Once upon a time, I had the bright idea to do “Whole 30.”
The concept is to eliminate items from your diet that are considered unhealthy and/or have the tendency to cause inflammation for 30 days. The list of forbidden foods includes dairy, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, legumes … and alcohol.
Years ago, I lost 95 pounds living the South Beach lifestyle (in short: limited whole grains, lean meat and cheese, limited fruit, “good” fats and carbs), but my recent wine- and cheese-fueled escapades have caused the number on the scale to begin creeping up. In a fit of desperation, I latched onto the ubiquitous Whole 30 plan for a jump-start.
It’s only 30 days, I said. It can’t be that bad, I said. And because misery loves company, I cajoled my husband, Shannon, into Whole 30-ing with me.
I miscalculated just two teeny, tiny things. When I started South Beach, I didn’t own a wine bar. And after two weeks on South Beach, wine — in moderation — is permitted. Meanwhile, the Whole 30 book lectures that even a sip of wine is cause to start the whole thing over.
When I told friends and our regulars what I planned to do, the looks of shock and horror on their faces told me a bit about how much they thought I actually drank. To be fair, the number of days I’ve consumed wine over the last decade has far outweighed the days I didn’t. But I felt confident. I felt empowered. I was ready to detox my body! Or so I thought.
Day 1: I inadvertently selected a challenging day to start. I’m pouring wines for about 30 guests at our Crazy About Cabs Mini Workshop. It’s all my favorite types of Michigan wine: cabernet francs and cabernet sauvignons and dry red blends. The smell of the wine seems to be purposefully, torturously, wafting up from the glasses as I pour. The only person who has it worse than me is Shannon, who actually is teaching the class while holding a glass — without so much as a sip.
Day 2: I’m drinking LaCroix sparkling water (Whole 30 compliant!) out of a champagne flute, wishing it were M. Lawrence Sandpiper.
Day 3: I’ve been eating grapes like crazy. They don’t taste as good as the fermented kind.
Day 5: I manage to pour my co-worker Rochele a post-shift glass of Verterra Gewürztraminer without cringing and it feels like a small victory. But it seems blasphemous to have a LaCroix in hand instead of my usual Michigan pinot noir while watching The Walking Dead.
Day 6: I talk Shannon into seeing Fifty Shades Darker. I turn to him midway through the movie and hiss, “Are they going to drink wine in every scene?” Wine is more ubiquitous than kinky toys in this movie. Giant, luscious, jewel-toned glasses of wine. I’m drooling, but probably not for the same reason as the rest of the moviegoers.
Day 7: As I transcribe winemaker’s notes for our wine club shipments, I find my mouth hanging open at descriptions like: “Black raspberry and fresh plum carry fruitful aromas into flavors of pomegranate and currant, which lead into vanilla bean and hints of violet. Lush tannins impart elegance with an uplifting finish.” (Shady Lane Cellars’ Cabernet Franc, if you’re interested.) Also, I catch myself absently musing that our big, pretty pinot noir glasses, neglected on the kitchen counter, look lonely.
Day 8: I’m pouring wine for our wine club members’ pickup parties. I’m chugging LaCroix.
Day 10: I impulsively make hand puppets out of wine bags at the tasting room. My co-workers decide I’ve lost my mind from lack of wine.
Day 12: I weather another episode of The Walking Dead sans wine. Two more to go.
Day 13: The automatic, aching cravings for wine have decreased, but I’m still thinking about it fondly, like an old boyfriend with whom I separated on good terms, but hope to see again someday.
Day 15: Passing my wine rack has triggered merely a vague, nostalgic feeling the past few days, but today, as I pour wine for another wine club event, the ravenous cravings come roaring back with a vengeance. I’m halfway done with Whole 30; glass half full or half empty? Fifteen days behind me — but 15 wineless days still ahead.
Day 17: Two weeks from today, I’ll be drinking my first glass of wine in 30 days!
Day 19: Today I have the double whammy of watching guests decorate sugar cookies and drink wine during an event at the tasting room. Strangely, I am more fixated on wanting to eat a Leo’s Greek salad with a generous sprinkle of feta cheese on top. I binge on a bag of pistachios as a substitute.
Day 21: I dream about drinking chardonnay, a wine I don’t consume much of “in real life.” I ponder whether my wine tastes will be different at the end of this experiment.
Day 22: As I reach for a case of LaCroix at the grocery store, I realize that time previously dedicated to the wine aisle has been reallocated to foraging for very specific flavors in the sparkling water aisle. (Coconut or lime, for the win.)
Day 26: I rent the movie Gone Girl. I drool as the guy who played Doogie Howser pours himself a seemingly bottomless glass of wine. I want to jump through the screen and grab it. Afterward, I weather what I suspect will be my last episode of The Walking Dead ever watched without wine in hand.
Day 27: I attend a sign-painting party at a co-worker’s home. Everyone is drinking wine. I ask Rochele if I can just sniff hers. She already knows I’m weird and obliges.
Day 28: I’m stuck in jury duty at Macomb County Circuit Court. Waiting in the jury pool, my tablemates are slowly killing me by discussing Mexican food at length. The woman across from me is touting cheese enchiladas with extra cheese as the best thing on the menu at El Charro. If she says the word “cheese” again, I may overturn the table. She’s also talking about peach margaritas, but thankfully, not wine. Not that it really matters to me; I always think wine when I think cheese.
Day 29: If there’s any day I need wine, it’s today. There is a fire in the store next door to our Shelby Township tasting room. No one is injured, but our place suffers extensive smoke damage. I tell the Facebook world I need a wine IV; a paramedic friend offers to assist. Everyone tells me to quit Whole 30 early and start guzzling. I’m too stubborn to cave.
Day 31: The day that felt like it would never arrive is finally here. I wake up giddy, like a child on Christmas morning, and announce to my sleeping husband, “We can drink wine today!” I joke about drinking mimosas with breakfast, but I figure I’ll wait until after my nighttime work shift, so I can savor it. But once I get to work, I can’t help myself; I pour a tiny sip of Cody Kresta Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, and it pretty much tastes like the best thing to ever touch my tongue. I find myself appreciating it instead of just downing it. My co-workers snap a picture for posterity.
When I get home, I make a beeline for the Hawthorne Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir I’ve been dreaming of for 30 days and pour a glass that can only be described as “generous.” It tastes beyond delicious; it tastes almost magical. “Isn’t this good?” I gush to Shannon, who wants me to shut up so he can hear what they’re saying on 24: Legacy. “Isn’t this so good?”
I’m thankful that my 30 days dry seem to have taken me back to my early wine-drinking days, when I truly savored what I was sipping instead of mindlessly downing it, taking it for granted. I like to think about the winery, the winemaker, the grapes, and the various flavors and aromas, appreciating all the work that went into it as I drink. I think my month without wine has helped me regain that reverence and gratitude for something that’s become such a big and inextricable part of my life.
That said, there is no way I will ever go this long without wine again.
Cortney Casey is a certified sommelier and co-founder of MichiganByTheBottle.com, a website and online community that promotes the entire Michigan wine industry. She’s also co-owner of Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room, tasting rooms operated in partnership with multiple Michigan wineries, located in Shelby Township, Royal Oak, and Auburn Hills. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.