This week’s blogger in the spotlight is actually a foursome! Four times the fun, four times the answers and definitely four times the interest. I speak of none other than the South Florida wine sensation, The Swirl Girls! The Swirl Girls collectively write for The Palm Beach Post/PBPulse.com under their own moniker The Swirl Girls. Their writings cover everything from local wine events, to wine reviews to (my favorite) wine word of the week. Each of the girls brings her own je ne sais quois to the mix making them four of the most sought after local celebrities in South Florida. They’re real, they’re fun (follow them on Twitter and you’ll get to know them better) and they have so much fun with what they do that you cannot help but be drawn in by their electric energy.
This interview from behind the scenes is not the same as the previous bloggers in the spotlight, as I’m sure you can imagine, one question, four answers. We’ve all been very excited about this interview for a few weeks. Just like when The Swirl Girls write about a local business it makes their day (and their business) to get ‘spotlighted’; now the spotlight has shifted and believe it or not but we’re all the same and we get equally excited when the spotlight shines on us. So this week dear readers the Blogger in the Spotlight shines brightly on four very dynamic and excited women, Libby (Sweet), Gwen (Dry), Lynn (Bold) and Jennifer (Earthy), The Swirl Girls:
The Swirl Girls
South Florida Food and Wine: How did you 4 women come together and become the South Florida wine sensation, The Swirl Girls?
DRY: I’d always been a wino since working in a few upscale restaurants in my early 20s. One day in late 2008, I was talking with my fellow photographer Libby (soon to be nicknamed Sweet) about an idea to host a once-a-month ladies wine tasting for fun. Through the course of the conversation, we decided not only to start the tasting group, but also a blog about wine. We enlisted the help of 2 other female coworkers and wine lovers, and our quirky quartet was born. The blog launched a few months later on our entertainment website, pbpulse.com.
SWEET: That’s funny how you remember it, because I remember it being a ploy to get free wine. And it worked! Definitely one of the best ideas we’ve ever come up with – how many people can legitimately walk around the office with bottles of wine? And there’s nothing better then racing you to the mail room on wine delivery days…
South Florida Food and Wine: How did the names Earthy, Sweet, Dry, Bold come about for each of you?
DRY: I originally wanted to call the blog “Swirl,” but Libby thought it would be more fun to go with “Swirl Girls.” From there, we decided to have catchy nicknames, similar to the Spice Girls. It began a bit as a joke between Libby and I we decided on Sweet and Dry because it reflects both our wine styles and also a bit of our personalities (Libby being smiley, soft and ever polite, and me being, well… somewhat less tactful and often grumpy… ).
EARTHY: Because every Monday when I’d come into work, I’d have dirt under my fingernails from the prone position I took while praying to the pinot noir vines I’ve planted in my backyard.
BOLD: When I suggested my nickname, every head in the room nodded vigorously. I’m really not a shrinking violet kind of person, or wine drinker!
South Florida Food and Wine: Do you do anything else other than write about wine?
BOLD: We tell people we do other things. And we can be pretty convincing. But really, no.
SWEET: Well, actually… 3 of the 4 Swirl Girls are involved in visuals at The Palm Beach Post. Dry and I are visual journalists (photographers and videographers) and Earthy is a multimedia editor. Bold does a whole bunch of administrative stuff for the Post newsroom…actually, sometimes we’re not sure what she doesn’t do! But it’s an added bonus that we can take our own pictures as well.
EARTHY: Drink wine?
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about writing for each of you?
SWEET: For me, it’s relating the wine into normal terms that people who aren’t sommeliers can understand. Most of our readers are just like us – we all just love a great glass of wine! So when you start talking about all the technical aspects of evaluating wine, it can get really boring. I really like to pretend the wine is something else. If this wine were a piece of clothing, what would it be? If this wine were a celebrity, who would it be? And my personal favorite, if this wine were a man, what would it be? For example, you could say that a malbec has an aroma of dark cherries, smoke and a hint of leather and is a bit chunky on the mouth-feel. Or you could say: “this malbec smells like the neck of Marlboro man. It’s sexy, a little bit rough around the edges and doesn’t plan on going with the flow for the night!” You get the idea…
BOLD: I’m an editor and thought I’d been able to put writing behind me, but clearly I was wrong. Of course, it IS writing about wine, so that takes the sting out of it.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the greatest opportunity that has come from writing for all of you?
BOLD: We were invited to Mar-a-Lago. Score!
