I like to think I'm not a wine snob. And, for the most part, I think that's true. Because I fancy myself broad-minded and willing to own my mistakes, I must confess to my secret snobbery when it comes to boxed wines. Oh sure, I've had my dalliances:
Like this "bandit's lunch" ... which was born of necessity.
But I've been sort of a snob about wines in a box. Maybe it's too many late nights listening to Kathy Griffin talk about her Mom swilling Franzia from a box... but I have, in fact, resisted boxed wines.
My good friend Richard, the Passionate Foodie has tried to encourage me to be more open. He's plied me with the sustainability aspects - knowing my interest in those issues. He's given me brands to look for (does one still call it a label?) And still, nothing.
Maybe I'll read his recent post on Yellow+Blue. Perhaps I'll get inspired. Public contrition is often good for the soul.
Last night I joined Rich and several other bloggers (including Lingbo Li and Lena Chen) at PF Chang's for the unveiling of their new boxed wine: Vineyard 518. Hearty appetites for life and food made for good fun at our table. We imagined other diners looking at our table and saying "Look, Asians are eating here, it must authentic!" Over carafes of wine, plates of food, we laughed and talked about proper cooking techniques (scenting the oil with chilis, rather than plopping them atop the finished dish for the appropriate heat) as well as love and life and what it takes to be a freelance writer.
The fruit for VINEYARD 518 comes from the Yorkville Highlands appellation in Mendocino, a high altitude, coastal growing region that offers full varietal expression as well as crisp, refreshing balance.
Working with Wattle Creek Winery (below) PF Chang's has labeled two wines: A Sauvignon Blanc - with crisp acid and grapefruit notes and a Syrah Blend (80% Syrah, 10% Cabernet and 10% Zin.) Both of these wines should pair well with most of the food on the menu. While neither of wines are likely to make you forget your last bottle, er um, glass of really fine wine, I applaud PF Chang's marketing folks for doing what they can to inch the company toward more sustainable practices. What else might they do in the future? Who knows but we can encourage them to continue along the Vineyard 518 path and begin sourcing more organic and seasonal foods, recycling and so forth.
Wattle Creek is family-owned winery in the Yorkville Highlands of Mendocino.
The chief advantages of boxed wines are that the shipping costs and carbon footprint are reduced. This box holds 10 liters and ships more easily due to its lighter weight (approximately half the weight of a traditional case of wine.) The box is also fully recyclable stores easily.
From a consumer's standpoint, that of the PF Chang customer, the box offers the advantage of fresher wines by the glass, as well as wines that are a pretty good value. The chain is offering the 3.5 ounce pour (a half glass) at $4.50 and a 7 ounce glass at $7.50. A 16 ounce carafe is $15.50.
Both wines pair well with the dishes on the menu, though two of our dishes that were designated spicy had no heat at all.
Here's hoping this is a sign of things to come. I'd welcome more wines by the glass from a box. It will be interesting if we begin to see a broader offering of boxed wines appearing in restaurants and stores. Maybe there's even one coming to a refrigerator near you. Maybe even mine.