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Michael David Winery

January 9, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks, Other Counties No Comments

From its earliest days, the trademark has played an integral part in both the market-place and in pop culture. With their red triangle, The British brewery Bass & Company, claim title to the oldest registered trademark dating back to the late 1800’s. From McDonald’s golden arches to the double tail of the Starbucks mermaid, trademarks shape how we think and respond to merchandise. A well designed logo or trademark can mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. This fact drives brand managers to change and adapt with the times and market-place.

Lately, I have thought about brand images a lot. The continuing social networking boom brought a new face to pop culture and the market place, and with it, new ways of looking at brand recognition. Few have had more impact than Twitter and Facebook. Yet, look at their logos…a simple “T” and “F”, shinny of course, as if they were simply iPhone apps. Given the wild success of the internet giants such as Twitter, Facebook, Apple, and Google, it is no wonder others have taken note. Pepsi, Aol, Tropicana, all have made large changes to their overall design and appearance.

It's where your taxes go.

Let’s start with politics and the US Government. Yes, even they are adapting their brand images to the soft and simplistic edges of the modern brand. I can’t help but notice that Pepsi’s new logo has a close resemblance to Barrack Obama’s 2008 campaign logo (a logo that generated a lot of buzz when it was released, by the way).

But, what if anything does this have to do with wine and more importantly, Michael David Winery? Well actually, a lot.

For decades (even centuries), wine labels have followed a varied, yet, similar pattern. Name in an Old-English style font, a picture of your house, or chateau rather, and if you are an American wine maker: an oak tree, carriage, or vineyard, or anything else that exudes sophistication! There are many variations to this of course, but…you get the idea. It was all very regale, very noble, and oh so high class!

However, in recent years, we have started to see a sea-change in wine label design. While some countries are restrictive on label design (France, and even the U.S., regulate label design closely), others have busted the unique and creative label design wide open. One of the best examples are the Australians (several below are Aussie wines). However, the U.S. is also changing, while we still have plenty of austere bottles to choose from, we increasingly have plenty of choice in a more whimsical and thought provoking variety. Some, like my home town’s Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non, are perfect examples of this (Manfred does all his own creepy but fantastic art work for his hard to find wines).

Michael David Winery is no exception. Although, I was not the first of my friends to pick up a Michael David wine, I can tell you why we did: the label!

Michael David Winery (named for Michael and David Phillips) has a long family heritage of grape growing dating back to the 1860’s. Creating wines in the California Central Valley town of Lodi (famed winemaker Robert Mondavi called Lodi home for some years, but, that is another story), the Phillips brothers strive for excellence in one of the lesser appreciated AVA’s. If the California AVA’s were a high school drama, Napa Would be the good looking Quarterback, Sonoma, the smaller but also good looking best friend of the Quarterback, and the Central Valley would be the kid who likes pro-wrestling and heavy-metal music. I say this not based on my personal opinion (I grew-up not too far south of Lodi), but because I believe it is largely true. The Central Valley has long been known for its bulk (think Gallo jugs) and cheap (think Charles Shaw or Two-Buck Chuck) wines. While it certainly does not get the same amount of attention as its more charming California friends, it still produces some fantastic wines. Michael David Winery is at the fore of some of these outstanding wines.

The label that first got us to try a glass was their Petite Petit, a blend of Petite Syrah and Petit Verdot. However, what got us was the label: Two giant cartoon circus elephants sitting in chairs with their white tusks jutting out from under their menacing scowls and bulbous trunks. A wonderful design, and it works! Of course, as an additional (and highly important) bonus, the wine is quite good, and affordable…at around $15.

I know I have rambled, so…what’s my point? The point is this. The wine industry, like all industries, relies on the refreshment of a new generation. Can wineries do so without changing, without adapting? Limitedly, maybe. There will always be a market that chooses wine quality over design (by the way, you should choose quality over design if you really want to enjoy what you drink; design is just one small factor). However, increasingly, the group of young-adults who grew up overly stimulated and with very short attention spans…the Tweettation (Twitter Generation, I claim that!), IS the next market. Will the next generation of wine drinker want the statuesque, or will the expect a little more to entice them into buying? I think they will. Don’t get me wrong, bad wine in a fancy label is still bad wine, but would I choose good wine in a good label over good wine in a boring label? Assuming they are of comparable quality and price, you bet I would!

Over the next year, I will take a look at how wineries are adapting to these new markets, or if they are at all. With more young people than ever drinking wine in America, it will be exciting to see the changes and ingenuity they will inspire.

Some examples of wine labels I like:


Sine Qua Non

Luchador Wines

Other MDW wines to look for

Earthquake Cabernet

7 Deadly Zins

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