What’s Your Wine Story?
Written while sipping on Orin Swift’s Machete
I have a confession. I am a marketer, so the story behind a product naturally draws me in. Although you’re not supposed to judge a wine by it’s cover, I am typically intrigued by wines whose labels are clever, different, powerful. One of the most compelling things about wine, is that each has a story, a journey. It’s the story behind wines that make them rare, collectible, valuable. It’s where you drink them, who you drink them with.
One storyteller that has gained quite a bit of attention is Orin Swift Cellars. The first chapter began in 1995 when David Swift Phinney studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Like most trips to Italy, wine was involved and David fell in love. After graduating, he worked at Robert Mondavi Winery as a temporary harvest worker. In 1998 he founded Orin Swift Cellars, named for his father’s middle name, Orin, and his mother’s maiden name, Swift. His story started with two tons of zinfandel and the passion to make wines for others and himself.
Mr. Phinney has gone on to tell stories through fermented grapes and the bottles that contain them. The “Prisoner” label quickly became a flagship, with an etching of a prisoner drawn by Goya, a famous artist.
“Papillon” is labeled with a photograph of a farmer’s hands with the letters over each finger spelling “Papillon.” The hands belong to Vince Tofanelli, a respected Napa Valley Vintner and the photo was taken by celebrity photographer, Greg Gorman. After learning a bit about wine making from Dave Phinney, Mr. Gorman went on to own his own label, GKG Cellars.
A collector of coins as a child, the silver winged Mercury Head dime (only minted from 1916 to 1945) inspired David to produce about 2,000 cases of the Mercury Head wine in a year. With high standards, the wine is not produced every year, but these bottles typically use Mercury Head dime coins from the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.
“Machete” is bottled with 12 different labels. Each is a Polaroid type photo of a fierce femme fatale. The Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache blend is known to result in a “wine with attitude,” appropriately labeled.
“Slander” is a Pinot Noir bridging the gap between Old and New World flavors. This wine challenges the norm. With classic Pinot Noir notes on the nose and a New World boldness on the palate. Wrapped with “duct tape” and label maker font, the label is not nearly as complex as its contents. It may be safe to assume, that is by design.
Phinney’s wines are like a gift that keeps on giving. “Veladora”, a Sauvignon Blanc, pays tribute to Hispanic vineyard workers. 100% of the profits are given to “Puertas Abiertas,” a charitable organization that “Open Doors” to farm workers providing dental services, counseling and health screenings.
As you break the wax – swirl, sniff, and sip your way through each note. Make the story your own by savoring each sip and those you are sharing it with.
Cheers. Proost. Sláinte. Salute. Salud.
– Jordan Lacenski: Founder & Chief Innovation Officer of BrandBoss Creative