Dark Side of the Wine World + Tips for Moderate Drinking



How did I first fall in love with wine? Do I feel more exposed now for having written this third book? What are my best tips for moderate drinking?

I’ll be sharing those stories and more in this special episode of my podcast as we get closer to the May 9th launch of my new memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much.

You can find the wines I mentioned here.


Join me for my Toronto Launch Party

Save your spot now for this invite-only book launch event and tasting.

Treat yourself to a private book launch party and wine tasting in Toronto on Wednesday, May 10th at 6 p.m.!

Clio Club Toronto Launch Party


* Enjoy access to the (very) swanky private club, Clio, in downtown Toronto
* Savour three outstanding Creekside wines as I guide you in a wine tasting
* Enjoy my hilarious and heartfelt stories about working in the world of wine
* Learn about the professional challenges when drinking is your day job
* Discover how to become a savvier wine buyer with my insider tips
* Ask me anything about wine, writing a book, or rediscovering joy in your personal and professional life

Tickets are on sale here for ONE WEEK ONLY, so get yours today before they sell out!

Please share this event with friends, family, and colleagues who might also be interested in attending the Toronto launch or tasting events in these other cities.


Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live Video

Join the live-stream video of this conversation on Wednesday at 7 pm eastern on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video.

I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.

I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?

Want to know when we go live?

Add this to your calendar:





  • What is the book about?
  • How did you come up with the title?
  • How did you approach this narrative?
  • Who is the book dedicated to?
  • At what age did you start writing?
  • When did you fall in love with wine?
  • What’s the story behind your worst hangover?
  • What was your inspiration to start writing about wine?
  • Where do you write?
  • Who is one of your favourite authors?
  • What was the inciting incident for this story?
  • What was the inspiration for this book?
  • Why write this book now?
  • Was it difficult to write this book?
  • Do you feel more exposed for having written this memoir?
  • Was it difficult to write with such openness and vulnerability?
  • How have you moderated your alcohol consumption?
  • What are some of the reader stories that have moved you deeply?
  • What do you expect readers to take away from this book?
  • How has writing this memoir changed you?
  • What’s in your wine guide for book clubs, wine groups and individual readers, and where can we get it?
  • How can we find out more about the $397 Bonus Bundle with pre-orders and where to buy the book?
  • Are there any book launch events coming up?


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Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.



Natalie MacLean (00:00):
Wine Witch on Fire is the story about how one woman – that’s me – resurrects her life and career in the glamorous but sexist wine industry. It starts with my shock when my husband of 20 years, a high-powered CEO demands a divorce. My year gets even worse when an online mob of rivals comes for my job. Wavering between despair and determination, I have to fight for my son, rebuild my reputation, and salvage my self worth using my superpowers: heart, humour, and an uncanny ability to pair wine and food. This true coming of middle-aged story is about transforming your life and finding love along the way.

Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 231. How did I first fall in love with wine? What was the inciting incident that ignites my worst vintage personally and professionally in my new book? Do I feel more exposed now for having written this book, especially as a wine professional, writing about drinking too much? What are my best tips for moderate drinking, keeping the pleasure of wine in your life without using it as a crutch? And what do I hope readers take away from this book? I’ll be sharing those stories and more in this special episode of my podcast. We’re less than a week away from the May 9th launch of my new memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much. It’s been 10 years in the making and I can’t believe the day is almost here. So here are my answers to questions that I’ve been asked frequently about the book, the process of writing it, and what I hope for the future of the wine industry.

Interspersed with these stories, my terrific podcast editor, Alexandra Stennett, will be sharing some new reviews of the book from early readers. I think these give more context to my own thoughts. In the show note at NatalieMaclean.com/231,  I’ve posted a link to where you can pre-order the book online now no matter where you live, and this is also where you’ll find all the juicy bonuses you’ll get when you pre-order it. If you’d like to be part of the launch team, please let me know. This is not a big time commitment. I’d be asking you to do just a few quick but important things over the next month. Even if you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, you can still be part of this small but mighty group of passionate people supporting the message in this book of hope, justice, and resilience. If you’re interested, please email me at [email protected].

And if you’re listening to this episode when it’s published or just a few days after, I want to let you know that I am hosting a book launch event in Toronto on Wednesday, May 10th at 6:00 PM. You can find the details in the show notes. Tickets are only on sale this week and then they’re done. They’re going to go fast and I would love, love, love to meet you in person. If you don’t live in Toronto, please let your Toronto based friends and family and colleagues know about the event because it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be at the very swanky Clio club in downtown Toronto. We’re going to be tasting wines, we’re going to talk, we’re going to laugh, and I’ll be signing books. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so you won’t want to miss it. Okay, on with the show.

The first question, what is this book about? I always feel I should use my movie trailer voice to answer this one. In a world where one woman faces the worst vintage of her life, both personally and professionally, okay, no, I will not do that. I can’t keep that up. Anyway, reset here. Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much is the story about how one woman – that’s me – resurrects her life and career in the glamorous but sexist wine industry. It starts with my shock at the beginning of the year when my husband of 20 years, a high-powered CEO demands a divorce. My year gets even worse when an online mob of rivals comes for my job. Wavering between despair and determination, I have to fight for my son, rebuild my reputation, and salvage my self-worth using my superpowers:  heart. humour, and an uncanny ability to pair wine and food.

On a more serious note, I question my insider role in the slick marketing that encourages women and men to drink too much while I battle the wine world’s veiled misogyny. In the end, I need to reconnect with the vineyards that once brought me joy, the friends who sustained me, and my own belief in second chances. This true coming of middle-aged story about transforming your life and finding love along the way. So yes, it has a happy ending. Spoiler alert.

All right. How did you come up with the title? So you might think from the title that this is about an angry woman who drinks a lot of wine and owns a lot of cats, but it’s not. Witches resonate with me because their strength comes from within, not from external validation. They also embody the unity of women, the power of the feminine, and the healing connection to nature.

My favorite childhood stories were always about witches, both good and bad, especially the Wizard of Oz and the battling duo of Glinda, the good witch, and the wicked witch of the West who goes unnamed. In the book, I was entranced with these opposing forces that I later realized were inside of me. I even loved the straight up badass white witch Narnia. Her wickedness was such a satisfying outlet for a tiny Miss Goodie two shoes. I cackled inside along with her. Now of course I realize how damaging stereotypes of women can be. And I think it’s time to reclaim the word witch and what it means. A wise woman who’s been through the fire and knows the measure of her own powers.

How did you approach this narrative? I’ve always written from a first person perspective as I love a conversational tone to make wine less intimidating. However, memoir has far more in common with the techniques of fiction writing than nonfiction even though it is a true story. So plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme all have to be developed throughout the story for it to hold together. I felt in writing this book, I almost have a crash course get a mini master of fine arts to learn all of this. It was mind blowing, but in a good way. The other challenge is that memoir is one narrow slice in time, often just a year, whereas autobiography and biography capture an entire life and therefore take a more straightforward chronological approach. So-and-so was born in 1789 and on we go. Memoir often goes back and forth in the timeline between what happened years ago and what the narrator or author thinks about it today. That too is challenging and exhilarating.

Alexandra Stennett (08:30):
Here’s a review from Nisha Trivedi, an early reader from San Francisco. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a rollercoaster of reactions and emotions, empathy, sadness, laughter, anger, and satisfaction. I learned a lot about the rampant sexism in the wine industry. Also, I could really relate to some of the issues described, including the hesitation to let others in, even close friends, and the realization that one can be loved for who they are versus what they accomplish. I also came away with many insights about evaluating relationship dynamics and identifying red flags. I really appreciate the way that wine facts and insights were sprinkled into the narrative. I also love how Natalie is so reflective, particularly the last three chapters. Five stars because I struggled to put it down. Highly recommended.

