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Above, our family, from left: Lila Jane (age 8), me, Tracie, and Georgia (age 10). Photo by Bruce Schoenfeld.
What a thrill for our family to be included in Rachel Tepper Paley’s wonderful piece about “Raising Kids Around Wine” for Wine Enthusiast this month!
The funniest thing was that I happened to be on a work call yesterday with Kristi Devlin Delovitch whose family was also featured in the article. You can imagine our delighted surprise when we all made the connection.
Her husband got the best line in the story. Working in wine, he said, has “brought Italy, it’s brought France — people from those countries and their culture into our house. It’s allowed us as a family to see the world and to experience it from the comfort of our own home.”
In my view, that’s what it’s all about: culture and experiencing wine as a cultural expression. After all, there is no culture without agriculture.
The following are excerpts from the answers I sent to Rachel for her piece. I love that writers like her are expanding the horizons of wine writing. Families matter in wine, too.
Check out her excellent article on the Wine Enthusiast website here.
The greatest benefit of our “wine-positive” household is that our children understand that wine is an expression of human culture. They regularly meet Italian winemakers (many of whom don’t speak English; my wife and I are both fluent speakers of Italian). They have visited Italy with me and have toured wineries and wine country. It’s given them a sense of the fundamental role that agriculture plays in all of our lives. Without trying to sound cliché, it helps them understand the connection between the land and what we consume.
It’s also given them an understanding of how wine is something that can give us both aesthetic and intellectual pleasure. They know that wine isn’t just something to drink. It’s also something to think about, something that can open new worlds to the thoughtful consumer.
The only real drawback for our family is that my work requires me to travel a lot.
We don’t make wine a taboo subject. We drink wine nearly every night at dinner and often enjoy more than one glass after dinner as well. But we never conceal our consumption from the girls. We talk about how wine is a type of food, how it aids digestion, and how it can be a healthy part of your diet. We consciously model our culinary life after the Italian diet, where wine is a food to be served with food. I believe that they will have healthier attitudes about wine as a result.
I grew up in a household where alcohol was always taboo. That made it all the more alluring to me as a teenager. We are working to give our kids an understanding of wine and alcohol in a cultural context.
We have so many close friends in Italy who work in wine. It’s never an issue there. As a matter of fact, I have occasionally had to explain to my Italian clients that we don’t allow children to appear in any marketing materials for wine here in the U.S. (because it’s illegal). My wife and I both lived in Italy for years. Based on our experiences there, I believe we knew what to expect.
We are concerned, like all parents, that our kids won’t have a healthy relationship with alcohol when they get older. But our hope is that when they become old enough to drink, their experiences growing up with a parent working in the wine business will help them have a positive and respectful relationship with alcohol.
Wine and alcohol in general were taboo in my family. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would have had a safer experience with alcohol had my parents talked more openly about it with us. It was a generational thing, of course. But it led to some excess and abuse of alcohol when I was a kid.
Our kids don’t have any desire to try wine but they LOVE pouring it for Tracie and me. They still can’t use a wine key but we have taught them how to serve wine. They often scold me for not holding my glass correctly!
They watched the recent 60 Minutes show on “weather and wine” (the producers had contacted me because they wanted to use images from my blog; so we watched the show together). Georgia, our 10-year-old, said, “daddy, it’s weird that you only drink Italian wine. You should drink English wine, too!” I’m sure that her obsession with the Beatles and her growing Anglophilia might have something to do with that.