SWEET: For me, it would probably be connecting on Twitter. I manage all the social media accounts for the Swirl Girls, something I’m very engaged and passionate about. And via Twitter, I’ve met great people who always have suggestions, knowledge and encouragement. I’ve learned what wineries to visit, how to improve my writing and really learned a lot. There are hundreds of wine voices out there – many more then are represented in a magazine. And I’ve enjoyed learning together with everyone.
DRY: Writing for the Swirl Girls has opened up a bunch of opportunities for us to be a part of some great local wine events and charities. It’s also allowed us to get to know many wonderful people in the wine industry and wine lovers in our local community.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your most memorable writing moment?
SWEET: The best thing is when you’ve had a germ resonating around your brain for a few days and when your head is finally clear enough to sit down and have it all come out. It’s a great feeling.
DRY: It wasn’t writing a story for Swirl Girls, it was Tweeting during a master sommelier class at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival last year. Master Sommelier Richard Betts (aka @yobetts) was also on Twitter during the class and saw my tweets. So he called me out and had me walk the class through a blind tasting of one of his wines. Talk about being put in the hot seat!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would the final meal with wine be for the Swirl Girls?
SWEET: A crab and grapefruit salad with Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon with a beautiful cut of beef, mashed potatoes and vegetables, and chocolate soufflés for dessert. Maybe another half-bottle of Del Dotto for to go with the soufflé…
DRY: It would definitely involve meat, mushrooms and red Bordeaux….
EARTHY: A huge, honkin’ cut of filet mignon (can you use honkin’ and mignon in the same sentence?), medium rare, sprinkled with blue cheese. (What else could a vegetarian possibly want on her last day on earth?) With an equally huge, honkin’ bottle of a divine California Cabernet Sauvignon that Sweet picks out for me. Or a ravishing red Bordeaux from Dry. Or a big, bad, spicy Australian Shiraz that Bold offers.
BOLD: We’d still be trying to figure out who would bring the appetizer. Our dinners are some of the longest meetings we have – planning four courses is exhausting!
South Florida Food and Wine: Do the Swirl Girls cook? If so, do you have any wacky cooking habits?
SWEET: I may be a bit geeky, but there’s nothing more in life I love than cooking great dinners for my friends and loved ones. It’s the whole thing for me – planning, shopping, cooking and then savoring it for hours. I tend to agonize a bit about the timing of dinner parties, I’m not so much of a go-with-the-flow girl in the kitchen I tend to be very precise. Plus, I must have a beautifully dressed table for dinner parties. My mama would have a heart attack if I didn’t have a perfectly dressed table!
DRY: Do the French make good wine? Yes, the SG’s LOVE to cook! It may not be very wacky – but one thing I notice about myself in the kitchen is that I can never just follow a recipe as it’s printed in the book. I’ve always got to put my own stamp on it by substituting an ingredient or two.
BOLD: We all cook a lot. Sweet and Earthy are always trying to put pieces of their gardens in the dishes. Luckily, most have been edible to date.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the best wine advice you have to share?
DRY: Know what you like, but be adventurous too. Don’t be afraid to pick up something new or unfamiliar at a wine store and give it a try.
EARTHY: If you like it, it’s a good wine.
SWEET: Never apologize for the wine you like. Dessert wines aren’t for everyone but they’re sure as heck right for me.
BOLD: Be sure to have a lot of those wonderful Haley’s Corker wine stoppers around – it means you can have a whole bunch of open wine bottles in the fridge at one time. Seriously – try new wines all the time. I mean, what is the downside?
South Florida Food and Wine: Do you have any obsessive wine habits?
BOLD: Yes, spending money.
EARTHY: Is buying wine like most women buy shoes considered obsessive?“I already have plenty in my closet… I really don’t need it… I already have that color (varietal, region, winery), but I just have to have it. Plus, it’s on sale!”
DRY: I’m a bit of a hoarder. I used to hide nice bottles of my Bordeaux in my pajama drawer so that my husband wouldn’t know how much I was spending on wine. Now I’ve graduated to hiding them in a temperature-controlled storage facility across town. He’s still in the dark…
SWEET: I’m also a bit of an accumulator. I love buying bottles from tastings because you have a memory of the wine and can happily plan out your next “meeting.” Yes, I tend to think of bottles of wine as my “friends.” And I shouldn’t admit this, but sometimes I open up my cooler just to see and check up on my wine. I admit it, I visit my friends, I mean wine.
South Florida Food and Wine: If each of you could be any wine, what would it be?
SWEET: A sauternes…sweet, pleasant, fun to have around and a little bit…blond.
DRY: A big bad Barolo. Hard to take but worth the wait.
BOLD: Francis Coppola’s Rubicon. I’d be big, bold, beautiful and starring in a film somewhere.
