Far Away Wine and Provisions, at 3031 East Indian School Road, has almost singlehandedly conquered the pandemic, at least when it comes to new places to enjoy life without feeling guilty. Of all the joints that have sprung up since our world changed, this killer spot for wine, beer, food, and music has made central Phoenix a much better place.
Whether you've got a sophisticated palate or are still finding your way, co-owners Chris French and Pat Jasmin have created a welcoming environment that everyone can enjoy. Both proprietors spent their early careers working in the wine industry as brokers and sales representatives, as well as gigging at such former valley favorites as Sportsman’s Fine Wines and Spirits, so their knowledge of vinicultural delights is both top-notch and easily accessible. And newbies and experts alike will find one of the best-priced collections in the state here.
The owners have a natural affinity for sticking up for the little guy. “Chris and I, we used to work together. That's how we became really close friends,” says Jasmin, who's sporting one of the shop's T-shirts during a recent meet-up. "Part of what we always wanted to do is the part of the job that was fun, which was sticking up for the independent spirit of the wine business."
The friendship between French and Jasmin is one of the ingredients that make Far Away Wine and Provisions a success. Conversation with and between them is free and easy, and they allow each other to shine. Jasmin says she knew that she and French would be good partners because they once spent several weeks traveling around France together on a buying trip; as she points out, if you can travel with someone for that long, you can work with them in a small space for long periods of time.
French and Jasmin in France.
When the pandemic started, French’s job with a large wine wholesaler was eliminated, so the timing was right to do something else.
“Pat was brokering wines, and we started talking in June ," French recalls. "She said, ‘Do you want to work for another wholesaler?’ and I said, ‘Not really. It’s a grind.' We started talking about [what would become Far Away Wine and Provisions], and the business plan was done. And we had this lease signed by December."
The partners are constantly on the lookout for new vineyards, flavors, and approaches to wine making. During our conversation, they offer a quick introduction to the world of natural wine, both in the products they sell and how it's made.
“The natural-wine movement is getting a lot of traction these days. I like the energy behind it because it's getting younger people into interesting wines," notes French. "It’s all zero-intervention wines — not just organically grown and biodynamically grown grapes, but the entire practice is like zero-manipulation. Only natural native yeasts [are used], so no commercial yeasts, no manipulation during winemaking, and no added sulfur dioxide at bottling" — a process that stops oxidation and reduces the growth of bacteria.
As a result, "there's lots of bottle variation," he says. "One bottle you may love, and the next bottle may taste completely different because that's just how it happens when you have a little volatile acidity in the bottles."
It's easy to learn something new every time you go to Far Away Wine and Provisions (named after the song “Far Away Eyes,” from the 1978 Rolling Stones album Some Girls). French and Jasmin are constantly tasting new wines and beers to determine what will be on their shelves or what they will be pouring on any given day. On one recent visit, there were 40 different wines on their pour menu, 65 different beers in their cooler, and between 325 and 350 different wines to choose from on the shelves. The owners are happy to provide the backstory on any of them.
But French and Jasmin also want to provide a well-rounded experience — hence the "Provisions" in the shop's name. Along with a list of wines by the glass that includes "bubbles" and "pink & orange" options next to reds and whites, there's an interesting menu of small plates to enjoy while you sip, as well as a selection of goods to purchase for use at home. Two of the more intriguing items on the shelf are locally produced mustard from Kelton Lane, and Bob’s Mushroom Jerky, a local vegan product from skateboarder extraordinaire Bob Wohl. If you plan to hang out for a while, the jambon-beurre sandwich is a good choice, and large enough to share.
The cherry on top of this experiential sundae is the music. French has brought a portion of his mammoth record collection to the shop, and you're welcome to peruse the vinyl and pick something you want to hear; the owners will happily get it on the turntable for your listening pleasure. No matter what your musical taste, it's likely that French and Jasmin have something to match it; you can even ask them to pair a wine or beer with your choice while you check out the music-related art on the walls.
At Far Away Wine and Provisions, all tastes are welcome. The world could use a little more of what French and Jasmin are pouring.