Natalie MacLean (09:24):
Who is this book dedicated to? Well, here’s my dedication at the beginning of the book. For my mother Ann, who taught me how big my brave is and to let the words out. Those words are a play off the Sara Bareilles song that you should listen to sometime called Brave, but I just love it. So in the book, I compare my mother to an old vines Cabernet Sauvignon. As vines age, they produce fewer smaller grapes, but that makes for a far more concentrated and flavourful wine that still has grace and elegance. My mother was and is a remarkable woman. At the end in the acknowledgements, I thank her for not buying those dresses so that I could have a kilt, for spending her weekends taking me to Highland dancing competitions instead of finishing her favourite books, and for loving me into the woman I’ve become. My last words are I did it, Mom. I’ll let the words out.

At what age did you start writing? My love of writing came from my love of reading. My mother was a single parent who was always taking courses to upgrade her teaching license. Apparently, when I was sitting in my crib one evening holding a cloth book, she asked me what I was doing and I told her I was reading my Shakespeare. I grew up without a television, so I read voraciously. My earliest attempts of writing were full of word play. Our first grade teacher asked us to write about something in the classroom. I chose to write about the mysterious disappearance of a guppy from the aquarium and titled the piece Something Fishy Is Going On Here.

When did you fall in love with wine? I didn’t start drinking wine until after graduate school when I had the funds to get fancy. I wrote in Red, White, and Drunk All Over about the taste of my first great wine, and I’ll share that with you now.

As I raised the glass to my lips, I stopped. The aroma of the wine rushed out to meet me, and all the smells I’d ever known fell away. I didn’t know how to describe it, but I knew how it made me feel. I moistened my lips with the wine and drank it slowly, letting it coat my tongue and slide from one side of my mouth to the other. The Brunello trickled down my throat and out along a thousand fault lines through my body dissolving them. My second glass like a sigh. At the end of a long day gathering in and a letting go, I felt the fingers of alcoholic warmth relax the muscles at the back of my jaw and curl under my ears. The wine flushed warmth up into my cheeks, down through my shoulders, and out across my thighs. My mind was as calm as a black ocean. The wine gently stirred the silt of memories along the bottom, helping me recall childhood moments of wordless abandon. I still yearn for that first taste again. I love wine because every vintage and every bottle is different. Unlike the packaged food I used to market at Proctor and Gamble, wine is an agricultural product celebrated for its diversity and unpredictability. It’s like going to the ballet versus watching an edited version on television that live in the moment. Risk is thrilling. A dancer could fall flat on her face or sore weightless in the air. Wine is more an experience than a thing in the way that it accesses memories and emotions. I can float from place to place in my mind on that magic carpet of scent. I also love wine because it’s fleeting, not like a painting that’ll exist for centuries. This glass of wine in front of me has one chance, one moment.

All right, let’s go to the other end of the spectrum. Tell us about your worst hangover. So my book opens with my nightmare before Christmas. Quote I wake to the smell of burning. Heat runs up and down my body. My tongue feels like sandpaper, and why are my eyes glued shut? Last night, it started with two glasses of champagne to kick off dinner. Then three, four glasses of Pinot. The real culprit must have been that glass, okay two, of port my family passed the decanter around the table clockwise to symbolize the passing of time with the ones you love. A beautiful ritual binding us together. Now all that booze is splitting my head in two. The little drummer boy starts pounding on my cerebral cortex.

What was your inspiration to start writing about wine? While working in high tech, I spent several years taking the sommelier certificate program courses at Algonquin College during the evenings so that I could graduate before my son was born. Then I became curious about how to get started in the wine writing profession. While on maternity leave, I called a Canadian author of many wine books. Tech had taught me to be bold and call high, so why not ask advice from the most famous wine writer I could think of?

Just don’t expect to earn a living from it, he told me after we had spoken for a few minutes. Treat it like a weekend hobby, sweetheart. Sweetheart. My face burned furnace hot. Cameron, my son was sleeping in his bassinet beside me in the living room. There was a long pause on the phone. Thanks for your advice. Then I screamed into Cameron’s teddy bear. I knew that creating a business out of a passion for wine wouldn’t be easy, but that conversation fueled the fire inside this little sweetheart. The next day I pitched an article about finding wine and food pairings on the web to a local magazine. The editor asked if I’d been published previously. I said yes, thinking of my high school newspaper. Thank goodness she didn’t ask me for writing samples. The day the magazine came out, I ran to the store and flip the pages furiously to find my column.

There it was and my name in print. It was real. I was a real writer. Now I bought all 12 copies of the magazine on the rack and mailed one to Mom. Someone had actually paid me to write. That assignment led to a regular column and my cold calling other editors. It worked though I got 20 nos for every yes. At the end of my maternity leave, I didn’t return to the supercomputer company. I loved writing and being home with my son. For this introvert, leaving that high octane office was like bathing a mosquito bitten body in calamine cream. I also found more meaning in writing about wine than in my work with the cooking oil brand. At Proctor and Gamble, homogeneity is the benchmark in producing most packaged food, but good wine is about wild diversity and taste that changes every year depending on the weather and other factors.

That’s why we put wine and not cooking oil on the dinner table. In its original packaging, it matters who made the wine where it was made, and what happened. That year, the assignments trickled in slowly at first. Over the years, they developed into regular columns for various newspapers and magazines. I hadn’t gone to journalism school and had no contacts in either the wine industry or the media. Even my husband with his tech network couldn’t help me in the wine world. I was a nobody from nowhere who created a career out of nothing. Despite this, I built a brand and identity that were my own.

Alexandra Stennett (17:35):
Here’s a review from Kate Weiss, an early reader from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Loved it. This is a wonderful story of love lost and found, and the struggles of a strong woman needing to find her place in a world that didn’t wish to include women. Through her own struggles, Natalie demonstrates how important it is that women identify and recognize the challenges that they may encounter as they move upward in their chosen careers, so they’re prepared to stand their ground and make the case for their own advancement. I love the writing style of this book. Moving through the problem interspersed with the backstory so the reader could understand the impetus and the thought processes leading to various decisions. The references and quotes from well-known classical literature were brilliant. They added elements of both whimsy and gravitas. This is a five star book.

Natalie MacLean (18:30):
Tell us about where you write. I don’t wait until I’m sitting at my desk to write. When I have a thought or a phrase I like, I text it to myself or jot it down on a notepad. Otherwise I wouldn’t remember. So in that sense, I feel as though I’m always writing everywhere. When I write from my home office, I’m overlooking a wide open field and beyond that, a river.  It’s peaceful to rest my eyes on this pastoral landscape when I’m weary from the computer screen. I prefer quiet. But if I have music on while writing, it’s slow jazz or classical with no lyrics. I have a large pot of decaffeinated green tea. Constantly steeping caffeine would have me climbing the ceiling Spiderwoman style. My desk is bare except for the large screen computer, a keyboard, a mug of steaming green tea and an amethyst rock that I found on a Nova Scotia beach. Early mornings are when I get the best writing done before the froth of emails and phone calls washes me out into the sea of daily activity.


Who is one of your favorite authors? I’ll reread anything by M.F.K. Fisher, but especially With Bold Knife and Fork. As I developed a taste for wine, I wanted to find the words to describe the way it infused all of my senses. I had long admired the way M.F.K. Fisher brought together mind and body with her stories about the slow sensual pleasures of the table. I reread my favorite passages until I was drunk on her prose. When she was asked why she wrote about food rather than more serious subjects such as power and security, she replied that through food she was really writing about love and her hunger for it. When bread is broken and wine is drunk, there is a communion of more than our bodies.

I used wine as a way to see the world and to write about it. Like food is connected to many facets of human endeavor, commerce, culture, history, politics, geography, and science. But more than that, food and wine are part of human nature and part of how we celebrate and how we grieve, whether it’s weddings or funerals.

I’d like to share with you three of my favorite quotes from her work. Dining partners, regardless of gender, social, standing or the years they’ve lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat and drink with the right mixture of abandoned and restraint. They should enjoy food and look upon its preparation and its deguastation as one of the human arts. I cannot count the good people I know to my mind who would be even better if they bent their spirits to the study of their own hungers. And finally, first we eat, then we do everything else.


