Everyone knows the story of at least one late bloomer, someone who didn't discover a profound talent until later in life: Artist Grandma Moses. Businessman Col. Sanders. Cooking show pioneer Julia Child.
But have you heard of the new Late Bloomer wine (www.latebloomerwine.com)? It's the latest project of a trio of Rogue Valley American Viticultural Area wine pros: Ashland marketing expert Marilyn Hawkins, Medford winemaker Linda Donovan of Pallet Wine Co. and Selma grape grower Martha Miller, who harvests gewürztraminer and other varietals from her 200-acre Three Creeks Ranch.
The women put their heads and expertise together to fill a niche for a locally produced, $9 bottle of wine. The majority of wine bottled using Southern Oregon grapes is priced at $15 or more.
"We knew we could produce a wine that tastes better than it costs," says Hawkins.
At a recent house party in Ashland, someone asked how a new label — with its pretty image of a pink-blossomed magnolia tree and playful typeface — could compete against serious, expensive Southern Oregon wines.
"It's good and $9 a bottle," says Hawkins, a communications consultant and small-batch wine producer who knows how to be bumper-sticker concise. "We're not trying to undercut anyone's pricing but to expand the range of options for people who really do want to sip local."
The label's first release is the 2011 Dry Gewürztraminer, a white wine with 11 1/2; percent alcohol that is true to the German version of the grape, not the sweet types typically poured in most American restaurants.
The wine, an alternative to chardonnay or moscato, pairs well with chicken, turkey, white fish, shrimp or crab, light cheeses, salads, vegetable appetizers, cream soups, Asian cuisine and other spicy foods.
To keep costs down, the wine is only sold directly to customers (Hawkins can be reached at 541-552-9922 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a tasting or purchase).
Although just released, 50 of the 450 cases produced already have been sold. Other single varietals and blends will be added to the Late Bloomer lineup in the future, says Hawkins.
Ashland designer Chris Mole created the label's magnolia-tree logo to represent a business that is natural and growing and to illustrate the concept of a late bloomer: shedding its leaves and showing new blossoms at the same time.
"We wanted something light and whimsical to portray a wine made to enjoy with people you love and that's different than the usual wine," says Mole. "It's a little bit of an outsider."
Dan and Vivian Stubblefield recently hosted a house party in Ashland to introduce their friends to Late Bloomer and Donovan's newly released L. Donovan 2010 Syrah ($18).
Hawkins followed the Stubblefield house party by throwing a porch party at her Ashland home. It was a fitting setting for an unpretentious wine that its makers say works for outdoor gatherings, big celebrations and after playing sports. At this price, "It can be your go-to house wine, a party wine or your Tuesday-night wine," says Hawkins. "It's a complement to people who want to support local wine producers and want a wine that is different."