When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.
Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines. She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.
What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.
While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.
While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.
Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.
I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.
So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?