I’ll drink to that.

What was the inciting incident for this story? So it was just before Christmas, my family had all gone to bed and I was checking my email one last time before heading upstairs myself when a Google alert popped up with the headline, Natalie MacLean World’s Best Wine Writer or Content Thief? Oh, my heart started pounding. The text blurred and merged together, and I was thinking, what is this? Where did it come from? I clicked through to a large wine and spirits website and there was a long rant about me with phrases that burned into my retinas. This simply wasn’t a nasty post. I was being accused of the one thing a writer dreads. Most doctors lose their license for malpractice. Lawyers are disbarred for misrepresentation. Writers get their careers canceled for copyright issues. The accusation was not about plagiarism, but about fair use.

In quoting another review to provide more context about a wine just as Rotten Tomatoes does for a movie, many people confuse these legal concepts, but there’s a really big difference. I was the first to comment on the blog post. I explained that I was already changing the way I quoted other reviews as this wasn’t noted in the post, nor did they contact me to ask about it. Though they did contact a wide range of other wine writers for comment, I naively thought this would answer their concerns and that would be that. Oh so wrong. Their accusation ignites the debate online, but the bonfire really escalates when the trolls then focus their attack on me as a woman. It devolves into taking my body apart piece by piece in public, and this spreads to other websites and newspapers around the world. Some would say just ignore it, but when you earn most of your living online, you can no more turn it off than a surgeon can operate outside the hospital. Should I have posted a response? In hindsight, yes and no. I did answer their concerns. However, doing so just added fuel to the fire. I posted once more before I realized I couldn’t say anything to appease them and the frenzy went on.

Alexandra Stennett (24:07):
Here’s a review from Rick Stern, an early reader from Boulder, Colorado. This book was very different from the author’s previous books. This time wine was not the main focus. Instead, the primary focus as suggested by the title was a rough period in Natalie’s life and how she found a way through it and into a much happier place. The title really says it all. While wine isn’t the main focus of the book, there are plenty of wine insights, even suggested pairings for chapters. There’s also plenty of the humour that Natalie is well known for. While I feel that the book will be appreciated more by women and especially women who have experienced some of the same trials as Natalie, I think everyone can learn from and appreciate her struggles. Four stars.

Natalie MacLean (24:53):
Why write this book? Well, at first I thought just walk away from this dumpster fire and forget it. It was too painful to even look at my journal notes during that year. To write about it publicly would be vandalizing my own privacy, and so that’s what I did for five years. But the story ricocheted around my head all that time and I finally realized I had to let it out at least on paper. For the first year I spent writing the story, I had no intention of publishing it. It was a private exercise in making sense of what had happened to me. I realized though that keeping this story to myself was a way of not fully connecting with others like I had done with my mother, my partner, and my son that year. My life had great curb appeal because I kept all my imperfections hidden.

However, openness is the way to live a full rich life. Vulnerability in this story opens a door and invites people inside my life to show them all the cracks that they might recognize in their own lives. Extending that openness to readers is how I connect with them, letting them into my story, and in turn they’ve let me into their lives with stories that have moved me really deeply.

So why write this book now? Well, many memoirists say they publish their story so that others feel less alone. I believe them but what does that really mean? How do my words comfort someone else when our situations are so different? Well, as parents, we help our children to find the words they need to articulate their feelings. We ask them if they’re feeling hungry, tired, sad, et cetera. Naming the emotion and talking about it gives them another way to deal with their feelings beyond crying and tantrums.

As adults, many of us lose touch with our emotions or we haven’t developed the vocabulary for more complex feelings. Dr. Brené Brown says that we can usually name about three happy, sad, and ticked off, but there are actually more than 87 emotions that she explores in her amazing book Atlas of the Heart. So just as a doctor must diagnose the symptoms to treat a disease, I believe we need to identify our feelings so that we can deal with them. Otherwise, they just roam inside us like unnamed ghosts. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. He believed if we can’t describe something, it doesn’t exist for us. I believe that, too. However, I needed the distance of years to be able to reflect on what happened so that this book is actually useful to others who read it and not just a misery dump.

