founder, Rock Juice

@rockjuicesf | @winewithdinner

San Francisco


“this is the time for chilling with lots of good food, wine, hiking and rowdy games of Cards Against Humanity.”

we always look for women living big, full, beautiful lives — and sommelier Melissa Gisler Modanlou might have one of the biggest, fullest, most beautiful lives in all the land. she champions the earth, she summers in Italy, she runs a business. she travels with kids, she’s changing the natural wine industry, she’s curious about the world around her. 

here’s why she does it, what’s changed since COVID — and what’s next.


what’s life like right now for you?

“’tis the season for holiday drinking, so this is the busiest time of the year for Rock Juice. lots of natural wine being shipped all over the country, with all of the logistics challenges that come with that. (thanks, UPS!) but it's exciting to see the adoption rate for the natural wine category skyrocketing, and to be part of this movement.”


what’s the latest and greatest with Rock Juice?

“direct importing wine from Italy! i’m working with an importer partner, an awesome lady with her own small import company, to bring in wine exclusively for Rock Juice. which means i now have a clear path to sharing the new producer discoveries from the summer scouting trips with Rock Juice clients, and that i’ll be able to offer a roster of super small natural wines brand new to the US market. with the volume of natural wine we're selling, and the new competition for existing supply in the US, direct importing just makes so much sense.”


your holiday plans?

“i’m very fortunate to still have my grandparents around at 90 and 94, healthy and living independently, so we spend the holidays in SoCal where they, and the whole extended family, are based. we drive down with the kids and a car packed with wine, and spend a week at my mom's house (sleeping in my old bedroom!), and make the rounds seeing everybody. if we're lucky, there might even be a beach day. then we return to the Bay Area and head to Anderson Valley for the long NYE weekend, where we rent out these gorgeous, soulful cabins at a place called The Madrones, in the middle of a redwood grove, with our besties. this is the time for chilling with lots of good food, wine, hiking and rowdy games of Cards Against Humanity.”


what red should we all be drinking this season? 

white? the perfect bites to go with? playlist?!

“hard question, because i have so many favorites! but if i had to choose one red, it would be Judith Beck's Hunny Bunny, a light, chillable red from a badass lady producer in Austria. she's biodynamic and adds no sulfites anywhere in the process, yet her wines are super clean and expressive. for white, i’m going with a gorgeous orange wine from the Czeck Republic, because we all need more skin contact this time of year, right? the Krasna Hora La Blanca is also certified biodynamic and subtly aromatic, with sunny stone fruit, citrus and a briny finish that's so perfect with an appetizer spread featuring all of the good things — salty nuts, cheese, bruschetta, and, my favorite, fried olives! playlist? well, i am a holiday geek and have Christmas tunes on constant rotation, but these wines are a bit edgier, so perhaps some Wilco? Hunny Bunny sounds like the name of a song that Jeff Tweedy would write…”


’tis the season to think about the year ahead. what are you excited for?

“all of the travel that is back ON! making up for lost time, so there's skiing in Deer Valley, an adults getaway to Mexico City, a wedding in Cabo and then Italy for the summer. i crave the adventure of travel, and even love the planning process, so having trips on the calendar makes me really happy.”


what are you wearing?

the mainstay shirt in black! i wore this all summer in Italy as a swimsuit coverup, dressed up with the one pencil skirt and the go-to top for chilly train and plane rides. and now, in San Francisco's soggy gray weather, it's perfect tucked into jeans or wide-leg trousers. so flexible and flattering!”


shop melissa'S picks

best book you read lately? 

“just finished The Lost City of the Monkey God, a true account of the discovery of an epic but completely unknown civilization in Honduras that rivaled the Mayans. at one point, i wanted to be an archeologist, so this subject matter is super up my alley, but what was especially fascinating was the cause of the demise of this culture, embedded in which is a hair-raising foretelling of our own global pandemic. absolutely riveting!”


podcast discovered? 

“SmartLess with Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes. hysterical and actually very smart.”


meal made? 

“i’m still thinking about the whole roasted cauliflower with Zhoug and a creamy tahini sauce that i recently made. you barely steam the whole head of cauliflower first, then coat it in EVOO and a bunch of spices and roast it until caramelized, then douse it liberally with the spicy green Zhoug and creamy tahini. heaven!”

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