When my friend and I wander into Far Away Wine and Provisions, we consider the cozy living room set-up — couch, chairs, coffee table — near the entrance but settle instead for a couple of stools at the tiny bar. We know we want to eat something and hunching over a coffee table is never a fun way to go about it. Besides, the bar seems to be where the action is. At 5:30, there are already five or six people there, many of whom seem to know each other.
In fact, if I didn’t already know that Far Away was a wine bar, and I hadn’t seen the shelves stocked with wine bottles, I might have surmised that here was a liquor bar with a relaxed, almost Cheers-like vibe. The walls are filled with framed posters of rock bands, and there’s a turn table set atop a long credenza. Beneath it is an impressive collection of albums, all neatly tucked in plastic sleeves to protect them. Feel free to browse or even ask to hear one of them played. It’s all part of the deal.
Back on the stool and staring at the tchotchke-filled backbar, I note two giant Pez dispensers of Marge and Homer Simpson, a tacky painting of Elvis, some Pokemon ephemera and a plastic, bust-like assemblage of all the members of Kiss called Mount Kissmore. Oh, and the bar itself is “tiled” with old cassette tapes. Does this sound like ANY wine bar you’ve seen before?
Also behind the bar are co-owners Pat Jasmin and Chris French, Jasmin pouring wine and ducking behind a curtain to bring out nibbles for customers, French swirling a wine glass as he tastes a series of wines hauled out by a wine rep who is clearly an old friend. French, who never stops bantering, occasionally sets down his wine glass to play air guitar. He’s like a 16-year-old who sailed in from the ’70s to give an oral dissertation on Burgundy’s Crus.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere, these two know their stuff, both having worked in the wine business — primarily as wine salespeople and wine brokers — for decades.
Far Away interior | Photo by Nikki Buchanan
The by-the-glass list they’ve put together is organized into four sections: bubbles, pink and orange, white, and red — nearly 40 wines in all, priced between $7 and $19. Although the list skews slightly more heavily toward France and Italy, wines from other important wine-producing countries — Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia and Greece — are featured too, as is a red blend from the prestigious Chateau Musar in Lebanon. Naturally, California and Oregon are well-represented. Even Willcox makes the list. Jasmin tells me they’re especially interested in small, independent producers and zero-intervention wines.
Jasmin talks to us about the list without getting too deep into wine lingo, and there’s something about her low-key, unpretentious manner that engenders trust. We try a few of her suggestions and like them a lot. For me, a Beaujolais Latignie from Jean Paul Dubost that is fruit-forward but acidic enough to be fresh and lively, a 180 from the tutti-frutti Beaujolais Nouveau I’ve been suckered into more than once over the years.
If you’re not a wine drinker, the cooler holds about 65 different kinds of beer. Meanwhile, the shelves are stocked with somewhere between 325-350 bottles to take home and drink later.
We eat too — dainty, chive-flecked deviled eggs poked with crisp, house-pickled watermelon radish, and savory cheesecake, drizzled with lavender-red chile honey. Its potato chip crust adds a bit of salt and crunch to the mild, spreadable cheese, which is served with crackers. I eat it straight, loving the juxtaposition of floral, spicy and sweet notes. The guy sitting next to me points to the woman on the other side of him and explains that she’s the lady who created the custom-made pie we’re eating: Traci Wilbur of Pie Snob. How cool is that?
Moroccan meatballs, a recipe from French’s mother, are sensational too, tender and slathered in a rich, faintly fiery sauce heady with spices. Next to the little crock of meatballs sits a bowl of olive oil-drizzled tzatziki, house-made and provided for tangy, cooling contrast.
Moroccan meatballs | Photo by Nikki Buchanan
And what person with an ounce of curiosity wouldn’t be tempted to try the jambon-beurre, which is subtitled “if you know, you know.” Wanting to be in-the-know, we try this supremely simple combo of applewood-smoked ham stacked on a demi-baguette that’s been smeared with loads of butter ($15). They offer you mustard, but don’t be a putz by Americanizing this French classic.
And by the way, because this is a rock & roll-themed wine bar, the eggs are entitled “Sympathy for the Deviled Eggs,” while the meatballs are “Keep Mo’Rocking in the Free World.” Oh, and the name of the shop? Far Away Wine? Kinda like the Stones’s “Far Away Eyes.”
You gotta love that — just like you gotta love this place. I know I do.
3031 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 602-314-6612, farawaywineaz.com