Memoirist Glennon Doyle advised “Write from a scar, not from an open wound” but why even write about it after the healing is done? Poet Sean Thomas Dougherty had the answer “Why bother? Because right now there is someone out there with a wound in the exact shape of your words”. My memoir gathered different parts of my life that I thought were separate, but were just two sides of an open wound. Words were my sutures to sow my life back together again, and the scars they created are now patterns of meaning that are stronger than the flesh before the injury. Those new patterns and reflections are what readers are resonating with now, even though the specifics of their lives are different. They may not have gone through a divorce, but they felt loneliness and longing for love. They may not have been attacked by an online mob, but they felt career disappointment or fear for the future. My memoir helps them experience those feelings through a different story and learn how someone emerged from those fires stronger and wiser.

Was it difficult to write this book? Oh, yes. MRI scans of the brain have shown that when someone who has survived a near fatal car accident reads a script to trigger those memories, their brain activity is similar to actually experiencing the accident. They’re not remembering the trauma. They’re reliving it. So first I had to get through the trauma with a lot of therapy that still continues today.

Alexandra Stennett (29:36):
Here’s a review from Liz Myers, an early reader from Washington DC. Wow, what an excellent and beautiful memoir. Not only do I admire her perseverance as a female sommelier in a male dominated profession, but her rigid strength, raw truth, and grit. As she blossomed from her tragedies, she grew like a lotus flower from the mud. This was such a wonderful opportunity to read her memoir and I feel honored to be a part of her advanced reader team. Five stars.

Natalie MacLean (30:08):
Do you feel more exposed for having written this memoir? You’re a wine professional in the public eye and you write about your own issues with drinking too much? Yes, I do feel more exposed. I’ve written openly not only about the times when I drank too much in response to my divorce and online bullying, but also about my issues with hyper competitiveness and perfectionism. Bottles sat on my desk to my left and right of my computer. They filled the gaps in my bookshelves. In the back of the kitchen was a hallway I called tasting alley. And hundreds of bottles stood on those counters in the cupboards and inside a wine fridge at the time. They still do. By the way, 3000 more were under my feet in the basement. Cases of wine arrived daily from wineries and wine agencies. Several unopened boxes were always stacked by the front entrance and still are.

Surrounded by wine, I lived in what an oenophile would consider paradise. The challenge was making it through the arsenic hour around 5:00 PM when there’s a natural dip in serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes our mood and sense of wellbeing. My daily ritual numbed the pain of separation during the arsenic hour at the end of the workday when you’re tired and hungry and want to either take arsenic or give it to those around you. When I worried about how much I was drinking, I’d have another glass to calm my anxiety. Wine blanketed my screaming thoughts about the future. This is a topic we don’t talk about. In my industry, drinking is viewed as an occupational duty or there’s shame in admitting a problem. The US Department of Health and Human Statistics indicate that the hospitality industry, which includes wineries and restaurants, has the highest rate of substance abuse among all professions.

Some of that stiff, jargony wine writing I believe is rooted in the fear of liking wine just a little too much. Putting my stories and flaws out in the public is also a way of holding myself to a higher standard of accountability. Now, if I slip up, it’s no longer in private. That’s actually reassuring as I have more people supporting me than when I was trying to go it alone. This is a deeply personal revealing memoir.

Was it difficult write with such openness and vulnerability? Well, I try to get everything on the page before I think about anyone else reading my work. I reassure myself that I’ll edit later. Otherwise, I would never write a word. It would be like flooring the gas pedal while the break is on. They’re two different mind states. When I get to the editing phase, I do think about how people will react, especially those mentioned in the memoir, but that’s why I had friends and family read the book while it was still in development, along with industry colleagues and legal team. While I hope a broader audience will like the memoir, I know that’s out of my control. This is a very difficult statement for a control freak to make. Fortunately, most who have contacted me about the book as early readers have been so positive.

