Each week, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Stefani Jackenthal is the author of Wanderlust Wining, an adventure journalist for print, TV, and radio and an elite international endurance racer. She has contributed to The New York Times, Wine Enthusiast, Outside, Conde’ Nast Traveler, Shape, Women’s Health, Fitness, Prevention, Runner’s World, Marie Claire, and Oxygen amongst others. Stefani penned The Complete Idiot’s Guide Rock Climbing and has contributed to books including The New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything. She has also reported for NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday” as well as reported on-air for TV. Stefani is the founder and president of the wine events company NTS Wine Tasting, LLC, which produces corporate and private wine tastings, dinners and educational wine series. You can learn more about Stefani on www.stefjack.com and www.wanderlustwining.com
How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
I come from a drink-enjoying family, so my exposure to adult-bevvies goes deep. My first memory of tasting booze must reach back to when I was around 4 years old, licking the whiskey sour off the Maraschino cherries passed to me from my Mom, Grandmother and Aunt Guggy at our Sunday night family dinners at Moby Dick Seafood restaurant in Rockland County. It continued from there. In addition to raiding my parents’ liquor cabinet when I was 13 years old, my mom remarried. Her second husband moved into our home, which was an old fieldstone structure, and he built a wine cellar in the basement (fieldstone keeps temps cool for wine storage) and wine become a part of many of our meals and weekends watching Sunday football. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I suppose my growing up with wine as a “food group” was somewhat European and has given me my love for the fruit of the vine.
It’s an important part of every family gathering and a celebration. But the palate discrimination varies. My Dad likes “a bargain,” so my brother Ron and I know when we’re visiting Dad we better bring wine if we want drink anything decent. The guys like to kick off the festivities with martinis, while I like my bourbon on occasion – I prefer to stick with wine.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
In addition to running a wine tasting company and writing about wine, I’m a competitive endurance athlete so cannot (nor would I want to) drink every day. I love wine, sake … OK, well-made bourbon and vodkas too … but I don’t consume every day. When I go out to dinner, wine’s (or sake with Asian) typically part of the meal. And, spirits every now and again. But I almost never open a bottle of wine alone at home or pour a drink. I most enjoy alcohol when I’m sharing it with a friend or boyfriend.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
I was a hardcore drinker in college, often drinking myself black and passing out. All of the energy I put into endurance racing later in life (think Adventure racing, Ironman, 6-day running races across South Africa’s Kalahari Desert) was put into drinking earlier in my life. After college and before going to business school, I scared the hell out of myself by getting wicked drunk and crashing my car on the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was a wake up call that pulled me out of my self-destructive ways and made me realize how lucky I was to be alive – and that I may have a problem. I initially took 6 months off drinking to clean out and do a check-in for what was going on emotionally and chemically. I went a year and half without touching alcohol and during that time discover endurance cycling. Finding happiness with cycling as a means to get my “ya-yas” out, my life blossomed and I ultimately realized that my hard-core drinking was emotional (not chemical) and I slowly incorporated alcohol back into my world – but for fun and enjoyment rather than abuse.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
I just love wine! It’s part of my soul. Its such an alive thing that takes patience, artistry and a lot of help from Mother Nature to develop into something truly special.
What do you like most about drinking?
I love sharing drinks with friends, and absolutely love sharing a bottle of outstanding wine with friends who love wine as much as I do.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
I would be sassy, sexy Burgundy crafted by a brilliant winemaker from a tiny chateau in France.