What is it like to make wine totally by hand, without electricity? What is a field blend and why should you try one? What’s the most difficult part of writing a memoir?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Rachel Signer, who has just published a gripping, addictive memoir, You Had Me at Pet-Nat.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
I’d also like to highlight some of our country’s best wines that are owned or produced by Blacks, Indigenous or People of Colour. We vote with our dollars, and these wineries deserve your support.
Steve Byfield, the son of Jamaican immigrants, is the owner and winemaker for Nyarai Cellars.
The name Nyarai (pronounced Na-Rye) is derived from the Southern African Shona dialect meaning humility. I’d say this also describes Steve Byfield.
Born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Steve started off pursuing a career as a music educator, studying at York University and playing in a jazz band in Southern Ontario. After his first year in university, he started working part-time in the industry, eventually moving to Southbrook Winery for five years.
In 2008, he created Nyarai Cellars. This is a “Virtual” winery, in that they don’t own their own vineyards or winery building. Instead, they contract with top-notch Niagara grape growers and winemaking facilities to create their wines, which have won numerous awards.
His Folklore sparkling wine, inspired by the spumante wines of Italy, is a blend of highly aromatic grapes, such as Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. It’s bursting with aromas of soft orange zest, peach and floral notes.
Steve says this was crafted in gratitude to his ancestors’ struggle, sacrifices and hardships. He invites others to raise a glass of this bubbly with friends and family to create their own memories and folklore.
I have another winemaker from Ontario to tell you about. Shiraz Mottiar was born and raised in Fergus, Ontario. His parents emigrated from South Africa to Canada.
He was a member of the first graduating class of Brock University’s Honours Oenology and Viticulture degree in 2000. That year he joined Malivoire as a cellarhand, eventually rising to the position of winemaker.
At the end of his day, Shiraz returns home to his own Beamsville Bench vineyard, where he farms three hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Melon de Bourgogne.
In 2017, he was named “Winemaker of the Year” by the Ontario Wine Awards, in recognition of his consistent excellence and contributions to the province’s wine industry.
Malivoire produces organic wines in a gravity-flow winery, where the wine gently flows with minimal intervention from its highest point rather than being pumped up aggressively into tanks. This produces wines of great subtlety.
The cheerful little red beetle crawling across the label of his Ladybug Rosé represents the sustainable farming philosophy of Shiraz and owner Martin Malivore. To combat destructive insects that have a taste for grape leaves, they release thousands of ladybugs into the vineyards. The ladybugs are selective about what they eat, whereas insecticides destroy every bug in its path, and leave a vineyard more vulnerable to pest attacks the next year.
This wine offers sun-dappled notes of field strawberries and melon. It’s crisp and refreshing. Pair with game birds and roast chicken.
Join me for the debut Watch Party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live-streaming for the very first time on Zoom on Wednesday, November 24th at 7 pm eastern.
You can save your spot for free right here. 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?
You could win a one-year subscription to Pipette Magazine, a gorgeously illustrated magazine about natural wines.
How to Win
All you need to do is comment on one of these posts before 7 pm EDT on November 17th:
I’ll select the winner randomly from those who participate. You get a bonus entry for every wine-loving friend you tag and if you re-share this post in your stories.
- Why did Rachel start Pipette Magazine?
- How has the wine community responded to Pipette?
- How did Rachel stay eco-friendly while producing a print magazine?
- What is a Pet-Nat?
- What is the tasting experience like for Rachel’s 2020 Pet-Nat?
- What’s it like to make wine totally by hand?
- Which types of food pair well with Pet-Nats?
- What goes into a field blend?
- Are natural wines and raw wines one and the same?
- What can you expect to read about in Rachel’s memoir, You Had Me At Pet-Nat?
- Why is it hard to write a memoir compared to fiction?
- What lessons did Rachel learn through writing her book?
- How did Rachel find the process of finding a publisher for her book?
- What’s it like to promote a new book during a pandemic?
- Why is Rachel excited about Canlibero Pink Freud?
- I admire how Rachel and her husband have tried to be as low-intervention as possible when making wine, even to the point of working the press by hand and not with electricity.
- I’ve always loved the complexity and taste of field blends. I hope you’ll seek them out for your sipping pleasure.
- I so relate with Rachel that writing about those you love is the most difficult part of writing a memoir, as I continue to edit my own manuscript.
Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips
There’s no electricity in my winery. When I rack I use a forklift but everything’s manual. - Rachel Signer Click to tweet
Field blends are a great way to make wine. They achieve a very special kind of balance and beautiful colour. - Rachel Signer Click to tweet
I say natural wine because it prompts people to ask the question, isn’t all wine natural? It’s a good conversation starter. - Rachel Signer Click to tweet
About Rachel Signer
Rachel Signer is a wine writer originally from Virginia, now living in South Australia. She’s written for numerous publications, including The Guardian, Vogue and Eater. She’s also the publisher and founder of Pipette Magazine, an independent magazine about natural wines sold in over twenty countries. She makes natural wines with her husband in the Adelaide Hills under the labels Lucy M and Persephone Wines. Her fabulous memoir, You Had Me at Pet-Nat, has just been published by Hachette Books.
- Connect with Rachel Signer
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 151: You Had Me At Pét-Nat: Gripping Wine Memoir by Rachel Signer
- Avondale Sky Winery
- Nyarai Cellars
- Malivoire Wine Company
- CTV The Social | 5 Spectacular Wines from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour Winemakers
- Online Tasting Experiences
- My Books:
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 83: What’s Trending in the Wine World with Darren Oleksyn
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
Join me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live Video
Join me on Instagram Live Video, Facebook Live Video or YouTube Live Video every Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat.
Want to know when we go live?
Add this to your calendar:
Tag Me on Social
Tag me on social media if you enjoyed the episode:
- @nataliemaclean and @natdecants on Facebook
- @nataliemaclean on Twitter
- @nataliemacleanwine on Instagram
- @nataliemaclean on LinkedIn
- Email Me at [email protected]
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.
Rachel Signer 0:00
I say natural wine because it prompts people to ask the question isn’t all wine natural? And then you can say no, it’s not. I think that is a good conversation starter. The only other term that I like is living wine. The wine actually being alive or in French they would say vivo, which is a lovely word. You can say raw wine pure naked. I would not go with clean wines that is more of a marketing term. Yes,
Natalie MacLean 0:29
natural lines are more about the production like how the farming is done. Clean wines are about consumption occasion. I’m doing self care with my vinyasa, my yoga and my clean wine.
Rachel Signer 0:40
I’m keeping the toxins out of my body. The irony is alcohol anyway, I don’t think we should be making claims that alcohol is healthy. We eat food that is grown with a lot of care and the wine matches.
Natalie MacLean 1:01
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations. 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 152. What’s it like to make wine totally by hand without electricity? What is a feel blend? And why should you try one? And what’s the most difficult part of writing a memoir.
Natalie MacLean 2:01
You’ll get those answers and more wine tips in part two of our chat with Rachel Cygnar, who has just published a gripping addictive memoir You had me at Pet net. If you missed the first part of our chat last week, no worries, you can still listen to this one now. But go back and take a listen afterwards as it was lots of fun. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation links to where you can buy Rachel’s book, how you can join me in a free online food and wine pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom Insta Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie Maclean comm forward slash 152. Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, as I mentioned last week, my regular segment on CTV is the social was about highlighting some of our country’s best wines that are owned or produced by black, indigenous or people of colour. As I said, we vote with our dollars and these wineries deserve your support. They’re terrific wines. I profiled two of these wineries last week on this show and I’ll share another three with you now. First, we’ll head to Nova Scotia my stomping ground. After completing a degree in psychology and history at Bombay University India, Avila Cuttino immigrated to Nova Scotia when she was just 19 years old. After a 25 year career in finance, she and her husband Lewis purchase the Avondale sky winery and restaurant in 2018, which they now run as a family business with their two sons, Carl and Sean along with their wives. The Avondale sky winery once walked on water. It was formerly a church built in 1837. But when a viola and her family heard that it was slated for destruction, they decided to buy the building and convert it into a winery catch was that the church was 42 kilometres away from the land where their vines were planted. So they had the building lifted off its original location moved by road to the shore front of the Bay of Fundy where it was loaded onto a ferry and floated on the world’s highest tides to its new location. It is a miracle. Every pane of the stained glass survived intact. Their title Bay wine is a style unique to Nova Scotia. It’s a blend of highly aromatic floral grapes that are low in alcohol, just 11% with crisp, racy acidity that makes it a beautiful match with Atlantic lobster melting and butter or other seafood dishes. Avondale sky offers a unique experience of what they call dining on the ocean floor. It’s a multicourse