On the far side of my beau’s expansive kitchen sits a flashy wine rack—a fancy one by my standards, complete with tiers, reflecting mirrors, and a cozy space to house glassware. On nights when we actually have a moment to breathe, there’s an eagerly-anticipated ritual of selecting the right bottle from that rack—white for fish, red for scary movie, Petit Syrah for any old night. The oddity of it is, we do this in ratty PJs as we toss gnarled chew toys back and forth across the living room for the dog. Occasionally, she offers her input in the form of bottle licks and girly grunts.

The contrast in these savored moments is what strikes me most. For months now, Josh has held on to an enticing bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s an intriguing wine for any palate, but for me, part of the childish glee that comes with popping its cork is the joy of saying the name: Shat-oh-nuhf-doo-pahp. That, of course, and being able to weigh the pros and cons of the Chianti to its left—all with a drool-coated stuffed lobster toy in my sticky hands. I’m mostly sure this is not how the esteemed French winemaker envisioned his (or her) wines being enjoyed.

But it’s precisely what makes drinking it that much more enjoyable. Have you ever noticed—assuming wine is your bag—that high-end sips of wine at gourmet restaurants demand a stiffness that detracts from enjoyment? In those pristine, dressed-to-the-nines dining rooms, there is an unspoken pressure to drink wine correctly, or otherwise appear ignorant. So great is this pressure at times, that we forget altogether what we are drinking, save that it is a specific varietal that demands a tapered glass held in at a 45-degree angle, enjoyed with a specific duck preparation after 5pm Greenwich Mean Time.

I jest, of course, but the truth is in there: wine is an individual and personal affair at the same time that it is to be enjoyed in the company of others. When I drink at home, I sip with a dog at my left, greasy fingers from picking at olives, and, just occasionally, a lowball glass that happens to be the only vessel clean when the cork is popped. But regardless of these seemingly inappropriate surroundings, I relish wine better in them—because I, myself, feel at home when among them. A Sauvignon Blanc no longer sits unattended at the tips of my nervous fingers, above the salad fork, near the swan-folded napkin. It’s swirled. Sipped. Smelled. Choked on. Sipped again. Laughed about. Left on the bathroom sink. And, eventually, finished with a winnowing of adjectives that leads to a satisfactory description: melon, sharp pear, and off-putting metallic tang.

“I think that’s the leftover Emergen-C from this morning,” Josh winces.

“Oh,” I mumble, looking down at the floating bits of orange in the glass.

“Let’s not get this one again,” I say while scratching the dog’s back. “I prefer Chardonnays anyway.”