Wine Label Design Training at Mustards Grill

Years ago, Mustards Grill initiated a Single Barrel Series. Vintners, winemakers, local artists and photographers collaborated to raise money for the Napa Valley Opera House Restoration Fund. I got to design all the labels.  As a relative new comer to the Napa Valley at the time, it was a stroke of luck to be working for names like Robert Mondavi Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Shafer Vineyards and others.

Mustards Grill – the epicenter of California Cuisine & Wine!

Mustards Grill was the epicenter of California Cuisine thanks to Executive Chef Cindy Pawlcyn.  Mustards was the Napa Valley hot spot and every vintner wanted to have their wines on the menu.  The Single Barrel Series idea was Michael Ouellette’s, Mustards Grill’s GM.  Together with Cindy Pawlcyn, they created the relationships and a bond that continues to this day.

Each one barrel release (25 cases) was treated like a rare artifact.  After all, each bottle was offered on Mustards’ wine list.  Many of Mustards’ diners were vintners, winemakers and wine country professionals who worked in the Napa Valley.  I suspect there was more than a little competition in-progress.  In addition, Mustards Grill was the top dining destination for millions of tourists who visited the Napa Valley every year.

Right Spot at the Right Time!

To my good fortune, I was Mustards Grill’s graphic designer.  I was there when Real Restaurants built out their first iconic restaurant on Highway 29 – just north of Yountville.  I hit the jackpot with the Single Barrel Series. 

How It Worked:

Each vintner asked their respective winemaker to pick a particular small block vineyard that best expressed their style of winemaking.  For example, Jayson Pahlmeyer asked Helen Turley to make a single barrel of Chardonnay from their Gunman Vineyard.  Robert Sinskey and winemaker Jeff Virnig donated one barrel of single block, single clone Pinot Noir.  John and Doug Shafer, together with winemaker Elias Fernandez, produced an exquisite Cabernet Franc.  Robert and Tim Mondavi and winemaker Patrick Mahaney harvested fruit from the oldest block of Sauvignon Blanc in the U.S.  You get the idea.  No punches were pulled.

Design Objective:

I had to express all this “wine power” on each label.  I collaborated with local artists like Chester Arnold (Sinskey’s Pursuit), Anne Hamilton (Pahlmeyer’s Little Garden) and Photographer Thea Shrack (Mondavi’s Higher Grace).  It was up to me to put all the pieces together and accentuate them at the highest levels of quality.

The Major Players:

There were seven releases total:  Above Banner Image, Red Shoulder/Shafer Vineyards, Pursuit/Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Higher Grace/Robert Mondavi Winery, Above Right Image, Back label, Higher Grace, Robert Mondavi Winery, Below, Little Garden/Pahlmeyer Vineyards, Elevation 880/Miner Family Vineyards, West of the Trail/Silverado Vineyards and Cab-In-Fever/Duckhorn Vineyards.