seafood feast prepared by a local chef literally on the ocean floor while the tide is out. Guess guests know when to leave because their feet are getting wet. Just kidding. All right, let’s move to Ontario. Now, Steve Byfield, the son of Jamaican immigrants is the owner and winemaker for narrow cellars. The name Nora is derived from the South African Shona dialect meaning humility. And I’d say this also describe Steve Byfield. Born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario Steve started off pursuing a career as a music educator, studying at York University and playing in a jazz band in southern Ontario. After his first year in university, he started working part time in the wine industry, eventually moving to Southbrook winery, where he worked five years. In 2008, he created Nara sellers. This is a virtual winery in that they don’t own their own vineyards or winery building. Instead, they contract with top notch Niagara grape growers and winemaking facilities to create their wines, which have won numerous awards is folklore sparkling wine inspired by the Spumante wines of Italy is a highly aromatic blend of Rhysling b del blown Muscat on a towel, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gilbert’s demeanour is just bursting with aromas of soft orange zest, peach and floral notes. Steve says this was crafted in gratitude to his ancestors struggle, sacrifices and hardships. He invites us to raise a glass of this bubbly with our friends and family to create our own memories and folklore. And finally, I have one more winemaker from Ontario to tell you about Shiraz Matea was born and raised in Fergus, Ontario. His parents emigrated from South Africa to Canada. He was a member of the first graduating class of Brock University’s honours enology and viticulture programme degree in 2000. That year he joined Malabar as a seller hand eventually rising to the position of winemaker. At the end of his day, Shiraz returns home to his own Beamsville bench vineyard, where he farms three acres of Pinot Noir Chardonnay, and Milan doober going in 2017. He was named winemaker of the Year by the Ontario wine awards, a recognition of his consistent excellence and contributions to the provinces wine industry. Now far produces organic wines in a gravity flow winery where the wine gently flows with minimal intervention from its highest point rather than being pumped up aggressively into tanks. This produces wines of great subtlety. A cheerful little red beetle crawling across the label of his Ladybug Rosae represents the sustainable farming philosophy of Shiraz and owner Martin malware. To combat destructive insects that have a taste for grape leaves. They release 1000s of ladybugs into the vineyards. These ladybugs are selective about what they eat. Whereas insecticides destroy every bug in their path, and leave a vineyard more vulnerable to pest attacks the next year. This wine offers Sun dappled notes of fields strawberries and melon and it’s crisp and refreshing. You could pair it with gamebirds and roast chicken. I’ll include a link in the show notes where you can watch the video and find the wines I recommend at Natalie maclean.com forward slash 152. Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 8:37
Now you started this magazine keypad, which is just beautiful. What was the inspiration? Was it originally because you went to the laoire and couldn’t find outlets. And so you thought I’ll just start my own publication or what was the driving motive behind this,
Rachel Signer 8:51
I originally was just going to try to self publish a book just about that trip to the laoire. And then I thought I could also commission other people to do stories and make it more of a group thing. And then there’s more voices involved. So it began with two friends as a project called tear. And it was broader than natural wine at that point. But we did two issues of terror and then I sort of went off on my own and started P Pet and there was no publication devoted to natural wine. I think at the time punch drink was doing a little bit on natural line, they still do. And Alice has her newsletter and her books and other than that, I just felt like there was this void and I wanted it to be print because I didn’t want some thing else to look at on a screen. I didn’t want to hire someone to do a website. I thought a print magazine sounded much more fun and interesting. And yeah, I wanted it to be beautiful off I would pour my heart into an article and then there would be a stock photo put alongside it. And I’m like, there are way too many talented photographers out there that would love to go to these wineries. Like they would absolutely love to hop on a train and go visit someone in the Lower Valley. So over time I found this people.
Natalie MacLean 10:24
Yeah, well, it is gorgeous. I can understand the motivation behind print. Because you’re not competing with text notifications and social media and everything else. The reading experience is completely different. It’s far more immersive. And just the tactile beauty of it in the photos. And it’s just gorgeous. So how does that sync up or jive with your natural wine ethos, the eco friendly, you have to cut down some trees to make this right. Well, it is
Rachel Signer 10:51
recycled paper. And the packaging that it arrives in is also recyclable. But yeah, I mean, it is a product but recycled paper. I sort of insisted on that. I think the publisher offered me that straightaway. I think the printing industry is quite conscious of the need to recycle paper. So that was never even a problem in the first place.
Natalie MacLean 11:15
And what’s been the response to the magazine?
