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Breakfast Beat Special: The Juicy Merits of Garage East's Breakfast Wine

Breakfast wine? Breakfast wine.
Breakfast wine? Breakfast wine. Chris Malloy
There is such a thing as breakfast wine. It comes in cans from Garage East. These cans hold a liter of breakfast wine (large) or 16 ounces (small), the latter pouring into three nice glasses (setting you back a total of $16). The stuff looks like standard white wine but with more intense orange and yellow hues. Breakfast wine, you won’t be surprised to learn, goes pretty famously with all kinds of morning food.

Garage East is a tenant of Barnone, the indoor-outdoor complex of food and retail artisans in Gilbert. Owners Brian and Megan Ruffentine make wine at Garage East from grapes harvested in Willcox and Elgin. This wine comes in bottles and taps at Garage East.

It also comes in cans.

The breakfast wine is canned to order. It’s made from a blend of white wine and fruit juice. The juice — culled from fruit on-site — usually comes from Agritopia or someplace else nearby.

Brian and Megan start with a white blend. As with sangria, it almost doesn’t matter what kind of wine you’re using; the elements introduced change the character of the wine; its traits blur. That isn't to say the end potable lacks elegance or finesse. That potable begins in the back room of Garage East, when white wine is dumped into a trash can known as “Oscar.” Whoever is blending the breakfast wine then adds carbonation using a canister, juice, and lets the flavors marry on ice overnight.

Sometime the next morning, breakfast wine is born.

Garage East sells cans of breakfast wine on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The nature of the drink changes on a week-to-week basis depending on available fruit. Last summer, that was peaches. Two weeks ago, that was ojo blanco, a mild, sweet, thick-peeled citrus the size of a grapefruit with a lemon’s yellow skin. This coming weekend, that will be ojo blanco and apple.

A breakfast wine makes sense for many reasons.

One, there’s nothing quite like drinking in the morning. It brings one back to tailgates and vacations and good times past. If you are drinking wine in the morning, you have already done something notable that day. At the very least, it’s a headfirst start and the day won’t be boring.

Two, wine is fermented grape juice. Why not mix it with other fruit juices? After all, isn’t juice what people drink with breakfast?

Adding ojo blanco brings the same sunny brightness to wine that makes citrus juice such a reliable companion to bacon, cheesy eggs, hash, biscuits, and other heavy breakfast foods.

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Three, adding citrus further cements the bridge between wine and breakfast. Orange and grapefruit juices are two of the most popular breakfast drinks this side of coffee. Adding ojo blanco brings the same sunny brightness to wine that makes citrus juice such a reliable companion to bacon, cheesy eggs, biscuits, hash, and other heavy breakfast foods.

Four, a mimosa is nothing but wine and orange juice. Mimosas are cool to drink with brunch. Breakfast wine is wine and citrus juice. Breakfast wine, in spirit, is just a snazzy mimosa.

Now that I’ve done my best to show that you can feel good about drinking wine with breakfast, let me add that you don’t have to limit your time with breakfast wine to breakfast. The fruit juice adds electricity. It brings a nice freshness. You don’t have a clue whether the white grapes are chardonnay or sémillon or torrontés or apples. The wine is crisp and clean, simple and refreshing. Which makes it a nice thing to drink alongside fried eggs, yes, and at any point later in the day.
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy