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Snooth User: Daniel Petroski

What’s in a Name?

Posted by Daniel Petroski, Jul 1, 2009.

 “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

If I introduced you to the rose bushes in my garden and I called them, Skunk, Vomit and Sulfur, would you really take to them with a walk away feeling of delicacy and charm?  And in that we find wine’s least charming characteristic - the power of persuasion.  Anyone can pull their Pinocchio from the glass and blurt out something rather interesting or silly   and, almost immediately, you will pick up on that same character if you are sniffing the same wine.

How does this pertain to a name?  Well, in launching my new venture I have the inevitable task of naming my wine.  This is a process that I have thought about over the years; even when I had no desire to make my own wine and label it as such.

I could tell you what I like to drink and why; however, unlike the old saying, “the journey is the destination,” in hindsight I have always felt it to be the other way around - the destination (the words and snapshots in your journal, the airline ticket stubs, the restaurant matchbooks) should incite memories of the time spent or the feelings endured.  When you are dealing with a luxury, packaged good (as pricey wine can be categorized) the hope is that the name, the label, the brand identity makes a connection that either brings you to another place or helps you identify with the thoughts and inspirations of the winemaker behind the wine.  [Note: That is just my opinion and aspiration.]

So, I am torn as to how I want to present myself with this wine.  I know in today’s day of Technology ADD, a brand needs to be dynamic and changing; offering its core essence but evolving with the times.  But for me, the dilemma is deeper.  Do I care about keeping up with the Twitterati?  Or do I want to achieve something that is timeless in its place and presentation?

I concede in my willingness to possibly accept the inevitable evolution of a brand identity, and, therefore, I have accepted the fact that the first attempt may not be perfect in all its parts.

For me, at the moment, ideas are swimming somewhere between an Ivy League education reamed of Humanities, Ancient Greek and Roman studies and all their encompassing esotericism, ethereal character and intellectualism with my modern day appreciation of minimalism, simplicity and elegance.

Can one accomplish both while teetering on the imagery of Tiepolo and Richard Serra? I hope so.

But, if you know me, I tend to stand against the pretension (of wine) albeit appreciating the history of the wine and its craftsmanship - from the technical and traditional to the irreverent and risk taking.
So, how does one portray the personality of the product and the varied personality of the person behind the product?  That is the dilemma.

I am 99% certain of the name of the wine brand and the “sub names” of the white wines I wish to create.  However, I would like to hear from you, my faithful and flawless readers, what attracts you to a wine label?  I’d love to gather your thoughts and comment on them and my decision in the next post.  Thanks in advance for your time and generosity of opinion, I look forward to hearing from you.

Dan Petroski is Assistant Winemaker at Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west


Reply by Alleigh, Jul 2, 2009.

Most of the time, to be honest, it isn't the name that attracts me to the wine, but rather my expectations of the wine. That said, classy simplicity with a touch of uniqueness has a particular draw. As a wine blogger, I find that my readers gravitate towards wines with names that are easy to remember, as well as easy to distinguish from other wines. Good luck...and I can't wait to read about what you decide!!

Reply by GregT, Jul 2, 2009.

I agree. Clear, simple, easy to read labels with a clear, easy-to-pronounce name. That latter isn't so much for me as for your customers - people sometimes won't buy something that they're embarrassed to pronounce. Larkmead is perfect as a name for that reason. Good luck.

Blog comment by Dan, Jul 2, 2009.

Thanks, Alleigh. Simple, Classy and Unique; that is what I am thinking re: the label design. A name, easy to remember ? Well, I hope my initial naming idea is easy to remember!

GregT, seconds the clear, simple and easy and adds the pronunciation equation into the mix. I agree with you. Who would ever try and order a wine at a restaurant, (on a date!) if they can't pronounce the name of it.

Curious, you two (and I am sure Snooth Greg will have a comment about this), what do you think of the wine labels of Paolo Bea ? See link:

Reply by Adam Levin, Jul 2, 2009.

Those labels are very unique and memorable, but I would never remember the name of one of those wines, just what the label looked like and what color it was.

Reply by dmcker, Jul 2, 2009.

Regarding the wine labels, 'over-wrought' and 'noisy' spring to mind. Nice fonts, even an art-nouveau feel in places, but so many words that the label could be off-putting for many. Modern and minimalist in their lack of art, but not their use of language (as, in effect, barrier). What happened to 'clear, simple and easy'?

Reply by dmcker, Jul 2, 2009.

As I read up on Paolo Bea's philosophy towards winemaking, I assume he wants to slow you down as you read the labels, and get you to think about his obvious care regarding the making of his wine. Personally I don't dislike the labels, particularly as I have more time in my life these days to peruse and ponder. But as someone who once made a chunk of his living from marketing communications, I can't help but wonder how many people would just slide past the density of his labels when seen on shelves somewhere, and fix on another...

Blog comment by Dan, Jul 2, 2009.

Adam and DMCKER, thanks for your thoughts. What intrigues me about the Paolo Bea label(s) is the narrative, the "information overload" (the transparency and the technical data being a geek that I am). It's also, as you point out DMCKER, a letter, a written story that makes you stop and slow down - and the idea that he would state right on the label, "a very good vintage" (or bad if that is the case) adds a bit of humor to the endeavor. I think the language barrier is also intriguing with regards to these labels. It makes me feel like the bottle is a piece of nostalgia, the label (as mentioned above) could be a ticket or momento. I am curious if that would work in English.

Although I was/am asking general questions about labels and your opinions, I will note that my wine (in its limited production) is planned to be a hand-sell, direct to consumer, some restaurants and select retail. I am not saying I am going down the Paolo Bea road, but for some alluring reason I have put it high on my list of 'likes' when I am sharing this information with the designers I am talking to.

Thanks again for the feedback.

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