Rachel Signer 11:18
I mean, it’s ongoing, you know, I still get messages from people that just discovered the magazine, and they’re like, how can I get all the issues right now, I just love that. Like, I think when the magazine launched, there was a crest in terms of the growth of natural wine. And I just saw all of these businesses pop up, mostly in North America, and Australia as well devoted to natural wine shops, restaurants, bars, and they often came to me and they said, We want to have it when we open, we want people on our shelves opening day. So I think there’s been a huge embracing of natural wine, fanning out from cities like New York, where it was concentrated and blossoming. So the response has been great. I think, a few months into the pandemic, I mentioned that I was going to possibly stop publishing the magazine. And that’s not just because demand was going down and shipping prices were doubling. It was partly because I just felt with everything going on the incredible suffering and also BlackLivesMatter taking centre stage, that movement that had obviously been going on for a while, but really taking centre stage, I thought maybe it’s not the time to talk about natural wine. And people wrote to me and they were like, please keep going. We really enjoy this magazine. And I sort of had to rationalise with myself, like, it’s okay to make something that people just enjoy. We need that. Also.
Natalie MacLean 12:56
We do we do. I’ve had to rationalise my own career. And maybe you have to Rachel but we’re not doctors, saving people. But there has to be a place for pleasure or as you say everyday decadence to celebrate life. We work so hard. I mean, what you’re delivering through your magazine, and the wines is just joy and the reward for being here for working hard for surviving another day.
Rachel Signer 13:22
Exactly. Yeah, thanks for saying that.
Natalie MacLean 13:25
So that’s a good thing. Absolutely. So let’s segue into your book. Do you have a copy of it or an advanced copy of it there?
Rachel Signer 13:34
I have an advanced copy. Okay, so the hardcover versions will be ready soon.
Natalie MacLean 13:39
There you go. All right. You had me at Pet not there you go. That’s great. So first of all, tell us what a pet mat is, so that we’re all on the same page.
Rachel Signer 13:49
It’s sparkling wine made without any additives. So typically, the champagne method for making sparkling wine involves a secondary fermentation. So picture a wine ferments and goes dry. And then you add a little bit of sugar and yeast to it and put it in bottle. And then it ferments again. And that’s how bubbles happen. So a lot of sparkling wine is made that way with pet net. And I’ve got one final taste later. It’s my own. So with pet net, it’s generally bottled with a tiny bit of residual sugar. Then the carbon dioxide is just trapped in the bottle as the wine goes dry in the bottle. So the bubbles are caused by one single fermentation. So it’s also not find and filtered and it should be organic and there should be no sulfites added so it’s a natural wine that is made sparkling in a single fermentation. Just as a side note, it can also be discouraged and I think that’s much better. So we discourage our pet gnats. So that just means that we store them upside down. Then we pop off the cat and let all the tar traits and leaves which are stored in the neck come out, it gets topped up with fresh wine, and sealed with another crown cap and then stored for a little bit before release. disgorging really helps avoid that like explosion, which some people have experienced opening a pet not. So it’s just gorgeous shouldn’t happen.
Natalie MacLean 15:25
And you have yours there. Yeah. Yeah, let me see it on the camera let to show it. Yeah, nice. Well dive into it. As we talk about it and your memoir,
Rachel Signer 15:35
I made pet net for three years. I didn’t make it this year. It’s very time consuming. You have to like think about a lot of things during vintage because you have to bottle it during vintage. And then you have to just Gorge in winter. And with the book coming out. And with having a toddler, I honestly just needed to make things a little easier on myself. Because we touch every bottle. It’s all done by hand, and just gorging is a huge process. So this is the 2020 Pet net. I had finished my Rosae first it was a blend of Chardonnay with some semi on that was pressed over Gavai skins. Okay, cool. So I have a basket press. So picture around thing with wooden doors, and then wood on top. And a lever that pushes the wood down. I think you probably have some photos. Yeah, basically, there were Gabbay skins in the press from pressing Gavai and so I pressed semi on over that. And that’s where the colour comes from. So it’s like light pink. Hopefully it’s it’s old enough that it won’t fit out.
Natalie MacLean 16:53
Let me see if I’ve got my pictures here with your press. Yes, yes. Okay. That’s great. I love it. Wow, this is really artisanal. This is by hand. You’re having to do this.
