Hannah Grossman

Wine and Song with Hannah Grossman


“Dreams” | Fleetwood Mac | Rumours
released in 1977, the band’s only number-one hit. But really, this song was written by Stevie Nicks, alone at a piano in a stylish bedroom studio belonging to Sly and the Family Stone. Fleetwood Mac was experiencing a tumultuous emotional train wreck only achievable by coked-out musicians in the ‘70s. Underneath the music, in the kernel of every song, way in the back of the studio when they were recording, is the ghost of the band’s past, the waning spirit of their individual relationships, and the enduring bittersweet sorrow of love.


Cigliuti | Barbera d’Alba|Vigna Serraboella | 2016


Hannah Grossman | General Manager | Perman Wines
Grossman is the new GM at Perman’s. Her path there may seem erratic and curve-bally to anyone who thinks a wine professional goes from culinary school to beverage management into a five-star restaurant as a Somme. Grossman has a degree in literature and cut her teeth in the suburbs before landing at Monteverde. Just as she was getting recognized there, Grossman withdrew from Chicago’s wine industry for half a year–an absolute wildcard of a move in a profession with such fierce competition. But a career in wine doesn’t really have a template; the paths from nowhere to bright and shining star are as varied as viticulture itself. Just like a great wine is really about where it’s grown, a great sommelier is about climate and environment and stock. Hannah Grossman comes from L.A. Her parents were punks. Her childhood was underscored by the Cramps and the Stooges and Black Flag. Grossman found post-punk, metal, and pop in her formative years, though it was decorated with the jewels of ‘70s soft rock. This sonic youth laid a solid bassline for a wine professional who seeks out unique producers the way a record collector roots through vintage vinyl. Grossman digs into the bedrock of her profession with a diligent ear cocked toward tradition and the classics while she works hard to develop a unique voice—to define, through her curation of fine wines, who she really is.
Hannah Grossman: I’m a musician.
Wine & Song: What do you play?
Hannah Grossman: I play guitar but I was vocally trained. So singing’s my forte. I come from a couple of parents who are also musically inclined. Luckily, I got that gift.
Wine & Song: Let’s listen to “Dreams.” 
Hannah Grossman: I think it’s one of Stevie Nicks’ softest, prettiest songs. It’s simple—I think I read once that she wrote it in about ten minutes on a cheap little keyboard.
Wine & Song: I hate those kinds of people.
Hannah Grossman: I know! They’re like “Yeah, I wrote that in five minutes.” I’m like, gaaaah!
Wine and Song: When was the first time you heard Fleetwood Mac?
Hannah Grossman: Not growing up because my parents think their music’s garbage. They’re musicians–
Wine and Song: Do we know them? 
Hannah Grossman: Oh, no. They were just local musicians in L.A. My dad was in punk rock bands growing up and then they were in a poppy rock band together. I got into Fleetwood Mac on my own because I really just like Stevie Nicks. 
Wine and Song: I could see people around that time getting into Danzig and Sonic Youth because their parents were playing country music. But your parents are punk so you end up listening to an overproduced ’70s band. It’s beautiful. I like that.
Hannah Grossman: I mean, what woman doesn’t like Stevie Nicks?
Wine & Song: What person doesn’t like Stevie Nicks?
Hannah Grossman: Any righteous independent woman—like, you’ve got to have a spot for Stevie Nicks in your heart.

Grossman pours the Vigna Serraboella 

Hannah Grossman: What I like about this wine, first and foremost, it’s a female-driven winery. If I’m going to pick a wine to go with Stevie Nicks, there’s got to be a woman behind it. I wracked my brain trying to think of what wine to pair. I’d already narrowed it down to female winemakers. I was thinking about these crazy satisfying, easy-drinking kinds of glou glou natural wines. Then I thought about the song and thought no, this music is not weird and natty. It’s not funky—it’s classic. Ironically, I go with an Italian wine. Go figure. Barbaresco is this highly aged, worthy wine. It ages for about four years prior to release. Then you really want to sit on it for another ten to twenty years. But what do you drink in the meantime? You drink Barbera. 
Barbaresco is so complex, but Barbera is soft and pretty and approachable. I thought, as you transition through Fleetwood Mac, the blues stuff was complex and interesting and it wasn’t for everyone; it was intellectual. I thought about that in relation to something like Barbaresco and Barolo and I thought, Well, where do you go next? What else kind of falls in line? 
You drink Barbera daily. You listen to Fleetwood Mac version 2.0 daily. I’m not listening to blues Fleetwood Mac every day—I need to be in the mood for that. But if you’re in Piedmont, you’re not drinking Barolo or Barbaresco. You’re drinking Barbera. That’s your everyday wine. “Dreams” is an everyday song. This is an everybody’s song. So is the Barbera. 
Wine & Song: What’s the other thing? The minerality? 
Hannah Grossman: Vigna Serraboella’s grown in limestone-heavy soils. That’s giving it a punch. A little bit more of that acidic factor. But it also brings this kind of salty, savory component. 
Wine & Song: I don’t understand–and help me out here. This is the third time one of you guys has called a wine salty. I don’t get it. 
Hannah Grossman: It’s kind of like putting salt on food. It makes you salivate and it kind of bumps up the flavor.
Wine & Song: So is salty a flavor or is salty an effect? 
Hannah Grossman: It’s both. 
Wine & Song: [consternation]
Hannah Grossman: I think it contributes to the acidic thing. You just think about like how in the back of your mouth it just waters a little bit. 
Wine & Song: This wine smells like Stevie Nicks. 
Hannah Grossman: I feel like if she had a cologne it would definitely be this floral. She’s a total witch. And you know she’s got all these ingredients just lying around.
Wine and Song: Right and there’d be some weird kind of magic bark in it. Is there magic in this wine by Cigliuti? What’s their magic?
Hannah Grossman: The vines are twenty-five years old. The older the vine the lower the yield, the less grape per bunch. So–more concentration, more depth, more flavor. They’re not winemakers who say “OK this is getting too old.” They’re the kind of winemakers who say, “let’s see how far we can go with something as simple as Barbera.” I think that’s interesting.
I definitely get a dried floral component. Dried as in very dried. It’s there but it’s not pungent. I think about potpourri that’s not yet been mixed with cinnamon and all that junk. It’s very delicate in there. It’s desiccated. There is still this weird earthy thing—it’s pretty but it’s dead. There’s definitely a funkiness from that. 
Wine & Song: I think funk is ideal. 
Hannah Grossman: Yeah. I mean, it’s of the earth. A traditional winemaker and natural winemaker—anyone who is a decent winemaker—should be showcasing where it’s coming from alongside the varietal. There’s also a really cool menthol note on there. There’s a very minty quality.
Wine & Song: The floral thing though. Now that you said it and since you mentioned potpourri, what does that mean to a person who doesn’t understand the esters and the chemical compounds? I realize that what I’m smelling is dried flowers and dried fruit. And you said the potpourri before the cinnamon’s been added. That’s so specific. What is it we’re smelling?
Hannah Grossman: For a while, I thought it was just Nebbiolo because when you taste for Nebbiolo you’re always told, “Look for the dry floral component. Look for the dried roses.” And you smell this, and you think: It’s not the grape. It’s the place. 


