On this episode of “Next Round,” host Adam Teeter chats with television icon and now-wine producer Sarah Jessica Parker. The two discuss all things Invivo x SJP. Listeners will learn how Parker entered the wine industry, specifically with her partnership with Invivo. Also, Parker details her budding experience with wine before she started producing her own.
In addition, Parker explains how her partnership with Invivo is so fulfilling. Listeners will learn why Parker is involved throughout the entire process of producing wine, which calls back to her television days. Finally, Parker shares an update on the revival of “Sex and the City.”
Or Check out the Conversation Here
Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter, and today we are talking with Sarah Jessica Parker. Sarah Jessica, thank you so much for joining me.
Sarah Jessica Parker: Thank you, Adam! Thank you for having me.
A: It’s really exciting to have you on the podcast and to have someone who has recently released a wine. Your wines have been in the market for two years, now?
SJP: I think it has, yes. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’ve lost time a bit. Sincerely, I have. I’m not able to point to an event and tell you exactly what month it happened anymore, but I would think two years sounds about right and wouldn’t be controversial.
A: That’s perfect. SJP launched two years ago. Can you talk to me a little bit about the project, how it came to be and how you got involved?
SJP: Sure. About three years ago, I got a phone call from my agent sharing with me that there were two gentlemen in New Zealand who were curious about collaborating on a wine with me. I was as mystified as you probably are and couldn’t understand why anybody would want to work with me on something that is so seemingly complicated and is such a serious business. Yet, I was curious and got on the phone with them and they obviously enlightened me and elaborated on their inquiry. I was really intrigued. It turned out wonderfully, coincidentally, that we were already consumers of their brand. We have a home in Ireland, and our grocery store Supervalu, is where we purchase our wines, and we have been buying Invivo Wines for probably as long as they’ve been in business. We’re not just buying them in duress, but choosing to go back time and time again to our local Supervalu and purchase Invivo Wines because we really like them. We had this very exciting phone call. I still nonetheless was confounded. They came to New York, we met, we sat down, we started tasting wine. I shared with them my hesitance, which was based solely on just feeling ill-equipped and not knowledgeable about a business that’s real. For many people, generations of families are involved. I think the most important thing for me about any new business venture in which I feel ill-equipped is finding out how much someone’s willing to let me learn and how involved they’ll let me be. Will they be willing to share their information, talent, and experience, so that I can be more of a worthy partner? They have and they continue to. It’s just been such a wonderful, surprising, exciting, joyful experience. I’m incredibly fond of Tim and Rob and first of all, they are swell guys, but they’re also very good at what they do. I respect them professionally and personally. It’s been an absolutely lovely experience.
A: Awesome. Now, that we know a little about how the brand started, I want to take a step back and talk for a bit about why you chose this venture in the first place. Prior to doing this project with them, I know you were a wine drinker. What wines were you drinking? Do you have any memories of wines in the past or wine experiences that you’d had prior to the project?
SJP: Yes. I started drinking wine probably later than many. I didn’t really understand it. I felt I didn’t know enough to even order it at a restaurant.
A: I think everyone feels that way.
SJP: I got very embarrassed. I would rely on one person who we all assumed had all the information. That would dictate what we were drinking. I always stood at aisles in wine stores. Absolutely stock-still, never knowing what to do. I was seduced by labels and I couldn’t go back to the wine merchant and say to him or her, “I’m sorry, can you help me? I’m looking for what I think maybe this is and we’re going to eat this.” I came to it late, but because I’ve had the privilege of traveling so much for work, at the end of so many days when you’re traveling, especially to countries outside of our own, in my case, they eventually involve dinners and drinks. The more I traveled and the more I was reliant upon local servers in European capital cities, smaller towns, communities, and villages, the more I learned about wine and the more I loved it. I grew to love it because I was experiencing it more often than not. Local wine, table wine, understanding what wine meant in a more whole way. It became something that I really love, which my husband and I loved. When we traveled for pleasure, we would always try to get information from whatever restaurant we were eating out at. What wines were they excited about? What were the great local wines? We were constantly trying to peel labels off bottles and come home and find them in this country. Obviously in this country, we have incredible wines and we have super-knowledgeable servers who love sharing their affection for wine. I think we felt more comfortable. We also were more comfortable with the pure pleasure of enjoyment and not worrying so much about being knowledgeable or an authority. As I said, traveling, a huge part of that experience is culture, but also food and wine.
