Monday, January 14, 2008

Boone's Farm Blues

Flint has a grand tradition of underage drinking. Procuring alcohol and consuming it when you are under the age of 21 (or 18 when I was growing up) is something of an art form in the birthplace of General Motors.

Now that I’ve reached the age when a couple drinks leaves me feeling groggy the next morning, I’ve started wondering if I really drank as much in high school as I seem to think I did.

I clearly remember going to Brown Street party store with my friends Mark and Steve, who lived on Crescent Drive. Steve’s dad owned a Checker, just like the old cabs, except this one was direct from the factory, so it was a tasteful dark color instead of yellow. Not the most inconspicuous car for a night of illegal boozing, but at least it was built for safety. It was like tooling around Flint in a well-appointed tank/limo with The English Beat on the stereo. To this day I associate the song “Mirror in the Bathroom” with Steve’s car.

I trust my memory of the Checker, but I’m having my doubts about the volume and variety of alcohol we’d drink before heading into the Our Lady of Lebanon dances. Did we really finish off a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine each in about 20 minutes? I don’t think I could hold down that much water now, let alone the sickeningly sweet $2 swill courtesy of Ernest and Julio Gallo.

(Let’s not even talk about the other horrible things I drank in high school. Okay, okay, but just one example: Apple cider and rum, followed by a half bottle of cheap champagne. I started throwing up in Alena Birnie’s bathroom, and finished barfing in a snowbank near Bassett Park.)

I put a call into Mark on his lunch hour at Ford, convinced he’d say that all three of us shared a single bottle. Nope. He confirmed that it was one bottle each.

“It was easier to drink than beer,” Mark explained, revealing why he became an accountant for an automaker and not a sommelier.

He pointed out that I might be thinking of the time we couldn’t get Boone’s Farm so we bought a single massive jug of wine — one of those bottles with the little glass rings near the top for easier swigging — and took turns finishing it off.

“That night we technically shared one bottle of wine,” he added.

This trip down memory lane got me interested in figuring out just what Boone’s Farm really is. We all refer to it as “wine” but that doesn’t seem accurate. The Gallo Wine website calls it a “fruit flavored beverage.”, which jokingly — I hope — claims to be “dedicated to the best selection of drinks in the world,” describes it as a “flavored…wine product produced in the American state of California.” But in a testament to the high quality of Boone’s Farm, the site adds: “In some U.S. states, such as Minnesota and Utah, some Boone's Farm products are labeled as malt beverages and not as flavored apple/citrus wine products, as state liquor laws prohibit the sale of wine in grocery and convenience stores.”

Why don’t I settle this once and for all and call it a “flavor enhanced wine-like malt beverage.” That has a nice ring to it.

One thing Boone’s farm doesn’t have is a lot of alcohol. It's "only" in the 8-10 percent range, which is why it gets dissed on a few websites dedicated to, well, booze with high alcohol content: “This sugary swill is more of an underage drinker's economy wine than a bum wine,” the connoisseurs at opine. “You won't find empty Boone's bottles in any rail yard or heating vent, but you will find it in the local bowling alley parking lot or make-out spot.”

Regardless of its alcohol content, Boone's farm is responsible for a lot of happy memories and horrible morning afters. That might be why it inspired Emily Dunbar to write a song about it, which you can listen to here. But I’ll provide the lyrics just in case:

Painted eyes, ruby lips
Press-on nails on her fingertips
She wears her hair down
Like a Clairol Crown

An entourage at her command
A string of beaus, no wedding band
If she looks your way
Hey, you’re kind for the day

She says, “Hey, shut up and kiss me”
If she thinks you’re looking fine
She says, “Hey get me a drink, dear”
What’s she drinking?
Boone’s Farm Wine

A lipstick stain on her cigarette
T-top down on the Corvette
Well, it’s Friday night
She’s feeling alright
She meets her friends just south of town
They turn the music up and watch the sun go down
They get fired up
With their plastic cups

She says, “Hey, kick off your shoes girls
“Cheers to yours and here’s to mine
“Let’s have another round girls”
A round of what?
Boone’s Farm Wine

She wears her heels high and her skirts short
She lives at the East Line Trailer Court
Baby blue with the screen porch
And the bamboo tiki torch

She works the video counter at the IGA
Nothing glamorous but she gets paid
Rent nine get one free
New release DVDs

Hey, hey when her shift is over
Out the door she goes flying
With just one stop at the liquor counter
What’s she buying?
Boone’s Farm Wine

Strawberry Hill, Mountain Creek
Wild Island, Wild Raspberry
Two dollars, ninety-nine cents
For a liter at five percent

It tastes so sweet like Kool-Aid
Put it on ice and you got it made
It’s fizzy and it’s pink
It’s a girls’ drink

You can keep your Pabst Blue Ribbon
You can keep tequila shots
Keep your Triple Sec and So-Co
I’m not drinking unless I got
Boone’s Farm Wine

99 bottles of Boone’s on the wall
99 bottles of Boone’s
Take one down and pass it around
98 bottles of
Boone’s Farm Wine


  1. You have out-done yourself with this story!! I have already shared my comments on fake ID's and the hunt for non-compliant liquor stores in Flint but now I must comment about the wonderful "fruit-flavored beverage" that is Boone's Farm. Halloween in the late 80's, Karalyn Waggoner and I partied with some friends from Central and we each consumed three (yes that is the number 3) bottles of Boone's Farm. The liquor store on Fenton Rd near Ron's pizza, next to the donut shop had a "3 for $5.00 special." So of course, we had to partake in that bargain. I ended up at Randi Novaks house, sick as a dog, begging for death. It was possibly the worst "drunk" I have ever been. I'm 100% sure I have never had it since. But you forgot about one really special treat - Mad-Dog 20/20! Now that was some seriously terrible stuff!

  2. Three bottles! Damn, I feel like a lightweight now. But when you can get three bottles for five bucks, you have no choice but to indulge.

  3. Steve's dad owned a checker? Sorscher? Dad was a dentist, wasn't he? I used to play tennis against those guys.

  4. I think it was Maddog or Concord that turned me away from wine. It went down easy enough at a lock-in at St. John Vianney's, but it sure had a punch.

    I guess thats was one of the good things about the bad Flint economy in those days. If you wanted something illegal, someone was willing to sell it to you.

  5. I wish I had a picture, but alas... lost to the dustbin of history is my Boone's Farm Apple Wine lampshade.

    Imagine if you will a group of friends circa 1969, and a large ugly lamp with a large ugly lampshade. Somebody (I think it was Ron Watson) peeled the label from a wine bottle and stuck it to the lampshade. Several bottles later, the decoupage had begun, and soon the entire lampshade was covered.

    I hate to admit it, but this drunken project probably started me on a lifetime of being "crafty."

  6. Just had an AWADS Flashback!

    Couple bottles of TJ Swann Majic Moments and 4-0 of Bud! That was high school, speaking of LOL dances what ever happened to the Adam Ant Guys?!?

    Soon as I get back to Flint heading to Dupont and Pasadena for bottle of Swan and heading to the SC Course.

  7. The Sorscher's lived around the corner from us (near Circle Dr.). They had two checkers cabs (at least in the early to late 80's). One painted red and one blue. I remember one summer when one of the boys came home from college I saw him walk in front of my house strumming his guitar, barefoot and shirtless. They were what we called "a unique family." Mrs. Sorscher despised my sister and I because we threw more than a few very loud parties when my mom would vacation. I suppose many in the neighborhood did but Mrs. Sorscher - she was VERY verbal about her dislike of us. Without the illegally bought liquor which fueled above said parties- we might have been friends. Probably not. But you never know.


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