Melissa Gisler Modanlou
founder, Rock Juice
San Francisco (and, currently, ITALY)
now, I am better about saying no to things, and realizing we don’t have to do it all.
maybe you read our first Q&A with Melissa, and (like us!) haven’t been able to stop thinking about what she said or how she lives her life since. the short version? “don’t save the good stuff for the weekends” is her mantra — and owning a badass natural wine company (and summering in Italy!) is her reality. yeah. but a lot’s changed in the last two years, so we checked back in with Melissa for another dose of LA DOLCE VITA. and, well, consider us obsessed all over again.
so! what’s changed since we last caught up? the summer of 2019 (a different time if ever there was one)?
“well, COVID. my business blew up last year with everyone drinking wine at home, and having more to go down the rabbit hole of wine. i think this lead more people to discover the truth about wine and find their way to natural. so since we last talked, Rock Juice has doubled in size, and we have a grown-up office in Jackson Square, which is beyond exciting. i love getting dressed and going to an office IRL! on a personal note, we’re remodeling our home and living through it, which is it’s own special sort of chaos.”
yeah. we are living in crazy times. what is life like right now for you?
“pretty sweet, actually. i’m on a plane to Italy as i write, a date i’ve eagerly awaiting since April 2020, when we canceled last summer’s trip.”
your summer plans, summed up in three words?
“summer in Italy! ever since i opened my wine bar in 2005, i’ve been traveling to Italy to visit producers, and, when the kids came along, we started taking them. it’s become our family tradition, and takes the place of summer camps. i love sharing this experience with them, and immersing them so completely in another culture for a real chunk of time.”
something you’re doing this summer that you couldn’t last summer?
“jumping off a boat into the Mediterranean, eating focaccia on the Ligurian coast, and devouring real Neopolitan pizza in Naples! but, honestly, the best park is getting back to the research and development (and inspiration!) of my work, which is being back in the vineyards, breaking bread with the humans behind the wine, learning their stories. this is what keeps me going for the rest of the year.”
a takeaway from the past year that you will keep with you?
“despite the pain and suffering for so many last year, i do feel there were many positives — for which i am grateful. having that extended downtime with my boys (age 7, 10 now) was such a blessing. i also appreciated the pared-down social and family calendar. pre-pandemic, there were so many activities and events, it was hard to keep up and make time for self-care. taking all the extras away, i found myself not bored but happy to have the gift of time back. now, I am better about saying no to things, and realizing we don’t have to do it all. self-care saved me in 2020, and i’m prioritizing it moving forward.”
we’re halfway through 2021 (!!). What’s the single best thing you bought, read, did, listened to, saw, cooked and /or dreamed up so far this year?
“hard question, so many great things! living with no real kitchen through this remodel, i bought the mac-daddy Breville Toaster oven that has an air-fry feature, which is EVERYTHING! put anything in there (sweet potato fries, falafel, Trader Joe’s cauliflower pancakes [genius], frozen artichoke hearts coated in coconut flour) that you want crunchy-crusted but moist inside, and it comes out perfect every time — without being bathed in oil. mostly i don’t even toss in oil — sometimes a light spritz of extra virgin olive oil — and we’re good to go.”
the wine you are sipping on all summer long?
“another hard question — i love them all! but since i’m summering in Italy, it’ll have to be something coastal Italian and salty — like this one HERE, an all-time fave (and crazy natural, no added sulfite) rosé from Sicily that tastes like a wine version of a Negroni — bitter orange, grapefruit nirvana in a low-alcohol package (10.5%!)”
random item you can’t live without?
“my rebounder (mini-trampoline), which i use for the cardio portion of my home workout of choice: Taryn Toomey’s The Class, a crazy combo of dance cardio with serious (like three-minutes solid on glutes) resistance training and mindfulness. it’s addictive and effective!”
piece of époque on current rotation?
“the black mainstay shirt, which saw me through the long flight and is now providing sleek style and sun protection on the island of Ponza!”
all-around life hack you swear by?
“Sakara meal delivery service for lunch has saved me during this remodel — loads of greens and veggies in creative dishes so beautifully presented from a seasonal, revolving menu. It makes me look forward to lunchtime! #nomoresaddesklunches”
not-so guilty pleasure?
“infrared saunas. twice weekly. the only way I deeply sweat and it feels so good. cannot live without.”
ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?
“i’m just so happy right now! it's amazing how much more i’m appreciating the good things in my life after living through 2020.”