-Meener. Say it again.

My first taste of Gewürztraminer was at a wine and food pairing class in Brooklyn. It was paired with pâté. By itself, the delicacy was fatty and gamey. But when paired with the wine, it mellowed out. What was once fatty, was rich, and what was once gamey, was full of flavor. It was delicious.

I tell you this, because I’ve come a long way from the Moscatos and sweet Rieslings I sipped as a college student and recent grad. Those wines seemed like safe bets: sweet, accessible and cheap. ‘Adult’ wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were too tannic and dry on my palate, which was then only accustomed to amaretto sours and cosmopolitans. It was as if I was trying to resurrect the second coming of Sex and the City with my drink orders, not to mention my penchant for emotionally unavailable men.

I was twenty-two.

A lot can happen in four years. You get sick of throwing up vodka cranberries and bottom shelf tequila shots, and riding shotgun in the car of a driver who had one less drink than you. Twenty-two was marked with bad decisions cloaked in celebration. And then finally, I grew out out of it. I quit a job that was making me unhappy, I turned a hobby into a passion project, and moved 3,000 miles across the country. Somewhere along the way, I began drinking wine.

I began drinking  when I moved to Los Angeles and found a job working at a public relations agency that specialized in wine PR. I took home bottles of wine from the agency each week as homework, and often perused the aisles of wine stores to take home more. I was an excellent student. For instance, did you know Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are made from the same grape? Or that Cabernet Sauvignon should never be paired with chocolate, unless you like the taste of bitterness on your tongue? The job ended after a few months, and my severance was a $100 gift card to a regional beverage retailer. Newly unemployed but armed with six new bottles of mass market wine, I spent my first spring in Los Angeles downing wine and updating my LinkedIn profile.

About a month later, I found a new job at a creative agency. My present. A job that serves a rotating selection of wines on tap. This month, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir fill up our glasses, mugs and paper cups. I’ve become accustomed to drinking on the job. Drinking for fun on the weekends is one thing, but it’s another to drink on a random Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. when you’re deep in deadlines and need a temporary escape. It’s called self-medicating. We’re good at it in this industry.

It’s funny, although I drink wine more than any other alcohol, the buzz still comes. Slow and steady. Confident and competent. Wine always wins the race. I spent my early twenties drinking to get drunk, which only resulted in breaking glasses, falling over and into beds to sleep in. I didn’t care whose.

Wine is different. It smooths the furrow between my brow, puts a twinkle in my eye and smirk on a face. I feel something when I drink wine. Thankfully, sloppiness doesn’t come easy, and I can’t remember the last time I was sick from wine. It only happens after cocktails, when having one, really means having three; the alcohol diluted by ice, syrups and juices. The hangover intense. The taste of sugar and stomach acid still on the tongue from the night before.

At twenty-six, I’ve learned to drink cocktails for the taste, and shots for the buzz. Wine satiates both and then some. I drink to taste, to feel and to want.

I want it all.

You’re Not Lonely, If You’re Happily Alone

I was hungry – no hangry– one Sunday afternoon. My brunch plans were canceled at the last minute and the thought of eating another container of Greek yogurt to tide me over until dinner made me nauseous. I had a random craving for chilaquiles from Chavelas, a Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks from my apartment. Visions of fried tortilla chips, scrambled eggs, queso fresco, crema and salsa verde were dancing in my head. I texted a friend who lived nearby, but he was busy. I really wanted chilaquiles, but the thought of eating by myself only brought on anxiety, and for the first time in months, I felt lonely.

New York is one of those cities where you can be surrounded by people, yet feel utterly alone. It’s never just your city; it’s shared with millions of others. Strangers. Maybe it was the girls who flaked on brunch for the second time, or maybe it was the 19 degree weather that had lasted all week. Or maybe I just really wanted chilaquiles and was upset that I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy them under the circumstances.

I was depending on others for happiness instead of seeking it within myself. And I’m not alone. Whether we seek  happiness in the form of dependency from family members, friends or partners, we’re missing out on the best relationship we will ever have – the one with ourselves.

Last summer I flew to California by myself and traveled down the coast. I stayed with relatives during my San Francisco and San Diego legs, but was on my own in Los Angeles. As cheesy as it sounds, the experience was life changing.  When we become accustomed to our comfort zones, we get complacent and personal growth stalls. Being alone doesn’t have to be synonymous with being lonely. One is a state of solitude, the other is a feeling. And feelings change.

I ended up going to Chavelas by myself and the chilaquiles were just as good as I remembered. I discovered that I am my own best company, and that it’s okay to eat at a restaurant alone, to take a solo trip, to sleep alone…and to enjoy it.

Next week is New York Restaurant Week and I’m excited to participate. Not many friends are willing to spend $25 for lunch at this month’s it restaurant – and that’s okay. We all have different interests, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing what we find enjoyable, even if that means experiencing it alone.

I made a lunch reservation at The Dutch for next week. I’m excited to try their lemon chess pie with buttermilk ice cream and their most popular item: the hot fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits and slaw.

It’s going to be great.

Table for one, please.