If you’re anything like me, the extended lockdown, relentless virus-anxiety and boiling-over societal rage is probably making concepts like “Father’s Day” feel even more hollow and weird and uncomfortable than they do in a “normal” year. Our fallback activities and traditions have probably been disrupted, and maybe it also feels trivial and puny to think about performative-gratitude holidays that maybe feel like they exist to sell stuff.
And yet. Maybe you’re a dad, or maybe your children have a dad-and maybe you have a dad. Whoever the dads are in your life, their dad-ness could do with a little acknowledgment. Those of us who survived to adulthood largely (not always, to be sure) have a dad-person to thank for that. Mine worked his butt off to ensure I got an education without drowning in debt. He taught me to manage money and seek equity and justice. He read me poetry every day of my life when I was little. He inspired me to fall in love with gardening and horticulture. He has never stopped bragging about my accomplishments to the guys at work. He still slips me latte money on the sly. When the school principal called home to ask why on earth my dad had sent me to third grade with a live mole in a grocery bag, he was genuinely disappointed in my teacher’s total failure of curiosity or inventiveness and couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t welcome an agitated wild mammal into her classroom for study.
Whoever the dads in your life are, they’ve influenced you in countless ways, and it’s nice to acknowledge that. Most of us don’t have a particularly limitless range of options for material acknowledgment (local favorite restaurant is still out of commission; ballpark not a thing; money scarce; general malaise-confusion-public-health-meltdown issues) but happily, if you can swing it and the dad in your life is a fan of “liquid tribute,” you have some fun options.
I confess it: “natural wine” doesn’t work for me as a descriptor. It feels confusing and oblique, and I kind of reject the implication that most wine is … well, unnatural. But, for those of you just joining us, “natties” aren’t 100% strictly defined but broadly speaking they are low-tech wines made with organic or biodynamic fruit, wild yeast and no additives-they aren’t fined and filtered, and in general they’re made with a “nothing added, nothing removed” philosophy. They’re a diverse and sometimes mysterious category, and some of them can be polarizing, or difficult to find, so it’s a productive area to try a curation service that sources them for you and ships them to your door all vetted and hand picked.
MYSA’s mission is to do just that, and they’ve got a great, interesting range of small producers from all over the world. They let you shop for yourself (so if I wanted to, I could get my dad hooked on my favorite skin-contact Roussanne from Donkey and Goat) or subscribe to their club and try whatever mystery bottles they select for you. I tried this and got a Macabeo from Rioja, a rosé from Maryland and a South African pet-nat. All three were excellent. Amos Baneres’s still Macabeo “Missatge en una Ampolla” is an expressive skin contact wine with a rich, hazy gold color, sexy texture and striking mineral characteristics. Testalonga’s “I Am the Ninja” is a subtly effervescent and refreshingly low alcohol bubbly that begs to be drunk in sunlight-it’s a love letter to orange trees, with notes of neroli, petitgrain, and mandarin zest. And Old Westminster’s “Take It Easy” rosé took me a few sips to be able to relate to, but it ended up totally seducing me with its concentrated, almost penetrating bouquet of sage blossoms, saltwater, sour cherries and roses. MYSA has a huge range of interesting wines. If the dad in your life is looking for a new preoccupation, natural winemaking might fit the bill and these guys will keep him hooked up regularly or as a one-off.
SommSelect, a wine club out of Sonoma with various subscription and shopping options, has a fun option for the know-it-all dad: a blind tasting featuring six bottles from “classic regions.” The bottles will arrive wrapped in black tissue with instructions for how to conduct a blind tasting. They offer this as a monthly service (the six bottles a month will run you about $200, which is not in everyone’s ongoing budget for mystery wine), but you can do it on a one-off basis for Father’s Day too. If the dad in your life loves being Mister In-The-Know on wines, he will probably love presiding over a well-curated blind tasting.
Man Crates are by no means drink-specific, and you should check them out if you have a need for dudely gifts in the “grilling” or “sportsball” categories as well, but I just fielded a sample gin making (or rather: infusing) kit from them and I have to say, it’s pretty cute. The law still officially frowns upon civilian distilling, but these guys have come up with a “just add vodka” alternative, and can furnish the craft-spirit dad in your life with a fun little project. You get nifty glass bottles and little cannisters of classic gin botanicals like dried citrus peels, juniper berries, grains of paradise, star anise, allspice and angelica among others (nothing is stopping you from foraging your own additions if that’s your thing). So you can play around with ratios and infusion timing and make a gin that’s totally your own. I haven’t finished a batch yet at the time of writing this but everything smells pretty great. And if gin isn’t the jam of the dad in your life, you might-should check them out for their other booze-related offerings; they have wine and beer and whiskey crates as well.