February 23, 2021 5 min read
So, what is a "Virtual Wine Brand"? On the surface, this term means that a winery doesn't own its' own vineyards or facilities. The upside is that it costs less upfront to start the winery. The downside is that there is less control over quality. This concept goes counter to the traditional belief that wineries must own their vineyards and production. But this is the U.S.A, and we love to innovate and challenge tradition. This innovation and disruption is the foundationon which Lucky Rock Wine Co. was built.
But we are not the only ones innovating in the virtual wine brand sphere. In this blog, we want to give props to other innovators, pioneers, and overall awesome people who make great wine, have a cool story and stand out in a sea of generic wine brands.
*Note: some of these wineries are still virtual; others started virtual and have since built a tasting room or a production facility. All deserve props. *
The establishment of Bodkin Wines is the story of two guys dedicated to producing high-quality wines enjoyed by both connoisseurs and novices at a low price. Sounds familiar? It should because we share this identity at Lucky Rock. Chris Christensen started the winery in 2011, was later joined by Andrew Chambers in 2013. Bodkin Wines created America's first sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and since produced over 15 different varietals, all of which garnered high acclaim for winemaking and quality. The name draws inspiration from a historical battle outside of the town of Agincourt where an English army of 6,000 led by Henry V defeated the French army of 30,000 with their bodkin-pointed armor-piercing arrows. This underdog mentality is just f*in' awesome! It's tough to stay afloat in a market saturated by billion-dollar wineries, but Bodkin wines are fighting a good fight, and we consider them our brothers in arms and also one of the best virtual wineries out there.
This brand, established by Matt Duffy and Sara Vaughn in 2007, is another testament to how a winery built on creativity, hard work, and goodwill can make a high-quality brand without excessive investment. It's a common theme amongst Virtual Wineries, as producing high-quality wines is incredibly expensive. Vaughn Duffy specializes in Pinot Noir of various ranges, from their most affordable $32 blend to $65 reserve. He also improvises with some lesser-known, unique OG grape varieties like Carignane and Charbono. We dig their labels, with some funky cursive lettering and a drawing of a forklift- a likely reference to owner Matt Duffy's long-time work in the cellar. They also have a tasting room in Santa Rosa (which recently re-opened), and we would most definitely recommend for you to visit next time you're around.
It's good to be environmentally friendly. In the wine world, terms like "sustainable" and "organic"sometimes get thrown around without much reason or purpose. For most wineries, especially those without their vineyards or large sums of capital, being fully conscious of the planet is tough. That is why it is incredible to see a winery that spearheads a concentrated effort to "not be an environmental asshole" and takes this to a whole other level. Kenny Likitprakong and the team at Hobo wines are pioneers. One of the many initiatives championed by Hobo Wine Co is their dedication to the 1% for the Planet cause, dedicating 1% of their profit to nonprofit environmental organizations. There are many other principles as well, which you can see here.
We describe Hobo Wine Co's wines as adventurous, with various brands (at least 6), lots of traditional and esoteric varietals, and cool artistic labeling. The wines are delicious as well. So, if you want to drink good wine and feel good about helping the planet, you can't go wrong with Hobo.
"Some filmmakers go to film school others just pick up the camera and start filming."
Andrew Major, the founder of Major wines, started making wine in his laundry room. After a little "trial-and-error," a one-of-a-kind brand was born, built on both quality and hustle. Andrew's current offerings include Central Coast classics like Pinot Noir and more unknown varietals like Valdigue and Albarino. His innovative and artistic labels especially catch our eye. Keep it up, Andrew!
"I just don't want to die without a few scars."
These words, written by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, are written in gray on Saint K's.minimalistic website. This edginess aesthetic is reflected by the post-apocalyptic/ urban decay images that adorn Chris Kiranbay's labels. Wine is about stories, and who says they need to be romantic or rustic? Sometimes, something provocative connects better. So, check out Saint K, a combination of limited production Rhone wines and high-quality winemaking by a reputable winemaker (check out the story here)
A vineyard grower, a winemaker, and a master sommelier walk into a bar. It sounds like a setup of a joke, but this is how Luli Wine Company started. A collaboration between Sara Floyd MS, Jeff & Mark Pisoni- all three with massive levels of experience and knowledge in their fields- Luli Wine Co produces fantastic wine from classic varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc. Their vibe is all about love, unity, and enjoying life, which seems like a mantra we could all use these days.
We are concluding this list with a little self-promotion. Classic! Lucky Rock Wine Co was started in 2013 by brothers Jesse and Aaron Inman to create "wines of intention, not pretension." But what does that mean? Well, aside from being a very cool slogan, it means:
So, if you haven't yet, check us out! We are doing lots of cool releases and are coming soon to a hole-in-the-wall near you. In the words of our idol and all-around bad-ass Doc Holiday:
"You're a daisy if you do."
To learn more about the nitty-gritty side of starting a "virtual brand" check out this link.
It may seem counterintuitive to promote other brands in the same price category, but we believe that the wine market is big enough for all of us to have a piece.
Wine brands have gotten a bad rap lately. Large conglomerate wineries churn out wine brands almost weekly, which are mostly just products with no story or identity. Authenticity is important to us, so the genuinely authentic brands are good in our book and deserve a shoutout.
It's also really cool to see ourselves in other brands, who we are, and who we can be. Every family-owned wine brand, us including, has its own identity, motivation, and voice, and it's not just about clones or rootstocks.
So, we challenge and encourage you, pick up a few of these brands and try them out yourself. You'll look cool while drinking good wine and supporting small businesses. Sounds like a win in our book.
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