Although this isn’t a self-help book, you do share tips on how you moderated your own alcohol consumption. Share a few of those with us please? So when I open a bottle, I pour half of the wine into a clean, empty half bottle and recork it. This keeps the wine fresh for another night, and I’m more mindful about how much I’ve consumed. I also drink a glass of water for every glass of wine to stay hydrated and to slow my alcohol consumption. And most importantly, I ask myself, what was the thought before the thought I need a glass of wine. If it’s about relieving stress and not about enjoyment, then I try to find another way to do that. Go for a walk, take a bath, watch a favorite show. I have lots more of these tips in the book.

Alexandra Stennett (34:18):
Here’s a review from Peg Alberts, an early reader from Cupertino, California. I’m not sure what I expected, but I found it to be funny, thoughtful, and heart wrenchingly raw at parts. At times, it made me angry on Natalie’s behalf in response to the prejudice against women in business in general and the internet trolling in particular. I was left with some frustration at the reminder that we still have a long way to go for equity despite all the progress of the last decades. That said, she inspires hope for other women that one can be strong, honest, and persevere in the face of such trials. Five stars.

Natalie MacLean (34:56):
You mentioned that some reader stories have moved you deeply. What are some of those stories? These are some of the emails I’ve received from readers. I’ve changed their names and any identifying information to protect their privacy. The specifics of my story are different from their experiences, but the feelings are universal as is the need for healing.

Here’s the first one. Your book resonates very strongly with me. Notice my email address MomNeedsWine@. It was something my youngest daughter came up with in a darling art piece that she made for me many years ago. Endearing, adorable, innocent, yet it’s also something that haunts me. Wine has always been a big part of my life. And through marriage struggles and an effort to work through an immense journey of betrayal and pain, both in my career life and home life, it became perhaps too big a part of my life. I had no idea of your story and struggle. I am proud of your courage and voice. Know that you already have and will continue to make an impactful mark. Get me in a good way.

Okay, here’s another one. I’m a voracious reader. I lived through three bad relationships. I started out with an inherited family home in a nice area and no worries about retirement. And now I live in a basement apartment with no car, but I refuse to think of myself as living in poverty. You have been instrumental in finding myself again.

Next. This book stirs deep feelings. My father was also an alcoholic, and yet I never came to terms or acknowledgement of his condition. Today, because of this book, I understand this condition as an illness.

Here’s another. My ex-husband tore me down for many years until he left me in the middle of an across the state move with our son and three dogs. This can happen to anyone. I was successful and independent, and now I’m still digging myself out of this hole I got sucked into. I’ve always thought about writing a book about this myself, but struggle to find the words to explain this situation that is so blatant to me now and yet society turns a blind eye to it. Again thank you. You inspire me.

Hi, this is John’s wife. I just wanted you to know that our son took his own life during Covid. John started hitting the bottle pretty hard. He since backed off and I firmly believe that your book was a big part of that.

Last one. I’m going to be a complete mess here. This is a book I want to keep in my library not to dwell on your negative experiences, but to reread the passages that were so poignant about human nature. There’s a bit of me in there. As a friend I’m sad, sad that you went through what you did. You’re happier in a more whole person today, but wow, you went through Hell and back a few times. I’m sad that I hadn’t realized the depth of your pain and struggle and so didn’t reach out as I should have. With that said, I think I will have a glass of wine tonight and savour some quiet time to reflect on what you wrote and learn from it. Thanks again, my friend.

What do you expect readers to take away from this book? A piece of themselves better understood. The winemaking term dry extract refers to the essence of a wine’s flavour, components when all the moisture has evaporated. Dry extract is in us, too, as people. Our deepest reserves of strength and resilience. It’s what’s left after life has burned us down to our essence. I want readers to hold onto that to know that they can rise again after they walk through those flames and be stronger, brighter, fiercer.

