What kind of a label makes me want to enjoy the thing within? A premier package design question for sure, but as it applies to me, “enjoy” cuts out a lot of the things for which I know I would not wish to design packages. In the case of things I know I do enjoy, I’m often inspired to explore branding in their 3-dimensional forms. One of those things is wine.
There’s a reason there aren’t a ton of exciting wine labels out there: creative labels are expensive, both in design and in production. Small wineries don’t have the money or respect for design selling their libations, and large companies are often large for the reason that they’ve been around for a long time, mastered their taste, and therefore come with a long history. History is hard to change in a company, and I can understand why. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But necessity is the mother of invention. Okay, before I wax proverbial any more here’s the introduction to this month’s brand.
As horrible as something like a fire can be, it can also be the beginning of something new. California is known for the fires that sweep through the hills during dry summers, and it’s accepted that their occurrences are not only impossible to fully contain, but necessary to the ecology. Fires don’t occur as often in the northern part of the state, especially in the lovely valleys which have a consistent coastal temperature and cool long evenings that make for the farming of brilliant grapes. But they can, and do sometimes happen. Entire vineyards could be at risk, as was the case for Morthelo Farms, a wine producer in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County many years ago. Morthelo Farms was destroyed by a grass fire, as was its heritage of fine grapes and therefore its wines. The property was still valuable however, but the family had to foreclose with what it could make out of the real estate. What could a little scorching and ash do to such rich and endemic soil? Well, a lot, really. It would take some time before a fire’s destruction to a farm, the soil, the seeds, the whole ecosystem was reestablished, let alone producing vibrant fruit as it was before.
However, with such a change in the soil, there’s an opportunity for a distinguishing taste to the fruit. An entrepreneur up the coast knew this, and after hearing about the tragedy he took that opportunity to reinvent the land and establish his own vineyard, a goal he has always had. At first he was building the business under his own name, but after time, and successful fruit was yielding, he began to think more about how the difference and change to the earth was also an opportunity to give the wine it would produce a name that stood out. He wasn’t looking to name the vineyard anything too outlandish or too mundane, and although the fire did add interesting qualities to the fruit it didn’t change the fundamental tastes that one would expect from the distilled product.
Therefore, said owner named the vineyard Grass Fire, and his line of rich burgeoning and young wines was born. Grass Fire uses its name for a hold on its history, but still maintains the mainstays of strong, inky Cabernets and crisp Viogniers. The winery is looking for a logo to brand their estate, the wine, and labels. They’re younger than most vintners in the area, and want to retain that sensibility, but they also realize the importance of appearance, hoping to be sold in restaurants and over time, wholesale. They only sell their wines locally currently however, and may end up seizing that as their primary business, but their sensibilities for good design and uniqueness has them looking for a way to set them apart from the rather tame visuals on US bottles today.
Though the wines are also young, they do have some mature flavor and dimension to them. They wish to be known for this maturity, but also for being progressive, having an interesting story, and loving the process and luxury of wine. They realize that the fire that has become their namesake was an opportunity and not a loss; that it was natural and organic, and hopefully this attention and respect helps them understand their fruit even more. Grass Fire has proposed the following 5 words to help encapsulate their brand:
I’m in a strange half-month loop thing lately with Monthly Brand and although this is typically a late start date for a term, I’m very much looking forward to diving into this identity. I just got back from a hiatus to the west coast (if that isn’t apparent) where I tasted a lot of phenomenal wines, enough to inspire me to put those tastes into the visuals that were rather lacking on their bottles. So raise your glass, here’s to dreaming and drawing and hopefully a successful design soon!