Walk the aisles of any Home Goods, Marshall's, or T.J. Maxx and you'll find a seemingly endless selection of decorative housewares adorned with wine-related puns:
How Merlot Can You Go?
Time to Wine Down
On Cloud Wine
You get the idea. These depots of animal-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers supply Wine Moms of America with the tea towels, wine glasses, decorative signs, and more that let the world know there isn't a white zinfandel they wouldn't take straight to the dome.
While the production side of the wine industry is dominated by men, wine is frequently marketed to women with branding that enforces gender stereotypes. But there is truth to Bed Bath and Beyond's firmly-held notion that women love wine; it's women—particularly Millennial women—who are increasingly driving trends in wine consumption. Netflix's latest comedy, Wine Country, dives right into all this, poking fun at the clichés of middle-aged women enjoying wine, but also celebrating the role that wine plays in female friendships. Because hey, even though a bottle of Whispering Angel may be tacky, there are still a lot of us out there who are down to split one with our BFFs.
Wine Country follows six longtime best friends—played by SNL alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, Paula Pell, and Emily Spivey—on a girls' trip to California's Napa Valley to celebrate with Rebecca (Dratch) on her 50th birthday. There, among the endless wine tastings and cabernet-stained teeth, they open up and air out the issues they're facing with one another and themselves. Directed by Poehler, the film is loosely based on a real girls' trip to Napa for Dratch's actual 50th birthday, where some of these very same SNL queens made some real... pour choices. (Hold on to your chardonnay, because we're going full Wine Mom.)
"It was really based on this real trip to Napa, drinking wine, connecting, getting bonded. Getting to see everybody in person and taking a break from work and everything; that’s the origin of the movie," co-writer Liz Cackowski told VICE.
Wine, as Cackowski puts it, is the ultimate relaxer for the stressed, tired, or anyone who has ever described themselves as "so done." A chilled white was practically an extension of Tammy Taylor's character on Friday Night Lights, and Scandal's Olivia Pope made sure to handle a nice red after a long day of cleaning up other people's messes. For the stars of Wine Country, wine is a tool for unwinding, but also for bonding.
"I have a couple of moms that I can go to with a glass of wine and talk straight dope about parenting and partnering," said Gasteyer.
"We just drink a lot of wine. Moms drink wine. It’s one of my favorite things, getting together with girlfriends and sharing a bottle," said Cackowski. "It just goes together for some reason with girlfriends and sharing about everything that’s going on in your life, to me." It adds an extra sense of celebration to hanging with friends in your least stained stretch pants or toasting to a promotion.
While normalizing drinking at all hours of the day isn't necessarily a great thing, shaming women over their penchant for unwinding with that good grape stuff is a tired endeavor; wine is just one more thing we can't enjoy in peace. There are some people in this world who just want to pickle their insides in Cupcake brand sauvignon blanc while watching John Tucker Must Die for the 12th time without fear of being maligned for it. Given that drinking is widely enjoyed by folks all over the gender spectrum, feminizing wine and making it the calling card for basic-ness is rooted in a sexism that is impossible to ignore. As Dratch very obviously points out, "wine isn't just for girls," and while there's humor in those stereotypes, it's okay to like the things we like.
Wine Country leans into the joy in imbibing with friends, delves into how sharing personal truths speak to the complexity of womanhood and female friendship. It's while sipping on some white wine that Rebecca admits that Abby (Poehler) is being a pushy pain in the ass about her birthday. Wine also fuels Abby into confiding in Jenny (Spivey) that Rebecca's husband is a complete jerk, and Jenny agrees. It goes to show that there is a sense of freedom to found in embracing your inner Wine Mom.
But as the characters learn, it's never a good idea to keep things bottled up. It's during a wine-wasted soak in a jacuzzi that Naomi (Rudolph) and Jenny (Spivey) pledge to have each other's backs forever. The girls' trip prompts Naomi to admit to being scared of possibly life-changing tests results from her doctor, and it's during a tasting that Abby comes clean about losing her job and feeling embarrassed about it. Sure, this is just the setting for a story about friends, and sure, it's a little corny, but that's okay. In depicting grown women—partners in wine, if you will—who don't have it all figured out, the film explores the comfort and counsel that comes with sipping cabernet with one another. Chardonnay? More like chardo-yay! [Immediately bashes head with bottle of Barefoot bubbly red moscato]
"I just feel like us ladies deserve a treat at the end of the day for doing what we’ve done, so whether that’s wine or like an ice cream sandwich or whatever you’re going for, you need your treat moments. My favorite of those is wine," said Cackowski.
Like a sign in a white lady's shiplap-covered kitchen once said, Wine Not?
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Follow Alex Zaragoza, who would like a job writing wine puns for Marshall's merchandise, on Twitter .