A: When you were drinking wine, for the most part, was it always with food?
SJP: Yeah, it took me a long time to think of wine as something that can stand on its own. If I saw someone having a glass of wine at 4 in the afternoon, that just baffled me. How did you arrive at that? What was the process? There was no cheese next to you. There’s no oyster. There is no carved meat. Now here I am, 4 o’clock, having a glass of wine. I totally get it.
A: Very cool. When Tim and Rob approached you and you started thinking about it, what was the process of creating the first wines? The first one I know was a Sauvignon Blanc, correct? Were you a big Sauvignon Blanc drinker at the time and were you a big New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc drinker?
SJP: OK, so here’s the thing. I was not and I’ve been very candid about this, and I’ll tell you why. And maybe this is typical of an American consumer who isn’t educated. Chardonnay always seemed easy and understandable to me. It made sense. It didn’t challenge me. Upon a sip, I could understand it. It told me who it was and what it was. Of course, I didn’t know anything about Sauvignon Blanc. I’m probably all wrong and prepared for lots of comments from people who were like, “She’s an idiot.” Sauvignon Blanc seemed more complicated. It seemed like it could be more things. It could have more elasticity. It didn’t sit with certain rigid boundaries around it. Even though I suspected that it would be more right for what I was ordering, I panicked about it.
There is one person I know who always ordered Sauvignon Blanc, and I was so grateful to be in his company because he did it with such ease and he knew about it. When I had it and he ordered it, I liked it, but it intimidated me. I also knew that New Zealand is producing — especially the Marlborough region — some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. I was drawn to it, but I didn’t know where to begin. That was one of the things that terrified me most about this collaboration, is that I felt so undeserving of this endeavor and exercise. Among the many wonderful things that have come of it is I’ve learned about the glory of Sauvignon Blanc and what it can be and how hospitable it is to ideas. It doesn’t have to be high and pointy. It doesn’t have to be thin. It can be more full-figured. How do you honor what is called a Sauvignon Blanc and those grapes and still make it your own? That’s what we were able to do in the blending process, which was incredible. It was terrifying at first. Then, it was a eureka moment. I asked, how much can I push this? How much flexibility do we have? I don’t want to destroy the institution. And we arrived at something that was really exciting to Rob, who’s the winemaker at Invivo. He is an incredibly talented person who also was willing to push back and stand by the things that were important to him, which is also what you want in a partnership. He was so excited about the blend. We did the blending in New York. He went back to New Zealand and did what they do there. They did some unconventional things, which they don’t typically do with a Sauvignon Blanc. Then, the bottle arrived and I was so nervous to open it and taste it because I had a feeling that things can change, right? Things can change in the process and then it’s on the airplane and then it’s traveling and then there’s temperature and then there’s a bottle and then there’s the glass and then there’s sunlight. Would it still be that magical experience, that liquid gold that we felt we had arrived at? I didn’t want to open it because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I can’t even tell you how exciting I was when I chilled it and then opened it. I was actually all by myself. There was a little bit of heaven that came out of that bottle.
A: That’s very cool. It’s interesting to hear share your point about Chardonnay, that it felt more accessible to you at the time, because I think now that’s become Sauvignon Blanc for so many drinkers. It is the white wine that everyone feels comfortable with in orders. I’m curious, you talked a little bit about the blending process. There are lots of people who put their name on products, but what’s interesting is you’ve really gotten involved. I’d like to talk about that a bit. Was that really important to you from the beginning? Besides the blending, how else have you been involved in the creation of the wine?