Wine & Song: I want to take you back to that glass of wine that turned you around. The glass that you went from somebody who liked wine a-little-bit-maybe to this-is-my-path.
Hannah Grossman: It wasn’t a glass of wine. it was a conversation.
Wine & Song: With who?
Hannah Grossman: My friend Greg. I was working this really small Italian restaurant in Lincolnwood, Mia Familia. This guy was a wine distributor and a server, and the way he spoke—he talked about wine in an artistic way and in a scientific way and I thought that was interesting. Until then, I just kind of saw wine as wine. Very one dimensional. When I learned it was about vintages, varietals, regions, it was like a slap in the face. I had just kind of overlooked something that has so much meaning.


The playlist selects “You Can Go Your Own Way,” as if it’s listening to the conversation.

Wine & Song: Do you feel like you’re still coming into your own in the wine profession in Chicago, or do you think you’re here already?
Hannah Grossman: Both. I feel a little bit of both. I feel like I’m here. I know I am. I’ve put a lot of time in and a lot of effort. I know I’ve been recognized. I know that I’ve made some sort of impact. Do I sometimes feel like I’m not here? Yeah. But I think that’s the beautiful part of this industry, you never really feel like you know it all. You never really feel like you have done enough. Like, what’s next? What can I do next? Not necessarily what’s the next place I can go, not like hopping around. But what’s the next impact I can make. I took a whole summer off to think about that.
Wine & Song: OK. I have questions.
Hannah Grossman: (laughing) 
Wine & Song: (A) Are you independently wealthy and––
Hannah Grossman: No, not by any means. 
Wine & Song: (B) are you married to an A-list celebrity?
Hannah Grossman: I have a great support system.
Wine & Song: What did you do with all that time?
Hannah Grossman: I started reading again. I started playing guitar more. I spent more time with my dogs. I went to Italy, New York, Nashville. But, I mean, you can’t do that. It’s expensive. It was more about getting back in touch with myself. In our industry, we give a lot of ourselves out and we don’t get that much in return. I just felt like I had given myself out too much and I needed to recharge. I think I was going to lose sight of why I was in it and why I like it and what that driving factor is.
Wine & Song: What was the toughest question you asked yourself during those six months?
An important pause. Not a long pause, not a pregnant pause. But an important moment occurs here where Grossman seems to step back into her interior and organize this answer. On hearing the playback, you might not get how this moment mattered. It sounds like she’s just quiet for a second. In person, Grossman’s demeanor changed. We’d stopped looping “Dreams” and let the album play on. Lindsay Buckingham and Christine McVie’s bright and resolute voices bounce around the shop singing, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here.” Grossman comes back with that same bright, firm resolution. 
Hannah Grossman: I asked, what do I really like about this all? I was confused with recognition and popularity and just trying to be the best, and I realized I liked it because I like the people behind the wine. I love them. They’re artists. Those are the best memories I have of the winemakers I’ve gotten to know. I love culture and what wine represents of a culture. I love that I get to educate someone on something not many people know about. 
It’s so easy to get greedy in this industry. So easy to make it about yourself. About getting yourself ahead. It’s easy to lose sight of why am I in this? I don’t know what other people say. Maybe it depends on where they’re at in their lives.
Wine & Song: Where are you at in your life?
Hannah Grossman: I’m still in a place of discovery.
Wine & Song: What is your message as a wine professional? What are you trying to say through your work?
Hannah Grossman: That I am merely a curator here to present other people’s art and to make someone else fall in love with it the way I did.  






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