EARTHY: Pinot Noir, and not just because I’m Earthy. I’m a little finicky and particular, can be moody, but with patience and tenderness, I open up to reveal my true nature of being soft, generous and unforgettable.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the one “staple” food each of you have in your cupboard?
DRY: Mushrooms – either shiitake or Portobello… fresh ginger (it makes everything better) … Low-sodium chicken broth – for sauces.
SWEET: Chocolate! You never know when you’re going to have a hankering to making muffins or cookies or cupcakes or a soufflé…
BOLD: It’s in the fridge – some good stinky cheese. Gotta have something to go with the big reds at all times.
EARTHY: Do peanut M&M’s count?
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your beverage of choice?
Swirl Girls: Um… wine?
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your wine claim to fame?
DRY: I got to perform the samba in a local version of “Dancing with the Stars” this year. And I can’t walk into a local wine shop without someone recognizing me these days, even with big dark sunglasses on…
SWEET: I’m mortified when I’m recognized. I’m so embarrassed and shy by attention.
BOLD: You called us South Florida wine sensations. Enough said.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the best wine gift you ever received?
BOLD: Any wine as a gift is the best. Till the next gift.
SWEET: I knew my boyfriend was a keeper when his first present to me was a very fancy corkscrew…
South Florida Food and Wine: What kitchen chore do you dislike the most?
SWEET: Grocery shopping, especially when I have to make multiple trips.
DRY: Doing dishes. I make my husband do them… but I usually cook, so it all works out.
EARTHY: When you like to entertain, but don’t have a dishwasher, you come to really dislike washing dishes.
BOLD: So that’s why I end up doing the dishes at our dinners!!
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most exotic food you have ever eaten and where?
EARTHY: I couldn’t bring myself to actually eat it, but I did taste guinea pig, in Ecuador.
SWEET: Goat stew in Mali.
DRY: A partially developed egg at a roadside stand in Cambodia… exotic, yes, but not in the positive sense.
BOLD: Rattlesnake. It tasted like chicken. Doesn’t it always? I think a sauvignon blanc would be perfect with rattlesnake.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most extravagant food or beverage item or culinary tool you spent money on?
DRY: In my personal kitchen, I keep things pretty simple. I’d rather spend the money on really great ingredients than on a tool. Some of the more extravagant wine I’ve bought would be a few 2nd growths from Margaux, or a couple of St. Emilion vintage 2000 cases from a Zachy’s wine auction this spring (ouch).
SWEET: I’m kind of a basic girl, too. I do all my baking with a wooden spoon rather than a mixer and roll out my pasta with a wine bottle. Still, I do have an ice cream maker that I have a lot of fun with. And splurging on fresh shellfish is something I’ll never stop doing.
BOLD: I was given a Brookstone wine chiller. I love it, but my husband hates the noise it makes. So I turn up the TV while he’s watching it and then run the chiller. I notice he doesn’t turn down the glass of chilled wine…
South Florida Food and Wine: Where was the best wine you ever had? And why?
BOLD: It was actually a whole wine experience, visiting Sonoma and parts of Napa. All of the tastings were terrific. A good friend of mine in the wine biz took me around, so I was able to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes industry and attend special tastings. But it’s the whole trip that I remember. A wonderful, warm, very happy trip.
DRY: When it comes to memorable wine experiences, I think that the experience is really more important than the wine alone. Some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had with wine would include drinking malbec in Argentina at a family-style asado. The wine itself was nothing special, but the whole event, waiting hours for the meat to cook over an open flame, the music, the mountains, just being there in Argentina where the wine was grown… the laughs we had that night… the whole experience was memorable. The wine was just like the jewel in the crown.
EARTHY: I haven’t had it yet. But it will be in Italy, in the vineyard named for my stepfather Hank, who died 4 years ago. Hank had a love affair with Italy, and his former business partner, who lives in San Gimignano, named one of his vineyards to honor the man he thought of as his brother. Grapes have been harvested, pressed and bottled, and they now wait for my family to come toast the man who, first and foremost, loved my mother.
SWEET: We’ve shared some amazing wine and dinners together as the Swirl Girls and I’ll always remember those. But when I think about the best wine I’ve ever had, it would have to be barrel sampling at Del Dotto Vineyards in Napa County last summer. They took us all around their underground caves, stopping by random barrels and pouring it straight into our glasses. I’ll always remember how cool the wines tasted. And there was one, an expensive bottle I ended up buying, that when I tasted it, I felt like I was flying…
You can follow the Swirl Girls online at PBPulse.com and on Twitter @SwirlGirls