Rachel Signer 17:07
Yeah. So there’s no electricity in my winery. When I rack I use forklift, but everything’s manual. So, buckets. That’s all we don’t use pumps
Natalie MacLean 17:20
at all. Okay, more gentle handling of the juice is great. So you ate your wine and M for like the clay vessels. Yeah,
Rachel Signer 17:27
those are a couple amphora that were actually made here in South Australia by a fifth generation Potter. And we’ve also recently started using ceramic eggs. They literally are shaped like an egg. They’re still amphora they just have a specific shape. And those are made in Spain. We love ceramics.
Natalie MacLean 17:46
Great. Oh, there’s your magazine. So show us the bottle then. Have you opened there? Yes,
Rachel Signer 17:53
it’s fizzy. It has a bit of a stone fruit character. Like it’s very bright. Obviously it has high acidity pick early for pet not generally pick early for sparkling one. Okay, and I can really taste the semitone semitone has this is it weird if I describe it as it tastes yellow? Just tastes like yellow. I like this like straw and it tastes like I don’t know. buttered toast like sourdough. A little bit. It tastes yellow. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 18:27
Thanks yellow. Yeah, no, I
Rachel Signer 18:29
like that. I think pet gnats are really good with food. Same things that champagne would be nice with so like fried food, fried chicken, fish and chips, that sort of thing. We eat a lot of fish and chips in Australia. It’s kind of a national food.
Natalie MacLean 18:45
I can imagine it would cut through the gorgeous cut through the grease and fat. Yeah. Oh, that would be great. Wow. I’ve got another one here. That is a field blend from trail estate. And it has got so much stuff in it. It’s no sulphur added lots of particulate here. Yeah,
Rachel Signer 19:05
trail estate is a pet stockist. That’s so cool. Oh, that’s
Natalie MacLean 19:09
great. You can see all this stuff. Yeah, they make some wonderful wines. And definitely, it’s a natural wine. I would think from all the definitions you’ve given us.
Rachel Signer 19:18
I love field blends. Field blends are really special.
Natalie MacLean 19:21
Yeah. And that’s when they’re mixing all the different grapes again, traditionally because winemakers didn’t know what was out there. They were just throwing everything together. Right?
Rachel Signer 19:29
And it’s a great way to make wine. It achieves like a very special kind of balance and beautiful colour. Exactly,
Natalie MacLean 19:36
yes. Wow. It’s delicious. It has a lot of stuffing and savoury I just sometimes find it hard to describe it. It’s yeah. Do you see any difference between natural wines and raw wines? Are they kind of two names for the same thing? Yeah,
Rachel Signer 19:54
so the name question. That debate occasionally pops up. and it is a good debate. People have problems with the idea of natural wine. People have problems with all of the names. I mean, you sort of pick whichever one works for you. I say natural wine because it prompts people to ask the question isn’t all wine natural? And then you can say, No, it’s not. And I think that is a good thing. I think it’s a good conversation starter. I’ve also just never really found the only other term that I like is living wines. I think living wines is really precise. Like it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. The wine actually being like alive or in French, they would say vivo, which is a lovely word. And so you can sort of say whatever you want, you can say raw wines. I know people say pure, naked, I would not go with clean wines that is more of a marketing term created by I think camera, India’s and other
Natalie MacLean 21:00
ideas. Yeah, yeah, that caused another uproar in the industry, which is that I think you pointed out something very smart. Whereas natural lines are more about the production, like how the farming is done. The clean winds are about consumption occasion. Like I’m doing self care with my vinyasa, my yoga, and my, my clean wine
Rachel Signer 21:22
would just be silly sins out of my body. Yeah. And the irony, because I mean, it’s alcohol anyway. And look, you know, I don’t think we should be making claims that alcohol is healthy, or one way or the other. But natural wine is quite light on the palate. And it’s generally unless it’s from a very warm region, it’s generally lower in alcohol. I think that’s nice. Going back to the whole Hemingway thing and having a bit of wine at lunch, there’s a quote, I share in my book, and he talks about how it would be strange to have a nice meal without some wine or some cider. That’s where I’m at, you know, like, we eat food that is grown with a lot of care. Some of it’s grown on our farm or nearby, and the wine matches that. And it’s all considered to us part of a relaxing, healthful lifestyle. There’s days when I don’t have anything to drink. I also skipped coffee on some days, like I think we all have our own threshold for finding balance. But
Natalie MacLean 22:28
sure, absolutely. No, that’s great. So if you are describing your memoir to someone, how would you describe it in a nutshell,
Rachel Signer 22:38
I think it’s a little bit of a coming of age story. It’s how I sort of found myself through natural wine. When I discovered natural wine, I was waitressing and working, I think at least one other job and studying fiction writing. And I was definitely very excited about what I was doing. But I was quite lost personally. And that’s definitely described in detail and a few scenes in the book, I think, in the romantic relationships that I was choosing to be in. And I think I found something to latch on to that I knew would lead me to a better place. And it was natural wine. And I could have written a book that was a bit more journalistic. And I didn’t because I thought in the end that my personal story would get the points across that I wanted people to understand. It brings people to the lower valley where I work harvest with Domaine Moss, a really, really amazing family. And it brings people to the wine bars of Paris, which is a very central part of natural wine culture, the natural wine bars in Paris, and it brings people to Australia, where I make wine again, and there’s a lot in between. There’s the Republic of Georgia, there’s Sardinia where we have a really amazing encounter with a winemaker who has lost his entire vintage. But it’s all told through my personal experience.
Natalie MacLean 24:13
I think that’s the power of a memoir, you can still learn a lot. But there’s more of a narrative arc. It’s almost like reading fiction, like there are characters your character wild man’s a character. I think that really brings the story alive because we want to read about other people, as opposed to just the sort of winemaking and sulphur additions are not no software additions. And I think he really did bring it alive through your story through your your own journey in the book.
Rachel Signer 24:40
Yeah, exactly. So that’s the book. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 24:44
Yeah. And what did you find most challenging about writing the book?
Rachel Signer 24:49
It’s hard writing about people you love. And there’s a lot of people I love in the book. There’s my best friend who lives in Paris who I haven’t seen in years because the pandemic there As my husband, there’s my husband’s daughter. And all of that was a bit stressful at times or a bit complicated. And then obviously, you know, I checked in with them before, anything kind of went in the direction of publication. So that was hard. And knowing also, when to stop was difficult. I wanted to actually keep going and talk about my second vintage. And my editor, you know, editors, you have to love them. They’re so great at what they do. She was like, nope, your book stops here. I’m like, okay.
Natalie MacLean 25:37
That’s a next book.
Rachel Signer 25:39
Oh, yeah. Oh, gosh, knows what that will be. So I think also, just with fine writing, that’s of a personal nature, there’s this like, balance where you can easily get in the weeds in terms of wine technicalities, it’s difficult sometimes to know who you’re writing to. Because with pipette, I’m writing often, for people who have some awareness of natural wine with the book, it might not be the case. And so it was just difficult sometimes to know when to explain or when to just kind of roll with it. So hopefully, I achieved that balance in some ways.
Natalie MacLean 26:17
I think you did it. Was there anything that surprised you in writing the book? Or did the writing of the book change you in any way?
Rachel Signer 26:24
I think I learned that I can complete a book, which I’m still. I mean, I wanted to write, I wanted to write a book for years, there were drafts of this book, going back to 2016. When I came back from the lower valley, I think ultimately, a book comes out when you as an individual, are ready. And that’s not necessarily like where your career is, I think it’s where you are as a person. So I worked through a lot to get to the point where I was able to like share a book.
Natalie MacLean 26:57
Yeah, absolutely. And did you find much crossover between your writing and editing for pet and the book? Or was it just a very different experience?
Rachel Signer 27:07
That’s a good question. It was almost luxurious to not be the editor for once. Like, I’m always editing other people’s work. Yeah, I’m sure I had my editors cap on in some ways. So my editor, Lauren Marino, Hachette, she works mostly with women’s memoirs. And when we first chatted when she was interested in my proposal, she said, I love working on books about women’s lives, women’s lives are so complex and interesting. And I was like, this woman has to be my editor. You know, you’re writing a memoir, and you’re like, why am I doing this? Like, why am I sharing all my personal information, I’m opening myself up to critique and like, who’s gonna read this? And then she said that, and I was like you. She was great. She actually had a really light touch. It was great. Working with her. That’s great.
Natalie MacLean 28:02
And so did you go to? I assume you had an agent? And then you approached multiple publishers for this?
Rachel Signer 28:08
Yes. And I am so grateful that I found my agent. I mean, I don’t think anyone else could be my agent. She is an incredible agent who loves natural wine and was already aware of my magazine. And she was like, I think I’ve had your wine before. I mean, I make 2300 bottles. And she’s had one of my wines, like, that’s how into natural wine. She is. She’s awesome. Laura Nolan just was Kismet finding her and she was my third agent. So
Natalie MacLean 28:45
it took a while. Wow, that is fantastic. And so I’m just being curious now. Like, did you go to a bunch of publishers all at once? Or did you sort of target
Rachel Signer 28:57
to went out to a few and then Hachette was a preempt, which means they just kind of say we want it.
