December 9, 2013
When Oprah (Oprah’s Favorite Things), Gwyneth Paltrow (GOOP’s Holiday Gift Guide) and Target give their revered stamp of approval on something, you know it’s gotta be good.
Modern House Wines, a cheeky line of ruby red blends from Napa Valley, has been declared one of the top gifts of the holiday season, and has made a major social-media splash recently (just check out all the Instagrams).
Sold at Target stores starting last month, the new line of wines, packaged in stylish black bottles, boasts clever expressions like “With Love,” “Here’s to You,” and “Expensive” on their labels. But expensive they are not! At just $12.99 a bottle, Modern House Wines are rich in flavor, style and wit. They may take the stuffiness out of wine, but not the taste—they promise to please the palettes of even the most discerning wine aficionado.
We caught up with Alexis Swanson Traina of Swanson Vineyards—the guru behind Modern House Wines and creative director of her family’s legendary vineyard—about making a wine for the 21st century.
You come from a long lineage of luxury wines. Why create a lower-priced wine now? Having been in the luxury wine business for nearly 20 years, I was really eager to create a wine that was more relatable to today’s wine world—a wine that shifted the focus from the winemaker to the wine lover. I wanted a wine that was shamelessly about the consumer and their story.
So how did Modern House Wines really get started? This brand is all about our audience, so we crowdsourced ideas from the very beginning. Modern House Wines was actually first born out of an incubator project back in 2010. Two years later, we challenged fans to come up with label ideas, which resulted in the first crowdsourced wine label. We ended up with more than 8,000 entries! It really gave us a small, but very engaged, audience that was excited about the brand. After the overwhelming response, we decided we had to make it available to a much larger audience.
And that’s where Target came in! We always thought the true dream partner would be Target—it was choice number one, two and three. Target has a commitment to quality, style, value and point of view that we’ve always admired.
Why do think the wines have resonated so well with guests? Right now, successful 21st century businesses are all about customization, personalization and agility. There wasn’t a wine that existed in this fun, forward-thinking space because the wine industry tends to be a little more sedated. But, it made sense that we should follow suit. An affordable, delicious and giftable wine with a sense of humor followed. Modern House Wines doesn’t take itself too seriously!
The statement-making labels are pretty funny. Was design the main focus? Design and packaging have always been a world-class obsession for us at Swanson Vineyards. But we needed to make sure the wine wasn’t just charming. We wanted to build a classic brand with classic statements, so the quality, design and packaging all needed to have equal footing. Really, I just wanted to create a wine that I’d be hell-bent to serve at any cocktail party without hesitation.
It really is delicious! Can you tell us about the blend? I’ve always had a very pure American palette so I like wines to be smooth, ripe and concentrated. When I was considering the perfect California red blend, I wanted to create a wine that was very American in spirit—approachable and charming.
Well, cheers to that!
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