Far Away Wine and Provisions at 3031 East Indian School Road has almost single-handedly beaten the pandemic, at least when it comes to new places to enjoy life guilt-free. Of all the joints that have sprung up since our world changed, this killer place for wine, beer, food and music has made downtown Phoenix a much better place.
Whether you have a sophisticated palate or are still finding your way around, co-owners Chris French and Pat Jasmin have created a welcoming environment that everyone can enjoy. Both owners spent their early careers working in the wine industry as brokers and sales representatives, as well as starring at old Valley favorites such as Sportsman’s Fine Wines and Spirits, so their knowledge of wine delights is both excellent and easily accessible. And beginners and experts alike will find one of the cheapest collections in the state here.
Owners have a natural affinity for defending the little guy. “Chris and I used to work together. That’s how we became really close friends,” says Jasmin, who is wearing one of the boutique’s t-shirts during a recent encounter. “Part of what we always wanted to do was the part of the job that was fun, that championed the independent spirit of the wine industry.”
The friendship between French and Jasmin is one of the ingredients that make Far Away Wine and Provisions so successful. Conversation with and between them is free and easy, and they allow each other to shine. Jasmin says she knew she and French would be good partners because they once spent several weeks traveling through France together on a buying trip; as she points out, if you can travel with someone that long, you can work with them in a small space for long periods of time.
When the pandemic started, French’s job at a major wine wholesaler was cut, so it was time to do something else.
“Pat was negotiating wines and we started talking in June “recalls French. “She said, ‘Do you want to work for another wholesaler? and I said, ‘Not really. It’s a chore. We started talking about [what would become Far Away Wine and Provisions], and the business plan was done. And we got that lease signed in December.”
The partners are constantly on the lookout for new vineyards, flavors and approaches to winemaking. During our conversation, they give us a quick introduction to the world of natural wine, both in the products they sell and how they are made.
“The natural wine movement is gaining a lot of traction these days. I like the energy behind it because it leads young people to discover interesting wines,” notes French. “These are all hands-off wines – not just organically and biodynamically grown grapes, but the whole practice is like zero manipulation. Only natural indigenous yeasts [are used]therefore no commercial yeasts, no handling during winemaking, and no sulfur dioxide added at bottling” – a process that stops oxidation and reduces the growth of bacteria.
As a result, “there is a lot of variation in the bottles,” he says. “One bottle you might like, and the next bottle might taste completely different because that’s how it goes when you have a bit of 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 Rolling Stones’ 1978 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 pour on any given day. On a recent visit, there were 40 different wines on their 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 offer a complete experience – hence the “Layouts” in the store’s name. As well as a list of wines by the glass that includes “bubbles” and “pink and orange” options alongside reds and whites, there’s an interesting menu of small plates to enjoy as you sip, as well as a selection of products to buy for use at home. Two of the most intriguing items on the shelf are Kelton Lane’s locally produced mustard and Bob’s Mushroom Jerky, a local vegan product from skateboarder extraordinaire Bob Wohl. If you plan on going out for a while, the ham and butter sandwich is a good choice and big enough to share.
The icing on the cake of this experiential sundae is the music. French has brought some of his mammoth record collection to the shop, and you’re welcome to browse the vinyl and pick out something you want to hear; owners will happily put it on the turntable for your listening pleasure. Whatever your musical tastes, chances are French and Jasmin have something to do with it; you can even ask them to pair a wine or beer of your choice as you discover 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 in.