How has writing this memoir changed you? I had thought that strength and independence meant holding it all in, not needing anyone. That actually made things worse. It was only when I opened up to friends, family, and a few other women in the industry that I felt the healing, restorative power of friendship. I thirsted for it like a dehydrated plant finally receiving the life giving water she needed. I also realized that vulnerability is the only defense. Little Miss Perfect can’t control what others think of her, only what she tells them. So why not tell them lots without editing out the nasty bits because no one’s going to believe it anyway. And now that’s how I connect with others, not through perfection, but through sharing my own flaws and tendencies which they see in themselves.

And as painful as that year was, I realize I am who I am because of it. Extreme failure made me face something I never want to return to, but it also gave me a taste of a full life I never want to lose. When the angry online mob shoved me up against a wall, I had to ask myself am I really this person? Am I who they say I am? Yes, no, and something more. We change with our experiences. Each brings out different things in us. Just as Syrah and Shiraz grapes express themselves as different wines in the soils and climates of the Rhone, Barassa and Okanagan valleys. Each season, the vines must adapt to different weather one year killing frost, the next a drought. They thrust their roots down further through the cracks in another layer of rock to find the nutrients they need to survive. I’ve reclaimed what I almost lost. My family, love, health and career. My roots are deeper. My wisdom is fiercer.


You have a wine guide for book clubs, wine groups, and individual readers of your memoir. What’s in it and where can we get it? Well, thank you for asking. The free guide has questions not only that relate to this book, but also to broader issues about drinking, sexism and marketing and dealing with trauma. It also recommends wines to pair with this book and other books, and you can use the guide in a group or read it on your own. You can get the free guide at WineWitchOnFire.com/guide. I’ll also put it in the show notes.

You’re offering readers a $397 bonus bundle. If they pre-order it, how can we find out more about that and where are to buy the book? Well, thank you for asking that too. You’ll find all of that info, including the online tastings that I’ll be hosting for those who buy the book at WineWitchOnFire.com.

Are there any book launch events coming up? If you’re listening to this episode when it’s published or just a few days after that, I am hosting a book launch event in Toronto on Wednesday, May 10th at 6:00 PM. You can find the details in the show notes. Tickets are only on sale this week, and then they’re done. They’re going to go fast, and I would love, love, love to meet you in person. If you don’t live in Toronto, please let your Toronto based friends and family and colleagues know about the event because it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be at the very swanky Clio club in downtown Toronto. We’re going to be tasting wines. We’re going to talk, we’re going to laugh. I’ll be signing books. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so you won’t want to miss it.

I’ll be doing a book launch at La Cordon Blue in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 31st. I’ll also be doing events earlier in May and then in June in Toronto, Niagara Calgary, and Halifax. Other cities could be added in the future. Go to the show notes for the link to where you can register. I’d love to meet you in person.

Tell us two truths and a lie, and we’ll guess which one is the lie. All right, number one, I’ve been stung by a jellyfish. Number two, I was in a commercial for breakfast cereal when I was seven. And number three, I’ve never had a cup of coffee. In the next episode, I’ll let you know the answer. Ooh, email me though before then if you think you know the answer.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed these stories. In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of this episode, all of my book launch events, both in person and online, and where you can pre-order my memoir online now, no matter where you live. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/231. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or would like to be part of the book launch team [email protected].

If you missed episode 22, go back and take a listen. I take a behind the scenes peek at writing my first book Red, White,  and Drunk All Over. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Wine has given me an excuse to be extremely nosy and to ask impertinent questions that I would never ask. I’m an introvert, which is great for writing, but I also need a crutch, and wine is my crutch, not just personally, but professionally. It allows me to go into people’s homes to sit at their family dining tables and to ask really blunt and sometimes embarrassing questions. And so wine has taken me into places that I would never have access to, nor would my readers. And when I was on a book tour for my last book, they said, how on earth did you get into Domaine Romanée-Conti? It comes out on sale at about a couple thousand dollars a bottle. And it’s not me who’s getting access, it’s the fact that I bring you my readers with me. They want to reach you. They can’t accommodate all of you, so they let me in. And that’s how I get to ask those juicy questions.

If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories or the book. You won’t want to miss next week when I continue to share some very personal thoughts about wine and the wine industry. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a heartbreakingly beautiful Pinot Noir.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.