Natalie MacLean 29:04
That is ideal. They take it off the market. No one can even bid on it because they wanted so much. It was so exciting. That’s terrific. That’s correct. And so what is your publication date?
Rachel Signer 29:16
Natalie MacLean 29:17
All right, that’s when it’ll be on sale.
Rachel Signer 29:20
So people in the United States, I recommend going to bookshop.org and then just type in my name, Rachel Cygnar, si je ner or type in the title you had me at Pet net. And then you can order there and that will actually go via independent bookstores near you.
Natalie MacLean 29:38
Right, which is important. That’s the small Yeah.
Rachel Signer 29:42
Talk about the big guy. The big guy has my book. Sorry. Well, the thing is, if you are like in Europe, or Asia or South America, probably the big guy is the actual best way to get my book for now. Unless you’re local seller has a better way of getting it. In Australia. There’s booktopia and Angus and Robertson, they have it on pre order. And in Canada, you might walk into your local bookstore and just ask them to order it for you or use the big guy.
Natalie MacLean 30:19
Yes, we also have Chapters Indigo in Canada, but we’re gonna have all the links to where your book is.
Rachel Signer 30:26
Okay. In the UK, there’s something called hive. They have it on preorder. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 30:31
Okay. Yeah. And is it also on audio version audible, or wherever audio books are as well? We’re working on that. Yeah. Okay, so that’ll come maybe a bit later. That’s right. Okay, cool. Now, as you said, there’s not a lot of travel going on. So how do you intend to promote it? Are you doing a lot of zoom tastings? Podcasts? Interviews, I’m sure.
Rachel Signer 30:54
Yeah, I’ll do a couple podcasts. I love podcasts, actually. So I’m really excited about that. And there’s gonna be an excerpt shared. But yeah, I mean, I’ll share everything on my personal Instagram and on Twitter. So I’m just at rage CIG or ich s IG. And I have a newsletter as well that perhaps your listeners might enjoy. So once a month, I recommend a couple natural wines that I’ve enjoyed. And I also recommend a book that I’m reading, which is usually like not at all related to wine. I read a lot of literary fiction and a lot of memoir.
Natalie MacLean 31:34
Oh, I need to get your recommendations. I don’t
Rachel Signer 31:36
my newsletter, it’s free. Yeah, there’s lots of photos. Sometimes I share recipes, or I talk about random stories about being a mother in Australia, a million miles from my family and what that’s like, so it’s just like a monthly ish thing. And I share everything there. Is there a URL for your newsletter? It’s unfortunately a bit complicated, but I’ll definitely send it to you.
Natalie MacLean 32:01
We’ll put it in the show notes the link that would be great. Yeah, yeah, for sure. So that everybody can find you. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Rachel. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you wanted to mention? We still have some time if you like,
Rachel Signer 32:16
I’m sure there is but I did open this Rosae that I thought might be fun to talk. Yes, please let’s do that. I just love discovering new producers so I do sort of know these guys so they’re called con Libero a Kobe’s called Pink Floyd. Okay. And they’re in Campania and as soon as we can travel I’m like going to companhia I actually have quite a while back some heritage from Campania which is just the area to the south of Rome quite a large region with high elevation vineyards and just fascinating for wine really, really fascinating region for wine. This is a great called Eliana Ko. And how many days of maturation Do you think it had Natalie? Just guess
Natalie MacLean 33:02
I have no idea. Lots
Rachel Signer 33:06
of question, because it’s actually direct press. So go is like I think it’s like one of those grapes like serraj That’s so dark, you can just direct press it, and it looks like this. So direct press, just to explain mean, the grapes went directly into the press. That’s all.
