Meeting Martha Stewart is exactly what you think meeting Martha Stewart will be like. She talks just like she talks on television, she looks just like she looks on television, she wears pieces from her QVC line just like she does on television (which does very well when she goes on during inclement weather and everyone is stuck at home, in case you were wondering). One wishes one could comment on what she smells like, but if you’re someone who was afraid to get too close to her lest you anger her or the mirage of Martha Stewart disappear in a puff of smoke, one can’t comment on that. (After the event, Jezebel’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd asked Clover what Martha smelled like and she responded, “like warmth.”)
Most importantly, Martha Stewart knows as much as she seems to know. Those who have followed her are aware that she’s a proverbial endless fountain of information on all aspects of better living, and one of her latest shared knowledge bases is wine. If before you could eat like Martha and dress like Martha and make a home look as good as Martha’s, now you can drink like Martha drinks, without leaving the comfort of your home, and for less than $30 a bottle. We learned about her recently launched Martha Stewart Wine Co. in one of the most unremarkable, while also being hideously ugly, rooms probably on the planet, in the Jacob Javits Center in New York City last week, as Martha was promoting the company at the VinExpo. We wanted to talk to her about rosé, and we did, as we drank some quite honestly great 2016 Bernard Magrez Côtes de Provence Rosé ($22.99) and she talked and watched us drink it, because she had already been tasting and it was the middle of a Monday. We pick up there. Here is doing rosé season right, with Martha Stewart.
CLOVER HOPE AND KATE DRIES: It’s delicious.
MARTHA STEWART: Well, we have eight different rosés on our website now at the Martha Stewart Wine Company. We provide lots of information about the various wines that we offer, we provide recipe cards, we provide serving instructions, pairing instructions. But not so complicated, I’m trying very hard not to make it complicated for the customer, because we have too many other complicated things we have to pay attention to. [Chuckles] So we do the hard work, we find the really nice affordable wines and then we provide those to our customers. And it’s going well, it’s going really well. They love it.
KATE: You’re such a big brand, you have your name on a lot of things. What was your thought process about deciding to move into wine, and in this way?
MARTHA: Well, we’ve written 90 books, most of those focusing on food. Wine is a sort of inherent part of a meal nowadays, and it was just a very natural transition to go from the food world into the spirits world. We’re all so busy, and I really feel like going into a wine store and trying to remember to have wine at home, just have it, for many people is just too complicated. This way, it’s sent to you and you can trust what we’re choosing. They’re very well-chosen wines. And they’re very affordable. I’m sometimes shocked, my friends are shocked, they say, oh I just ordered—one of my friends ordered something like 20 cases of wine, because she wanted to have a wine cellar. And she is so happy. Because her husband died a few years ago, she was married to Marvin Hamlisch—
MARTHA: And he used to take care of all the wines, and she doesn’t have him anymore. But she drinks wine. And so now she feels, oh if Martha says it’s okay, it’s okay! So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to solve the everyday problems, and it absolutely, that kind of help, goes with wine, as well as it goes with choosing the right bed linens, the right kitchen equipment, all of that. So it fits in.
CLOVER: What’s your philosophy specifically on rosé season? Do you feel like it’s year-round?
MARTHA: Oh yeah, I’m totally a year-round person on rosé. And it’s appealing to more and more people. I think a lot of people didn’t even know about it for a long time because the rosé that was offered was either Domaine Ott, which was like, $160 a bottle, or Mondelli, which is a little darker in color and a little more mysterious in a way, and probably a little less expensive but still expensive. And now you can buy a really good rosé for somewhere around $15, $18, and enjoy it icy cold any time of year.
CLOVER: If I’m choosing dark and light, what do I need to consider as far as choosing?
MARTHA: Well they’re different mixes, and depending on where the rosé comes from, there’s different regions where rosé is made. We just tasted one that was made with—what were the two, the one upstairs?
THOMAS JOSEPH (Director of Food Development at Martha Stewart Living): The one upstairs was a merlot and a cab blend.
MARTHA: Yeah, the merlot and cab blend for a rosé, which is kind of an odd combination. And this is a grenache and a—
THOMAS JOSEPH: Cinsault.
MARTHA: Oh it is, okay. And that’s so delicious and light and crispy and flavorful and it goes with pretty much anything you’d want to eat it with.
I just learned something new. See that nice bottle over there?
[Martha points to a large bottle of yellow-colored white wine.]
CLOVER: That’s huge.
MARTHA: That’s sauternes. I said, “I love sauternes.” And he said, “We’re serving it now over ice.” You would never put sauternes on ice before, and now they’re serving sauternes on ice, and serving it with cheeses, especially blue cheeses, and I just tasted it with the cheese, it was so good, I can’t wait to have a party with that one. But we’re going to have sauternes in our company too, we’re definitely adding it. Because that’s something new and different. And I think winemakers are looking for ways to popularize the use of wine in different ways.
KATE: Wine on ice is something I like to do sometimes and then feel really guilty about, because you’re not supposed to. [Laughs]
MARTHA: Don’t feel guilty! I often put ice in my rosé. Just to, well first of all, keep it really cold on a hot night.
KATE: Yeah I like it cold, too.