SJP: I have a fundamental approach to any professional practice or initiative endeavor. I don’t know how to not be involved. It’s just the way that I work, I feel honor-bound by the opportunity and the process. I don’t feel entirely principled about putting my name on something in a casual way. For better or worse, I have to be held accountable. Not only that, I’m much more comfortable and capable of talking about a project when I’ve actually been involved. When I understand what it is to blend grapes and try to arrive at something and play by the rules and understand the rules and when can I bend the rules? That’s been the way I’ve worked as a producer. It’s been the way I worked in fragrance. It’s been the way I worked in my shoe business. I’m just better for being in the conversation down to what I call splitting the atom. Tim and Rob said they wanted that from me. I don’t know what they really expected.
A: Or knew what they were going to get.
SJP: Yeah, correct. But we’re better partners. I’m better with more information than less. I can talk to you about an experience, I can share genuine enthusiasm versus a mercenary approach. For example, I’ll do this, then I’ll talk about it, and then perhaps I’ll make money. I don’t feel that’s the best way for me to work. I’m always involved. I’m involved in all the marketing ideas. I’m involved in the label. I’m involved in the color of the paint. That’s my actual finger on the label.
A: Oh, cool.
SJP: I’m involved in all of it because I have a relationship with anybody who pays any attention to me and they’ve been good enough to invite me into their home for a lot of years. I want to take that relationship seriously. I don’t want to trade on their graciousness, kindness, and the hospitality they’ve shown me for a lot of years. It’s just the way I function. By the way, it doesn’t make all of it easy because that means I’m involved and that means lots of conversations, emails, phone calls, Zoom calls, looking at images, making notes, going back and forth, and making adjustments. Yet, I’m better for it.
A: Very cool. So the Sauvignon Blanc has been out for two years. I know now there’s a rosé, which I want to talk about as well. Was the plan always to expand the line beyond the Sauvignon Blanc?
SJP: In the best possible world, we would have the opportunity. We didn’t know how the 2019 would be received, especially because we were going a little bit rogue, not just arbitrarily so but trying to create something we really loved. I think our intentions were to have a business that grew and continue to offer exciting liquid from a bottle that you felt proud of and wanted to drink ourselves. I think after that 2019 was received well, and also the customer really loved it, we felt more emboldened to do this 2020. But definitely felt more confident in pursuing the rosé. It was really important to Tim and Rob. They’re businessmen and they’re looking at a business that needs to grow. You can’t just hang your hat on one and the grapes are gone. You’ve got to start over again. I think we wanted to, but you don’t know what reception you’re going to get. You can’t count on maturing, but we certainly wanted to and it’s been fantastic.
A: Were you a big rosé drinker before launching the rosé?
SJP: Yes, much more so than I had been a Sauvignon Blanc drinker.
A: Interesting. Because of that, did you have a clear picture in your mind of the type of rosé you wanted because you had been more of a rosé drinker? What was that if you did?
SJP: Yes. As I’ve described, Sauvignon Blanc offered a certain specific terror. Rosé offered a different terror, only because I did know it. We’ve all had great rosés and we’ve all had rosés that disappoint us or actually feel like they’re hostile toward us. I knew that and wanted to make sure I did it right. With my friends, I don’t know about your friends, but they drink rosé all summer. They’re waiting for that moment.
A: I feel like people who love it drink it almost year-long at this point.
SJP: Yes, exactly. I wanted to create something that obviously satisfied that seasonal feeling, but I also wanted it to be a rosé that you could drink anywhere at any time and recreate those feelings. Once again, we wanted to make it in Provence because of that history and because of the knowledge of those particular vineyards, people who have them run them, and the generations of families that have done it. That’s where we started. Once again, this is going to sound familiar, but I wanted a rosé that wasn’t too cloying, but wasn’t better than me — you know, sometimes a rosé is so tight.
A: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
SJP: It’s almost like it’s superior to the drinker. I wanted sophistication and complexity, but I didn’t want it to push me away. Does that make sense?
A: Totally makes sense, 100 percent.
SJP: And I feel we did it.
A: So was that blending also done in New York?
