For the school assignment, the wine class had broken into five groups of fictitious wineries vying for selection by a fictitious Atlanta distributor played by our instructors, Gene and Ronny. In the next week, our gang of four had to use a list of grapes purchased by our imaginary winery to develop a branded wine package. Then, we needed to prepare a 20-minute sales presentation to convince the Atlanta distributors to carry our products.
That was our challenge the evening we sat around Rebecca’s kitchen table, in her mobile home in the middle of the Alexander Valley. To boost our brainstorming capacity we drank the leftovers of her day at Dubey. Our current thinking was to make our fictitious wine brand super elegant and refined, along the lines of the wineries that employed us, but Greg wasn’t having it.
“Why are we trying to create a stylin’ package when, let’s face it guys, we don’t have any style,” he argued. He wore a purple tee-shirt that said “Lick my Bung,” which emphasized his point exactly.
“You’re right. Why are we trying to be classy?” Rebecca laughed, swirling her wine. “Just because the guy from Matanzas Creek is going upscale? Maybe we should just be ourselves. Like, downscale.”
The other boy, Dylan, a recent high school graduate, sat and nodded his head, eyes wide, listening to the grown-ups talk.
“Yeah,” I said. “Like, low life wine.”
“That’s it!” Greg shouted. “Low brow wine. Nobody in their right mind would do that. We’d be in a category of our own. Good, cheap – but with attitude.” He punctuated “attitude” with a fierce point of his finger. “Something rude. Something Hip-Hoppy. Like, like…” He snapped his fingers in an effort to make words appear.
I scanned the grape list. “You know, with all this gamay and grenache, we could make a fruity red to drink young,” I said.
“Like a Nouveau?” Rebecca said.
“Yo Nouveau!” Greg yelled, with arms outstretched “That’s it. That’s the name!”
“Yo Nouveau,” Rebecca and I repeated. “Yo Nouveau!”
This was our breakthrough. We had a name and the beginning of a marketing concept.
“I know, let’s do the label in bright, florescent colors,” I suggested. “Psychedelic-like.”
“Or Mod. Like from the sixties,” Rebecca said.
“Like Peter Max,” I said. Rebecca, Greg and I nodded, grinning. I grabbed a pencil and started sketching. Being an artistic type, I naturally nominated myself as the creative director. “Maybe I can do this on my computer.”
Then, the kid spoke up and calmed our creative whirlwind. “But what about the other grapes?” We looked at him, blinking. ”What are we going to do with all this chenin blanc and semillon and merlot?”
We all stared at each other. Oh yeah. The kid had a point. What would we do with the rest of our fictitious harvest?
“Well, I’ve often thought it would be cool to buy a package with both a white and a red,” I said. “Like a two-pack.”
Greg rebounded. “Yeah, a red and a white – or no, red and rosé. Like a white zin.”
“White zin for white trash,” Rebecca blurted.
“Or, White Trash Grenache,” I screamed.
We burst into a cacophony of laughter, triumphantly repeating, “Yo Nouveau” and “White Trash Grenache!”
“And,” Greg laughed, “just think of how the Two-Pack would sell in the rapper market.”
This was going to be great, we convinced ourselves. We were going to get A’s for sure.
The Yo Nouveau label came to me easily as I played around on my little Mac SE: Fat globular lettering and balloons of color against a coal-black background. For the White Trash Grenache, I found a watercolor my roommate Evelyn had painted, with a rusty old truck sitting crookedly beneath an orchard. Stephanie helped out by coloring the sky the pink of a “blush” wine. It looked like Norman Rockwell for rednecks.
I constructed the two-pack carrier box with matte board and postal tape and covered it with color photocopies and White Out. Hardly weight bearing; I had to carry the package gingerly from the car to the classroom, like I was conveying a torah.
During our presentation in front of the class, Gene and Ronny struggled to contain their amusement. They sat back in their chairs with arms folded and tried to look tough. They affected southern drawls that rubbed off on us, and things started getting silly before Ronny finally said to Gene, “Ah do believe our company would do well with a product laahk this.” We took that to mean we passed.
In fact, we more than passed, we received A’s for concept, and B+’s for execution. We would have done better in that regard if the handle didn’t fall off of the Two-Pack carrier, which was good for a laugh anyway.