There is so much turmoil in the Western World right now. Friends, family members, co-workers, etc. are fighting, insulting and breaking relationships possibly forever… and for what? A difference of opinion about what would make the world, France, UK or my home country, the US, a better place? All of us want the same thing, right? We just see things differently. I’m hopeful that once tempers cool down, all of us will realize that the best way to make things better is by compromising and coming together… and that insulting people will never make them compassionate to your situation.
But I understand… things are a little heated right now… I have certainly said things I wished I had never said… but that is the process of growing as a human being. All of us can only be hopeful that we will do better tomorrow.
Brand vs Family Winery
Talking about debating, how about that long, sometimes heated, debate of which is better, brands or family wineries? I am a wine geek and so many people think I would be against an obvious “brand”. Some may think that geeks are only attracted to obscure wines that have a complicated label, which few others can understand.
On the contrary, while I may geek out with the best of them and I certainly love well-established family wineries, I also love anything in the wine world that makes this beverage more accessible and fun for everyone. Nothing thrills me more than when I hear a long time beer or spirit drinker say that they found a wine that made them think that they could be a “wine drinker” too – and usually it is a well known brand that brings them to the wine side. I want the whole, appropriately aged, drinking world to connect to a libation that has truly changed my life a hundred times for the better. The only way to do that, on a large scale, is through a strong brand.
Dave Phinney is a man that understands the concept of a successful brand. Even though, at one time, he was just a lone wolf in Napa Valley, California, who decided to take the leap of starting his own wine company, Orin Swift Cellars in 1998, he eventually became a master branding genius. His main wine brand, The Prisoner, won many Americans over to be ultra premium wine drinkers. It is atypical to have a very talented winemaker be extremely talented at branding as well. But somehow he was able to channel that same creativity which gave him the talent to blend over 80 top vineyards and several grape varieties to create The Prisoner, to conceive of labels and a concept that would immediately connect and inspire people to seek out his wines.
Tearing Down Fear
This is probably one of the most consistent rants I go on… Since I was in the wine trade for over a decade, compounded with the fact that I have lived in Manhattan for over 22 years, I have unfortunately seen a lot of fear with regards to wine. People are afraid of being judged…afraid of being embarrassed…simply afraid of wine. This is not good for the wine business or anyone who loves wine.
The artisanal spirit and craft beer companies are winning when it comes to making libations fun and accessible by inspiring confidence with drinkers. Okay, to be fair, they have bigger budgets since they are higher margin businesses, but even when it comes to the people selling them, in restaurants and retail stores, the image and branding of spirits and beers encourage those people hand-selling them to have more leeway to be playful with those products. I have witnessed too many awkward, painful encounters with those selling wine as well as with those buying it. I have devoted myself to tearing down elitism in the wine world and sharing my love for it that I hope is infectious to everyone.
I am happy to see that with Phinney’s new project, Locations, that he is not only using his creative talents to offer value wines that have great generosity, but that he will be able to introduce other winemaking countries to a large US population.
The Locations wines are an innovative way that Phinney felt he could bring the wines of the world to the US audience. The story goes that after his 2010 harvest, Phinney was at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France and he saw a distinctive “F” sticker on a license plate, and it lit an idea for the labels that would lead him to making wines that expressed a country in a playful and easy to understand way.
These wines give some of the hints of that country, wrapped up in a comfortable US friendly package. They are blends from vineyards across each country, some of the vineyards coming from old vines, and that way he is able to sell wines with consistently good quality at an affordable price.
Sometimes, as wine geeks, we forget what wine is like for the rest of the non-geek world. It is a scary place when someone is forced to go outside of their comfort zone. That is where I hope we can all get along. Successful brands do not need to be the enemy of struggling family wineries. In fact, they could help to win more people to my favorite team – the wine team. Although each of us may disagree with the type of wine we want in our glass, I’m hopeful that all of us can sit back and enjoy drinking our wines together.
Tasting Notes for Locations wines from October 14th, 2016
-E4 – Spanish Red Wine (SRP $18.99): Blend of Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo, Monastrell and Cariñena (Carignan). Opaque color with an explosion of black fruit, fresh leather and dried thyme on the finish. Savory, dusty Old World flavors with New World assurance.
-F4 – French Red Wine (SRP $18.99): Blend of Grenache, Syrah and assorted Bordeaux varietals. France is my “boo” wine country in a sense. I may love many wines from around the world, and I certainly have been obsessed with Italy lately, but I have traveled to France the most amount of times and it is a special place for me. This wine has inviting, fresh brambly fruit that could please conservatives and liberals alike, and a whisper of cedar with an under-layer of pencil shavings that has enough diversity to let everyone know they are invited to the party.