A Sauvignon Blanc fit for Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker is the first to admit that her partnership with Invivo Wines has been full of surprises.
The first and foremost being that entering into an agreement that would see the actor, producer and designer positioned in the role of winemaker was one she’d never expected to tackle.
“I hesitate to define it that way myself,” she says of adding the title of winemaker to her already lengthy resumé. “But, if others want to say that, I think I’m in the process of it — I’m a partner in the process of winemaking.
“Maybe that makes me feel better and is more accurate. Or more ... real?”
Speaking from her home in New York, Parker recalled how the somewhat unlikely business opportunity came about. The winemaking venture, which sees her paired up with Invivo’s New Zealand-based team led by Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, started in much the same way that many partnerships and unions seem to these days: from a distance.
“I got a very surprising phone call from my agent saying these two gentlemen had reached out from a wine company in New Zealand and they were curious about a partnership and collaboration,” Parker says. “I was stunned and surprised given that I have no experience in the wine business — anything beyond being a customer.”
While she would willingly call herself a wine drinker, she felt it a leap to identify herself as anything close to a connoisseur.
“We feel it’s a very nice part of our meals,” Parker says, noting the extent of her experience within the wine world. “I thought that I was not equipped, that I didn’t have enough experience and that I would be doing a grave disservice to people who had spent either most of their adult lives learning the business, or those who had grown up in the business.”
But Lightbourne and Cameron persuaded Parker that she could, indeed, tackle the project with their help. They sealed the deal when they offered her the one thing she says she looks for most when considering signing on to any new project.
“Even when an offering of a partnership or collaboration seems otherworldly or completely confounding to me, the thing that I always look for is an opportunity to learn,” Parker says. “That’s not to disparage those who trust more and just put their name on stuff — it has just not been the way that I have been able to work in business.”
Citing a feeling of being “honour-bound” to her customers and fans, Parker says she asked three main questions of the Invivo team.
“Will you let me in? Will you really let me learn? Will you share with me as much information as you can impart, and as much information as I can absorb, so that I can be a better partner?” Parker says. “I look for that. And they were unqualified in their yes.”
After agreeing to proceed, Parker’s crash course in wine commenced. The entire process, from first introduction to final bottling took about a year, she says. When asked if she was able to take time to travel to New Zealand in order to take part in the blending process, Parker’s immediate response was a wistful: “I wish.”
Instead, due to her busy film and production schedule — Parker’s latest project is the HBO comedy-drama Divorce which she co-stars in and executive produces — Lightbourne and Cameron travelled to New York City with beakers of 2019 vintages from sub-regions of Marlborough.
During a three-hour session, the trio tasted, modified and tasted again, the blends until the recipe was just right.
“There is a good bit of science, and obviously, environment and climate plays a huge part in the process,” Parker says. “We met in New York and we had this wonderful blending session and then they took it back to New Zealand and started bottling it.”
When she received the first bottle to taste, she admits all the apprehension she felt about originally signing on to the partnership returned. At first, she hesitated to even open it.
I was stunned and surprised given that I have no experience in the wine business.” Sarah Jessica Parker
“They sent that first bottle and it was so terrifying, to have that first sip, because I wanted so much to like it,” Parker recalls. “It was absolutely terrifying because there was only one of two possibilities: one, was that I would like it; and one was that I would be disappointed. That something would have happened between the time that we spent together, when it was bottled, and when it was sent back to me.”
Parker remembers she delayed opening that first bottle for as long as she could, chilling it in the fridge for a while then taking it back out, before putting it back in again.
“I let a couple days pass, the only resistance being fear,” she says. “And then I cracked that freaking bottle and I was so happy. Not just relieved, because relief is different than actual joy. And I’ll tell you, it tickles me so much that people have responded in the same way.”
Recently launched in Canada and available in select B.C. Liquor Stores (UPC: 09421905673006, $29.99), the Sauvignon Blanc wine is billed as very dry with “abundant notes” of grapefruit, honeysuckle, citrus zest and passion fruit.
Released in other markets in late 2019, the Invivo x SJP Sauvignon Blanc has netted five gold medals from international wine competitions along with 90 points from Wine Spectator.
That success has been another surprise element of the partnership, she says. But, perhaps the biggest of them all, has been the appreciation of Sauvignon Blanc that the experience has produced within her.
“I think what surprised me most is how much I love Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, I did not really drink that,” Parker says.
“I had been far more likely to open a bottle of Chardonnay or a big red. And I left Sauvignon Blanc to what I assumed were more knowledgeable or sophisticated palates. People who had more experience and had invested more in knowledge of wine.”
Through the winemaking process, she’s learned the varietal isn’t as “rigid” as she once thought.
“I really learned that I loved it, and that it’s a much more hospitable wine than I had thought,” she says with a laugh. “Sauvignon Blanc can be a far more casual relationship. It can be far less formal than I had thought, and far less pointy.”
Enjoying the blend in her home, Parker says, she eschews “hard and fast rules,” instead pairing it with a “variety” of dishes.
“Maybe, when I’m cooking, I’m finding a reason to pair it. So maybe the wine is dictating my cooking more,” she adds with a laugh. “There are definitely things that it feels peculiar with, or that it doesn’t sit right with … But, what do I know? What the heck do I know?”
With the first Invivo x SJP Sauvignon Blanc available in various international markets and a Rosé from Provence recently released in select locations, Parker is working with the Invivo team on the next Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a next chapter of the winemaking experience that will, undoubtedly, yield a few new surprises along the way.
“It has been a very, so to speak, fruitful endeavour,” Parker says. “And I’ve really, genuinely enjoyed it.”