The Story of our Betelgeuse Rosé
In the course of our dining adventures during the summer of 2006, we found our wine tastes trending toward rosés. Specifically, we were drawn over and over again to a lovely French rosé from producer Domaine Tempier in the Bandol region of Provence. Our fondness for this wine evolved over time into something of a romance, and eventually we began thinking about the possibility of adding a rosé to the Brown Estate lineup.
Now those of you who know the history of our Chardonnay can imagine what a far-out proposition this was. Years ago, with our tiny Chardonnay vineyard in mind, our mother began lobbying for a white wine that she could enjoy in the summer with crab salad and other warm-weather fare. Winemaker Dave Brown (Mom's youngest) was reluctant to venture into white wine production, but Mom persisted, and eventually he agreed to make a little Chardonnay just for her. Our first vintage of Chardonnay was 2002, and since Mom couldn't drink 180 cases by herself (not even with our help!), we quietly began asking visitors if they wanted to try our new Chardonnay. Slowly but surely, our Chard gained a fervent following. It is now considered one of our specialty wines, and its placements include The French Laundry, Charlie Trotter's, and Bouchon.
Our rosé concept had a similarly hard row to hoe from notion to reality, but in 2007 we found a Merlot vineyard in Yountville, where we all own homes, and struck a deal to purchase grapes for the first time in the history of Brown Estate. A portion of these grapes went into barrel as traditional Merlot (stay tuned for that story), and a portion was dedicated to the production of our new rosé.
Now began the challenge. What to call it? How to package it? Given the fact that we have made our name in the wine industry with our distinctive Zinfandels, and given the dubious regard in the wine world for White Zinfandel, we knew we had to proceed with caution. And that meant not bottling a rosé in our traditional Brown Estate packaging.
The inspiration for our Betelgeuse package is sealed in the family vault. But all credit is due to winemaker Dave Brown for coming up with the name, the pronunciation of which refers playfully back to both the scarab beetle that is our Brown Estate logo, and the colloquial name in the wine industry for what we produce: juice. The small print on the Betelgeuse bottle tells the rest of the story:
*bee-tle-joos n. [1.] A red "supergiant" star that sits on the right "shoulder" of the constellation Orion. Betelgeuse is one of two extant first magnitude supergiants; it is Orion's second brightest star, the ninth brightest star in the sky, and one of the largest stars visible to the human eye. [2.] A stellar rosé table wine.
That second definition, along with the tag line on the back of the bottle – "The sky's the limit" – give you a sense of the fun we had in putting together our Betelgeuse package. The name and packaging originated entirely in-house, and we were so pleased with the results that we began talking about the possibility of making Betelgeuse into a second label. By setting it apart from our official Brown Estate line, we left the door open for this little side project to become something more.
This story will be continued, and in the meantime if you happen to be in Yountville, pop into Ad Hoc for a glass of Betelgeuse!