SJP: That one was hard because it was the dead of winter in the middle of a snowstorm. I have to say that I haven’t yet been able to travel to Tim and Rob in New Zealand. Obviously, that’s something I’m desperate to do but when they come, not only do they bring these vials of grapes, but they also have stories of every single vineyard, and you become very wrapped up in every family’s story or every vineyard story. It becomes very painful to not end up with a blend from a vineyard whose story is very compelling, exciting, heartbreaking, and triumphant. As I’m picking, I say, “Oh, no, we didn’t pick that guy, but he’s the guy that did this and that.” That’s also a big part of it, the storytelling and the history of where these grapes are coming from.
A: Now that the brand’s been in the market for two years, where would you like to see the brand go? Sometimes I talk to people who come into wine from other industries and they want their George Clooney moment, let’s call it, where other people want to have it in their family for generations. This is what they’re going to give to their kids. Have you thought about that?
SJP: Well, fortunately, I don’t because it’s within the house of Invivo, which is Tim and Rob, and this exciting, growing business of theirs. Personally, I really love where we are and the business that I get to be part of. I know they’re growing, and I can imagine that they’re becoming people that are interesting to other larger houses. However, I would like to be able to work the way we work and not think about our valuation in the world, more so what are we offering customers? How do we stay involved the way we like to be involved? How does it stay intimate and personal? Obviously, we want the wine to be a success financially because they’ve put so much of their lives into it and they’ve done it all on their own, which is deeply impressive and very moving. But I think personal experiences are often just as important. Perhaps that might have something to do with our success. I think people know that this is personal and we care a great deal about every wine drinker’s experience. I would like it if we can grow within the home that it occupies.
A: It’s important for me to point out that the reason you’re saying these things, which I should have asked earlier, you are on the board at Invivo, part of your involvement is actually part of the entire company. I think that makes a lot more sense to listeners to understand why you’d like to see the entire company grow, which is really awesome. I do have one last question that my staff will kill me if I don’t ask, is that everyone’s very excited about the announcement of “Sex and the City” coming back. Will any of your wines make an appearance?
SJP: Listen, Adam, this is such a weird world for me because I’ve never been good at trading on that relationship. I don’t know that I exist in Carrie Bradshaw’s world. Like literally, I don’t think I exist. I just feel like you cross lines when you do that. The minute I think you start cross-promoting, there’s something that feels ugly to me. It feels like I’m exploiting something that’s really important to people. As much as I would like to feature Invivo wines on the set and background — that may not be in my apartment, but in Charlotte’s or Miranda’s — I just feel like it’s unethical, so probably not. I’m sure Rob and Tim hate hearing that, but I feel like viewers will feel exploited, taken advantage of in some way. I have to be more principled about it. Does that make sense?
A: Totally makes sense. And I love the answer. Actually, I think it makes a ton of sense. It’s why so many of us love you. Thank you so much. This has been a really interesting conversation.
SJP: Next time longer, I hope.
A: Yes, for sure. You can find the wines nationally, right?
SJP: That’s right. And I don’t know if anyone may or may not be on Instagram, they can go to @invivoxsjp. The really amazing thing that Tim and Rob have done on social media is if you go to @invivoxsjp on Instagram, there is a system of going to our website and typing in your zip code and you can find your local wine merchants. You can find restaurants that are serving the wine and lots of ways to get your hands on it.
A: Amazing. Well, thank you so much again for taking the time to chat with me. I really appreciate it.
SJP: Thank you, Adam. It was really lovely talking to you!
Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you love this show as much as we love making it, then please leave us a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever it is you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show.
Now for the credits, VinePair is produced and recorded in New York City and in Seattle, Wash., by myself and Zach Geballe, who does all the editing and loves to get the credit. Also, I would love to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder, Josh Malin, for helping make all this possible, and also to Keith Beavers, VinePair tasting director, who is additionally a producer on the show. I also want to, of course, thank every other member of the VinePair team who is instrumental in all of the ideas that go into making the show every week. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.