Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Boone's Farm


Did you realize that Boone's Farm wine still exists?

I just found out that it does on Monday when my editor and I were talking about upcoming column ideas. We're friends, but these conversations can get tense, because I'm a bit haughty by nature and I'm getting tired of having to brush my tongue with Hornitos after I do my Bottom Shelf homework every week. Remember the time I drank seven 40s of malt liquor in one day? And since freelancers don't qualify for short-term disability leave, I had to bounce right back the next week to write about some other Bacchus-forsaken swill.

So even though I've got a good gig here, I'm still looking to eat a little higher on the Serious Eats hog. To wit, the following exchange:

Me: "I was thinking this week's Bottom Shelf could be about the lesser classified Bordeaux. Or maybe which flavor of Combos goes best with Laphroaig 18. You know, keeping with the man-of-the-people theme, but acknowledging that sometimes men of the people need advice on how to celebrate a modest Keno win."

Maggie: "Um, yeah. How about you write about Boone's Farm?"

I figured that was code for "You're fired," because how could Boone's Farm wine still actually exist? I hadn't come across it in years, and I tend to come across these things.

But lo and behold, Gallo is still pumping life into this forgotten classic. Why? Or more to the point, for whom?

I know who it used to be for: Farmer Boone surely ranked first among all discount vintners of my parents' generation in sowing the seeds of temporary teenage love. I've long since accepted that the Catholic church is responsible for my existence, but it seems just as plausible and much more palatable to give an equal measure of credit to Boone's Farm Wild Cherry. And I loved my life even before I discovered Greek yogurt last week, so I've certainly got no beef with Boone's.

But the miracle of life notwithstanding, Boone's Farm just feels superfluous in the modern era of cheap and easy ways to get wasted in a cornfield. Who has time for the subtle charms of 7.5 percent ABV* apple wine** in this post-Loko discount drunkscape? My liquor store sells something called Mad Ballr for two bucks a can; it's 24 proof and comes in Kiwi Strawberry, and you just got preemptively thrown out of the prom for even reading this sentence.

Wednesday afternoon I gave the liquor store guy a ten and got back $1.03, a disgusted glare, and the three sexiest-looking bottles of full-strength Boone's I could find. Let's get down to the pretty gritty:

Wild Cherry: They really nailed the fake-cherry smell with this one, and the color bears a comforting resemblance to my grandpa's tumbler of Hearty Burgundy after the ice cube's melted. It's nothing to write to the old-folks' home about, though. It tastes like cherry Pop-Tart filling, and it's nearly as thick.

Strawberry Hill: This sneaky bastard looks inoffensively pale pink and smells mild enough, but it tastes overwhelmingly of Welch's strawberry soda, with a sleazy little edge that whispers, "Dude, don't worry, 16's legal in this state!"

Watermelon: This deep pink beauty smells like the air freshener in my Uncle Richie's 1981 Camaro. Better yet, it tastes precisely like watermelon Jolly Ranchers, which is to say it tastes nothing at all like a watermelon but it does taste like something that, deep down, you know you like. If it were possible for a grown man to drink enough Boone's Farm to catch an honest buzz without going into hyperglycemic shock, this would be my stuff.

Overall, I wasn't disgusted by this tasting. Though self-respecting drinkers hate to admit it, humans like sweet things; there's a reason no one ever brags about the sour deal they got on their apartment or how cute their bitter new kitten is.

That said, Boone's sugar-to-potency ratio just doesn't suit anyone's needs. It's only good a sip at a time, which in this category of booze means it's no good at all.

*That's the max. Some flavors and formulations go as low as 3.9; something about state laws restricting sales of wine in convenience stores and what's really a wine and what's really a malt beverage, etc.

**Boone's ain't real wine in any iteration; let's not get bogged down in definitional details.