Packaging


bottles, capsules and cork samples

bottles, capsules and cork samples

Winemaking is not always about making wine.  There are always less glamorous tasks to be done, like packaging, which we are working on now. Later this summer we will bottle our 2009 vintage and we are lining up packaging details now. This means decisions have to be made on what size, color and nationality the bottle will be. We must choose what type of cork to use and if our logo will be branded on it. Then there is the capsule–what material, color, size do we want? Logo or no logo?  And last, but not least, we must update our label for the 3 different vineyards 2009.

Under my radar, downstairs, Uzi has been busy mixing and matching different colored capsules with various styles of bottles with our 2008 label slapped on to get a visual of what we want to end up with.

During his mix and match process, Uzi put a filled bottle with our 2008 Stomping Girl label, a red capsule and a Stomping Girl branded cork in it on our kitchen counter for me to see.  In an ironic twist of fate, later that same day a sommelier/wine director from a very well-known restaurant coincidentally paid me a surprise visit on an unrelated matter (we were working together on a project for our kids’ school.) He knows we make wine and spontaneously asked if he could try it.  I obliged, of course, after all there was the bottle of it right there in front of us on the counter. Had I followed rule #1 of pouring your wine to trade, I would have tasted it, and I would have known that it was not the 2008 Stomping Girl Lone Oak Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands that was clearly indicated on the label and that I portrayed it to be.

The gentleman gave it a sniff and a whirl.  His feedback was brief as he was in a hurry. He observed cranberries on the nose and the palette and then had to run to an appointment. Cranberries???  I should have known something was up at that point.  Our Lone Oak definitely does not invoke cranberries.  It has a much darker red fruit component.

That night I discovered the wine that had been on the counter, that I had poured for our new friend was not what I thought it was.  Aack!  I had been waiting weeks for the perfect opportunity to pour our wine for this man and I blew it!  How was I to know that a bottle labeled 2008 Stomping Girl Lone Oak Pinot Noir was in fact a bottle of our 2007 basement Pinot? Still a perfectly drinkable Pinot but not our Stomping Girl that retails for $38.

Luckily, we had a nice chuckle over it later and I promised to pour the real Stomping Girl for him next time.  Wonder if he’ll believe me?

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stamp

Some of you may wonder what is so exciting about a label being approved or even why a label would have to be approved at all? It’s just a wine bottle label right?

Well, think again. Our good old uncle Sam, or The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, aka TTB,  wants to make sure we say the ‘right’ things on our wine label:  for example, that we state the correct appellation, or where most of the grapes in the bottle came from; that if we say the bottle contains Pinot Noir, then most of the wine in the bottle is Pinot Noir; that if we say it is a 2008 vintage, it is mostly 2008.  And that is just the beginning.

As many bloggers have documented before me, this is a real fun process, not!

We have to state the correct alcohol level. Now, as far as I can tell, this is very important to the ‘Man’ from a taxation perspective. Wines above 14% alcohol are taxed at a much higher rate than ones below.   A lot of the rules have their roots in Prohibition.

We need to have the usual disclaimer on the back about birth defects and your ability to drive a car or operate machinery.

Then there are layout rules for some labels.  Here is a doozy straight from the TTB web site:

“When using a varietal/two or more grape varietals as the type designation, the varietals [and their percentages] must be in at least 2 mm print and appear separate and apart or more conspicuous than surrounding text.  If the mandatory information appears surrounded by other text, it must be in bold print or at least twice the size of the surrounding text.” All good stuff in the name of consumer protection.

And then there are things we can’t say.  You can’t make mention of any kind of the potential health benefits of drinking a glass or two of red wine.  Nope!  Not allowed.  Never mind that for millenniums civilized people around the world have been raising a glass and toasting Salut! or Sante! or Le-Chaim! to your health.

We may have to wait another hundred years to be able to make those claims. In the mean time, we are just glad we got our labels approved.

Salute!

After countless revisions we finally have a label designed!

label

Our name, Stomping Girl, was inspired by my grandmother Esther.  She started the family tradition of winemaking many years ago and used to get my little sister Michal into the bin to stomp the grapes. Now we have 3 more “stomping girls” working on the wine.   A talented designer, Paul Jobson, came up with a logo to represent our name.  He presented us with this:

stomping girl logo winner

stomping girl logo winner

a playful depiction of a girl stomping grapes while daydreaming of other activities and we loved it.

Our label designer, Hayley, then worked with us to come up with many label design concepts, incorporating the logo in different ways.  Ever so patient with us, Hayley produced countless iterations.  We tried the girl at the top of the label, on the side of the label, jumping out of the label, in the middle of the label, on the bottom right of the label.  We made the girl black, burgundy and purple.  We had to fit the varietal name, year, appellation and vineyard on a small 4″x 2″ space.  We tried many different fonts; we tried all caps, small caps, no caps, you name it!  And let’s not forget all government mandated warnings that need to fit on there too.  

We tried different types of paper, different sizes of paper; different types of bottles and different color capsules.  We got feedback from graphic designers, friends and relatives. It was more time consuming than one would imagine.  

Ultimately, however, one hopes that what is IN the bottle matters much more than what is ON the bottle.   I agree with one label designer who was quoted as saying it is their job to help sell a customer that first bottle of wine but it is the winemaker’s job to keep that customer coming back for more.  Our 2008 is tasting wonderful right now, and, it’s nice to see a label matching the quality and craftsmanship of what is in the bottle!

The label of our hobby wine is Domaine Carlotta.  Domaine, of course, refers to a property with vineyards that produces and bottles it’s own wine. We do have a few grapevines in our back yard here in Berkeley but fruit from better wine-growing regions go into our wine.  However, since the wine I’m referring to here is for our own consumption we didn’t worry about the technicalities.  

Carlotta is the name of the street we live on.  In a side note and much more interesting story, Carlotta is also the name of the Belgium-born wife of the Austrian archduke Maximilian who served a term as Emperor of Mexico during the early 1860’s.  His term, during a short French intervention in Mexico, was cut short by his overthrow and assassination.  

,Carlotta Empress of Mexico

Carlotta Empress of Mexico

Our next door neighbor and his friend (both Cal professors of Mexican descent) reminded us of this colorful bit of history while we were discussing current and potential names for our wine.  The Mexicans apparently had nothing against Carlotta, in fact they rather liked her.  They were simply rejecting foreign rule and had no choice but to kill her husband.  Carlotta, as a result, suffered profound emotional collapse and slipped into a state of paranoia upon her return to Europe which haunted her until her death.  That makes for a good story to tell when asked about our wine label; however, truth is, we really named our hobby wine after the street we live on.  

Now we are working on the name and label design for our 2 Pinot Noirs that will be released and available commercially later this year.  We considered keeping Domaine Carlotta; after all, that is where we got started making wine.  Besides, if we needed to spice things up a bit, we had the great story and images of intrigue and drama surrounding Carlotta, Empress of Mexico.  

Ultimately we decided, heck, you know what, we have our own genuine, even intriguing, female figures in our own interesting family history.  This is what inspired our entry into winemaking and eventually inspired the name we’ve chosen for our new release:  Stomping Girl Wines.  We founded Stomping Girl last year in honor of Uzi’s grandmother who started the family winemaking tradition and recruited Uzi’s sister, then a child, to stomp grapes during harvest.  Nowadays, we don’t stomp the grapes, of course. Rather, Stomping Girl is used more in a figurative sense represented by our daughters and myself, involved in the winemaking alongside Uzi.  We are confident it represents our family and our wine as well.