In Somerville, Massachusetts’ Union Square, you’ll find a new development called Bow Market, housing an array of small retail shops, a handful of food establishments, a comedy studio, and even a brewery. The former vehicle garage port is somewhat hidden in plain site. Off the main road, you enter the enclosed plaza through a passage no bigger than a driveway. There, on the ground floor, the first place to greet you to Bow, is Rebel Rebel.
It would be a disservice to rewrite the mission of this natural wine bar in words other than their own:
“We give a fuck (about wine and about you). We believe a wine bar can be a place for the community to engage, grow, and communicate. We also believe in the power of natural wine to bring us back to the foundations of our connection to farmers, to women, and to the planet. Think that sounds like a bunch of woo-woo bullshit? Come hang out and let us show you what we do.”
The above is taken from the “About” section of Rebel Rebel’s website, and includes this informative sign off: “Leave your misogyny, your homophobia, your racism, your classism, your ableism, your patriarchy, your gender bias, and all your other bullshit at the door, ‘cause that shit will get you kicked out real quick.”
We sat with Lauren Friel, owner of Rebel Rebel to discuss accolades, new developments, and of course, wine.
The womxn-owned and operated space has 20 seats. And when the weather allows, about 20 more outside. No reservations. No hierarchy. And again, to quote directly, “no bullshit.” Larger events have happened outside the space to reach and entertain more sizable groups, while wine classes offered for $30, and lasting approximately an hour (to respect everyone’s time), are hosted at the Bow Market space.
“It’s low impact for us to have a big impact for our guests,” Lauren says, adding that the bar becomes somewhat like a gallery for their wine. Events, pop-ups, Winemaker Meet and Greets, and Natural Wine 101’s happen regularly. Some with free entry as well. Accessibility is important, especially in an industry that has been caricatured for being the opposite. She continues, “Being in natural wine is about being a little bit more chill about wine – being a little less fussy about wine in general.” This belief is found holistically through a welcoming atmosphere, both in a physical/spatial design sense, and also in a more intangible philosophy that lends as an underlying mindset at Rebel Rebel.
Friel’s approach to her business has led to many opportunities, one of which is an upcoming project with “Field and Vine”, a restaurant down the street by Sarah Markey and Chef Andrew Brady. A complementary pairing to Friel’s background, Field and Vine is not only down the street, but also down to Earth (reflected in space, menu, and general mantra). The concept: What if your local pub sold natural wine and vegetables? The answer: Dear Annie (anticipating open Summer 2020).
“Dear Annie” is a sensible addition to Friel’s portfolio. As a distinguished figure and proud disrupter in the development of the food and beverage scene in New England, she has previous experience as a Wine Director and Sommelier at some of Boston’s most recognized establishments, runs her own beverage consulting company, and contributes as a columnist to many editorials. Lauren continues to educate and lead not only in wine, but also in community and female advocacy. When the “Alabama Abortion Ban” was signed in May 2019, Friel took action and organized donations with other local groups to give to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Raising $27K in one week, Lauren adds, “I am really proud of the work we did for Yellowhammer. It was really grassroots, and it was great to see people come together for that cause and to be the catalyst for that.”
Though politically active, Lauren believes that wine can be “just wine” for those that want to enjoy it as a simple pleasure. In her own words, “For me it’s not ‘just wine’ since I have chosen to devote my life to this, but it’s OK that it is ‘just wine’ for someone else. I am all for people engaging in wine in whatever way makes sense to them – as deep or as surface level as they want to go with it. For me, it’s about the winemakers and their history,” she continues, “their culture, and their passion. Their risk, and their labor, and their families. And that’s what makes it more than ‘just wine’ to me. Part of what has kept a lot of people from engaging with wine is that it can seem too difficult to understand, or complicated, or fussy.”
Speaking of the fussiness of wine, Lauren’s advice for getting a wine lover a gift: avoid any wine gadgets or decanters. Get them a gift certificate to their favorite wine shop. Or a massage.