Shortly after noon on Tuesday, April 26 I updated the URL of our store site to drinktourist.com after a six year run as Foot of the Bed Cellars. We’d squatted on the Instagram handle @drinktourist for maybe eight months, but neglected to note that when swapping out a handle it sits in some Meta limbo for 14 days prior to becoming accessible to a new owner. Alas, new Instagram account it was.
I’d filed a DBA to minimize legal fees associated with changing the name of a corporation, updated our Klaviyo templates, and had print collateral ready to go. I’d notified our shareholders a few weeks prior that a rebrand was coming, updated the business name as would reflect on customer credit card statements, and had fantastic photos taken of the new look (thank you Caitlin and Arthur!)
Sticker sheets were set to arrive ahead of our release party on Wednesday with the new logo and our mascots, but coasters and matchboxes were too long of a lead time. I’d been inspired by street signs I saw visiting my Mom to create stick-men mascots drinking wine, and my roommate Amanda beautifully brought them to life. Truly thank god for the couple who created Canva, as a lot of the design assets were produced there by yours truly.
Knowing this was on the way I’d ordered my last run of packaging unbranded, and purchased a 2x8 inch stamp and a red ink pad to reflect the new branding. Sweet as they may look, it sucks to handstamp hundreds of boxes with a stamp that big. My wrists cannot wait until the day we’re through with this run and I can order a new set of plates to print on our next batch.
When we last tweaked our branding in 2019, I worked with a talented developer named Adam to update our site. I naively thought I’d be able to pop into my Shopify theme and update colors, fonts, copy, and photography – not realizing that much of our custom codebase lived in a Github repository. He was gracious enough to take on the project at late notice and get us decently presentable for launch. Our one hiccup was with Recaptcha, the checkbox that ensures you’re not a robot.
But you run a wine company! Surely you had the wines ready to go amidst all this for your launch party on April 27. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
When wineries are further than I’d like to drive to, I ship barrel-sized plastic drums on pallets using a company called GLS who deals in parcel delivery and partial load freight on the West Coast. At most, this is typically a 5 day turnaround. Our Madera Grenache had arrived no problem two weeks prior to launch.
Suffice it to say this wasn’t the case with our Sauvignon Blanc. I sent a pallet out on April 14, and when I went to schedule the return pick-up on Monday, April 18 it was nowhere to be found. Many hours of customer service calls later, I said screw it and shipped fresh drums to Santa Barbara on Wednesday April 20. In an ideal world I could get the drum back by Friday, but we don’t live in an ideal world.
They made their first attempted delivery of the second pallet Friday evening after the winemaker had left, and didn’t get the empty drums dropped until Monday afternoon April 25. As I sweat through the task list of bringing the brand live, it became clear I was headed to Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
I pressed send on the email bringing the brand live and climbed in my truck to head south. My wine labels are printed out of Paso Robles, and had finished production that morning. Instead of relying on FedEx overnight I told my rep I’d be happy to pick them up in person. I got to meet Phil (my rep), for the first time, and saw the facility where my labels are printed. Now I just had to get to Santa Barbara and home.
Around 6:45 PM I turned left across 101 onto a small dirt road exit to the east, 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. A very small part of me empathized with GLS, as this was about the midpoint of nowhere, but I mostly still hated them. All the same, it was some breathtakingly beautiful country. Erik Mallea, the winemaker, sources fruit from all over Santa Barbara, where he manages over 400 acres of vineyards. His property sits atop a small hill, adjacent to a horse ranch across the road where he keeps some of his wines.
He’d given me his home address, where I was greeted by the welcoming sign you see above, three dogs (one of whom did not like me) and a squad of free-range chickens. Concerned I wasn’t in the right place, I finally found a bar of cell service, met him at the horse ranch, and had the drums loaded via a John Deere tractor with forks attached to the front. Despite our differing sentiments on guns, he couldn’t have been nicer. He loves what he does, he’s passionate about organics, and his wines are exceptional. I poured the Sauvignon Blanc recently for a somm who works at a Michelin-starred restaurant here in the city. In his words, “I’ve had Sauvignon Blanc Musqué before and it was almost like it had some Gewurztraminer blended in. This had the more lifted floral quality, but underlined by an almost salty, savory and herbal character that was delightful. Beach wine dreams.”
I hit the road just before 7:30, the goods securely strapped down in my truck bed. I pulled off the dirt road and headed back up 101, tired in mind but excited in spirit. As long as the day was still to be, I tried to seek satisfaction in the journey. What began as an idea was now a reality, and I was getting to live it in real time. I was the tourist, wine selling and story-telling. Something’s always going to go wrong, but if you choose to remain positive and optimistic there tends to be a way. No matter how hard circumstances might seem, I’m lucky to get to do this and thankful to all who support what I do.
I soaked in a beautiful sunset between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, alternating between Morgan Wallen and phone calls. Nobody wants to drive to Santa Barbara and back in a day, but damn if it isn’t a stunning slice of our country. I got home at 11:45, shared a glass of Bedrock Sauvignon Blanc with my step-sister slash roommate, and was up at 6 the next morning to bottle the wine with my brother ahead of that evening’s release party. I slept like an absolute baby that weekend.
The response to Tourist has been fantastic, and both the Sauvignon Blanc and the Grenache are showing extremely well. My sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who’s lent time or energy towards this project – past, present and future. This isn’t intended to be some totem to hustle culture or preachy follow your dreams babble. It’s to take you under the hood to understand some of the messiness involved in changing a brand name and making sure the wines get to you each month on limited resources. Welcome to Tourist. I so appreciate you buying the wines, sharing the story, and keeping me going. Let’s keep drinking wine and doing cool shit.