Natalie MacLean 33:25
They didn’t stay in contact with the juice. Yeah. This is a lovely
Rachel Signer 33:29
Rosae. It’s a natural wine. And so they’ve actually this is really amazing. So their label is so clear. I’m not sure how close you can see it, but they’ve actually written containers, so fidi non agility, and so they’re achieving a level of specificity that’s extremely helpful. Has sulfites not added in the United States. Anyone that’s imported it basically legally required to write contains sulfites, which is super confusing to consumers because they’re like, Wait, why does my natural wines say contains sulfites? And so winemakers have started adding contain sulfites, but we didn’t add any and I think that’s really helpful. And this is also a biodynamically farmed vineyard. It’s quite small, two hectares, which is like around five acres. It’s just two people. Lovely Little Rosato to look for, can libero. I love
Natalie MacLean 34:29
the stories that as you said, when you visit these places you’re visiting with a family so I love that aspect. And it’s that holistic living again, just wonderful exploration of culture and family and everyday decadence as you say. Well, Rachel, this has been wonderful. Let’s just see your book one more time, so that people know you had me at Pat net, which is terrific. That’s great. I love that. I know everyone will enjoy it because what Whether you’re really knowledgeable about natural wines, or you have no idea what they are, this is a story that will still I think shed light on them surprise you. There’s lots of insights. But it’s also your personal journey that makes the memoir so worth reading. I mean, it’s just, it’s about love and connection and all that good stuff that wine helps facilitate.
Rachel Signer 35:21
Thank you so much.
Natalie MacLean 35:23
Absolutely. Real pleasure. Really quickly, go ahead just
Rachel Signer 35:27
for your listeners when they are participating in the giveaway, just to specify so what the 2021 subscription includes is issues eight, nine and 10. Issue 10 is coming out in October. We’re just finishing it up right now. And those are that’s actually the last issue of pipette. Oh, is it? Yeah, I’m giving myself a break after producing 10 issues. And so it’ll be a subscription, meaning like a package of the three issues we produced in 2021. Most of the back issues are on the website. So anyone who’s curious people always ask like, Oh, where do I find it? There are lots of stockists in Canada in the States. And they’re all listed on the P Pat magazine.com. website if you just look at stockists a top. But our webshop is super easy to use. And we can just ship them easily. But yeah, whoever is the lucky winner will get issues eight, nine and 10.
Natalie MacLean 36:29
Wonderful. They’re so beautiful. Oh, I just like touching them. Keep my hands off them. All right, Rachel, thank you so much. I wish you all the best with this launch. I know it’ll be a success. Because your story is just it’s from the heart. And I think people really connect with that and with you. So I’d love to stay in touch and have you back on the podcast. Maybe we can touch base and see how it went maybe a year from now or something like that.
Rachel Signer 36:56
That’s a great idea. I’ve loved talking with you. Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun.
Natalie MacLean 37:01
Oh, that’s great. Thanks, Rachel. Bye for now.
Rachel Signer 37:03
Okay, see you soon. Bye.
Natalie MacLean 37:06
Okay, bye bye. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoy part two of our chat with Rachel Cygnar. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I really admire how Rachel and her husband have tried to be as low intervention as possible when making wine, even to the point of working the wine press by hand and not with electricity. Number two, I’ve always loved the complexity and taste to feel blends. I hope you’ll seek them out for your own sipping pleasure. And three, I so relate to Rachel that writing about those you love is the most difficult part of writing a memoir. As I continue to edit and agonise over my own manuscript. In the shownotes, you’ll find a transcript of our full conversation. How you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class links to where you can buy Rachel’s book, as well as to the CTV video I mentioned in the intro, and where you can find me on Zoom Insta Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie Maclean comm forward slash one by two. You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Scott Greenberg on his podcast, the vine guy. He also hosts the wine of the Week show on WTO P radio in Washington DC. In the meantime, if you missed episode 84 go back and take a listen. A chat about the hottest wine trends with Darren Alexion, the wine columnist for The Calgary Herald. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Darren Oleksyn 38:47
natural wine is basically wine in its purest form. They do it as simple as they can they grow organic grapes are biodynamic grapes, they bring them in, they use natural yeast that’s in the air. They don’t add any yeast. They don’t add any kind of additives or chemicals or anything. They make the wine and they put no sulphur or maybe just a small amount of sulphur in the wine at the end before they cork it and there it is. It’s wine in its purest form. Whereas orange wine is not necessarily natural wine. It’s kind of like all champagne and sparkling wine, but all sparkling wine is not champagne. Orange wine is white wine, where they fermented on the skins so it sits on the skins for quite a while like and that’s where it gets its colour. Yeah, that’s where you get the orange colour from and you get 10 which is something you don’t necessarily see very often been white one.
Natalie MacLean 39:42
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines and trends we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a field blend as you continue to read Rachel’s memoir
Natalie MacLean 40:07
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 Natalie Maclean comm forward slash subscribe, maybe here next week cheers