MARTHA: But also it makes it for me, I don’t drink a lot. So when I drink I like to nurse a glass for awhile. But it prolongs it for awhile, it’s good. You don’t have to feel guilty, if they’re putting ice in sauternes and ice in cognac, forget it! You can have ice in your wine. [Laughs] But again, this is not the rarest of the rare so you can do that and still feel fine and drink more.
CLOVER: Which is great. How do you make your selections? Do you have a checklist?
MARTHA: Oh we know what we want to have basically of the span we want to have, from the darker stronger reds to the lightest whites and rosés. And Thomas Joseph and I are sent a variety of wines on a weekly basis, by Zac [Brandenberg], who runs the distribution of the wine company. And Zac has his tentacles all over the world and to the best makers and we are sent these—how many on average are we tasting a week now?
THOMAS JOSEPH: Dozens.
MARTHA: Dozens a week, and one week [whispers] we didn’t choose any. And I don’t know if it was because it was really hot when the wines were being delivered and maybe something happened to them, we never got to the bottom of that, but we didn’t like any of them. And, so what? The next week, we chose three that we liked. And Thomas and I have agreed pretty much 100 percent on the wines. And so we both have areally good palate and we have good taste, and our boss over here, Zac, does not argue with us too much.
CLOVER: Has your taste developed or changed over time?
MARTHA: Oh I’ve had a very good palate for many years, many years. I used to teach in the Napa Valley, and I was a friend of Mr. Mondavi’s, the senior Mr. Mondavi [Ed. Note. He founded the aptly named Robert Mondavi Winery]. And he would invite me to wine tastings because I always agreed with him, and in blind tastings, we would always come to the same conclusions. So he thought I had a good palate. He was the one who told me I had a good palate, and I got more confidence after that about knowing what to taste.
ClOVER: And what do you think people should look for when they’re tasting?
MARTHA: Well, is it pleasant? Do you want to have another sip? Develop a liking for specific kinds of tastes when you take a sip. It’s developmental, I think. It’s also the wine itself. You can get a pretty horrible wine and know right away that it’s not what you want to drink. Just the scent of a wine; there are some wines that smell so bad you don’t even know until you stick your nose in the glass and take a whiff that it smells bad. But they do, some of them really are bad. And I think people are sipping and not paying attention a lot of times. But you can develop a very nice appreciation for wine if you sip it correctly.
CLOVER: I immediately knew I liked this one.
MARTHA: Well, good! That’s a good start. And you could put ice in and I wouldn’t mind.
KATE: I wanted to ask you, slightly changing course: you started doing Facebook Lives a couple years ago now, and we wrote about it very early on—
KATE: Because I thought, I love these, these are so fun. For you, you’ve been doing television for so long, it must have felt really natural, but I’d love to hear a little bit about that evolution.
MARTHA: Oh it was like liberation!
MARTHA: Oh it was liberating to do Facebook Lives. It still is. Although we’ve gotten a little bit more complicated because we wanted to make sure the quality is exactly right. But a handheld iPhone and no fancy lighting and you can just ad-lib, you don’t have to have a teleprompter, and really, you can do a half-hour TV show with five people, where it used to take a hundred people to do a half-hour TV show. And the production value is not the value that I had on my Martha show, but it’s very good and it’s very well liked and very well watched. We’re getting numbers that are sometimes the same numbers we got for the TV show.
KATE: And you’re also getting that immediate feedback from the audience, right?
MARTHA: Oh yes, you can answer questions immediately and get comments instantaneously and that’s what’s exciting about it. Although there are too many Facebook Lives now.
MARTHA: I mean you can’t keep watching Facebook Lives all day long. I mean you could if you want to.
CLOVER: I could watch yours all day long.
KATE: I totally could too, they’re very soothing.
MARTHA: You know what I mean, though; there’s so many things to watch, so many things vying for our eyeballs. But it’s still fun to do, I like it.
CLOVER: I learned about mayo on grilled cheese from yours.
MARTHA: Right, just slather your mayo on for that nice crispy crust.
CLOVER: Another rosé question: I’ve read a lot about barbecue and rosé. What’s good for a summer meal?
MARTHA: Well, I like it with cold soup; I like it with salads especially because it’s so hard to find a wine that pairs well with salads. This is very good with it. And it’s also good through the whole meal, I think, even though it’s a dessert.
CLOVER: Can you tell us a story about a time you had a blast drinking wine—or a bad experience?
MARTHA: I don’t think I’ve had too many bad experiences drinking good wine. Wine is always part of the meal. I think it’s more on vacations that we enjoy our wines. Like we went on safari last year; I took my grandchild to Botswana. And we had wine at lunch, and then a siesta, then we go out for more safari, and then we had wine at dinner, and then you sleep really well. Don’t hear the large animals, the water buffalos and stuff coming up to our huts. But we had a great time. Those are the nice memories, when you can just finish off a bottle of wine and feel very nice without being inebriated. Just happy.
KATE: Especially surrounded by wild animals, that sounds pretty fun.
MARTHA: Oh it was the elephants, they came up to the house. They could have easily knocked over the house! But they didn’t. They were just rustling around.