H o w
D r e s s t h e B o t t l e s
Supposing somebody walked up to you and said,
"you can have any face you want, so tell me, what face do you want?"
That sort of shocking possibility is something like the feeling you get when you set off to
design a wine package. So to create these 'faces' is to create a delicate balance of still being who
you really are, and yet, having a few more people take notice than they did before.
And of course faces have to be on bodies, so there is the next question,
"you can have any body you want, so what will it be?"
The face is the label and the bottle the body.
So this is how it all took form, first the face:
In the Spring of 2004, Krassimira and Bruce took a little trip to the City. When we arrived, we
parked on the third story of a parking structure that lined us up with the top of an old Italian
grocery store. At the time we didn't really see what was in front of us because our mission was
to have lunch at one of those classic San Francisco restaurants, and after a very nice leisurely
meal, we returned to the car. There we sat for a moment and looked out at what must have
been the neighborhood grocery store. We were at the same elevation as the top of that building
across the way, and it was fairly close. At the peak was an old painted illustration surrounded
by a frieze. It had everything. Everything that inspired taking home
those ingredients from the store and making an expression of love.
And we both said, yeah, that's it, it should be something like that.
So off to Petaluma with us where we met up with our favorite illustrator, Chuck Pyle.
And after another lovely long lunch, we were quite sure that he had the vision too.
The illustration was all drawn from words, we never handed him anything and
said, make it look like that. Admittedly, if we could have done that it would
have been easier on everyone, but Chuck would make a sketch and send it to us.
Krassimira would make a sketch, and we would send it back. After a few of these
exchanges we were getting really close. Close enough that it was time for us to get
out of the way and let Chuck do his magic, which he did.
Now we had the illustration, it is a sort of a 'family crest' for us. It has the important elements
of how we put our family life together: vineyards on hillsides, the dining table, the campfire,
energy coming out of the bottle, and curious angelic cherubs helping in the whole process.
Then the process of putting the type around the illustration came next. I tried, but Chuck was
kind enough to point us in the direction of a great graphic designer, Doug Offenbacher.
So again, with a shared vision, the type was set.
We included the elements that spoke to the way we evolve the wines:
The vineyard is the most important, so it gets the biggest type.
We make the wine barrel-by-barrel, bottle it the same way,
so each barrel needs its own label and that is indicated accordingly.
We stand by the product, every purchaser has to be a happy customer,
so I sign the labels to let people know that my name and reputation is there.
And of course there is the year of the vintage, and add further serialization by each
bottle getting its recognition with a number of where it came in the birth order.
Those are the elements.
Then the labels need to be printed. The Sonoma Print shop got the honors.
Printing can be such a touchy matter, after all, this is your face, right?
We were lucky enough to have a great printer, Lloyd, who prints by the same
adage we live by when we make wine, 'Assume Nothing'. So with checks and double
checks the labels got printed. Furthering our luck, I was just bright enough to realize that
it would be much easier to sign the labels if I did it while they were all on the same piece of
paper; in other words, prior to the galleys being cut. So if you want to really twist your mind,
try signing your name 2,800 times in the presence of ink vapors.
Moving from the face to the body, we needed a bottle.
Krassimira and I had noted on several occasions that really good bottles of Pinot Noir
seemed to run out 250 milliliters too soon. So with enough empirical evidence to support
our feelings, we decided to bottle in 1,000 milliliter bottles. To find a suitable 1 liter bottle was
a tribulation. We thought we wanted a punted bottle, but when we got one, it was just too big.
We didn't want it to look like a magnum, so now we needed to find a flat bottom one that
was still the classic 'dead leaf green' color. Louise Otwell helped us out, and she was able
to bring in the glass from Canada. The glass came all together, shrink wrapped on a pallet.
So now we needed to have custom made boxes, and Kim Kelly used her skill to help us
out there. Now the cork. Well, why not the best available? As much as I love to see
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in a screw top finish, that wasn't going to work
for our style of ceremony. So Nathalie Durham of M.A.Silva Corks helped
us out also. It is absolutely amazing how many people it takes to
create that little village that makes a home for our wine.
And luckily, everybody was really good at
what they do and did.
And with face and body just what we wanted to create,
our wine is all dressed up,
it has some place lovely to go.
Our printer, Lloyd of the Sonoma Print Shop, examines the craftsmanship before the
chop-chop of the galleys occurs.
From one galley to the other galley, and yes chop-chop, hurry up.
Bruce, in the kitchen of World Headquarters, is trying to get the last of the
labels signed. He is undoubtedly wondering if this was such a good idea,
given that it is St. Patrick's Day and the celebrating has already started.