Illustrated: Napa Valley

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 0 No tags 0

Every month the fabulous Elaine Brown, a philosopher turned illustrator, writer and wine explorer will be drawing whatever her heart desires and sharing it with us. She’s putting color and words to paper to illustrate a moment, a wine, a pairing, a feeling – pretty much anything that is inspiring her in the moment. With harvest underway as well as a 6.0 earthquake a few weeks ago, let’s put our focus on Napa. 


Beyond injuries, destruction to homes and personal property, which is devastating, many wineries (and warehouses storing wine) had awful damage after the quake ripped through the area. Barrels of wine quietly aging and delicately stacked bottles tumbled to the ground, wine covering the floors. Years of work, maybe most of a vintage of wine, gone or damaged beyond repair. Bottom line- it sucks. If you’d like to help in any way that you can, please read this post from Delectable and buy a bottle of Quake Cuvée from Matthiasson!

And, of course, #drinknapa. As always.

Illustration by Elaine Brown

Wine Label Design with Veronica Corzo-Duchardt

Saturday, September 6, 2014 2 , 3
I find wine label design so fun and fascinating. It’s one of my favorite pieces of the big wide world of wine puzzle. I’ve been a fan of Veronica Corzo-Duchardt‘s modern California wine label designs for a few years. I didn’t know who was behind the labels I looked at on a weekly basis, until I was randomly introduced to Veronica at a music festival in Chicago this summer. And the world continues to get smaller! Read on to learn more about her design process, inspiration and her favorite wines to drink.
2012 Wonderwall_Wine
When did you start designing wine labels? Was it a natural progression and extension of your design work, or did you always have a focus on wine?
I started designing wine labels in 2009. I had always been interested in wine, and it reminded me a lot of designing for music which is where I got my start as a designer. I love this idea of translating a creative process, like music and winemaking to a visual form. While in grad school, I began working at a small wine shop here in Chicago to gain more experience. There I was able to meet a lot of winemakers and distributors, which eventually lead to designing my first label, after starting my design studio.
Describe the process for designing a label. Do you get to taste the wine and let that influence your choices?
My first step is to talk with the winemaker and have them describe the story of the wine. I try to dig as deep as I can to get information about their process, the idea for the wine and the vineyard. I usually get to taste at least a barrel sample before starting my design. A lot of times taste will influence the mood of a label. Factors like bright, dark flavors and the weight of the wine come into play of me. I also try to visit the vineyard if I can to get a sense of the place the wine came from. My ultimate goal in designing a label is to try to evoke an overall feeling of the wine. 
If you could describe your design style in one sentence what would it be?
My labels are contemporary, story-driven and expressive.
You design for mainly domestic wines. Ever tried your hand at an import? If not, what region or country’s wine would you most want to have some fun with?
I have not tried my hand at an import but I would LOVE to! I’d love to get my hand on some wines from Spain. Especially in the Basque region, there is so much history there I’d love to play with. I’m a bit biased since my whole family is Cuban, by way of Spain so I’d really love dig into a lot of the cultural history of winemaking there. Plus being fluent in the language doesn’t hurt. 
What is your biggest pet peeve with wine label design? 
I really hate cutesy stuff or puns! I wish that would all die out but there is a market for it.
What is your go-to wine/wine style, something you always like to order or pour for yourself at home?
I love really dry Rieslings, so I drink as much of Tatomer as I can. For reds I tend to lean towards Rhone varietals or an unfiltered Pinot Noir. And bubbles, I love bubbles. Give me Champagne any day, any time. Seriously, I’ll send you my address. 
Photos courtesy Winterbureau

A Boozy Bachelorette Brunch with Pottery Barn

Friday, August 29, 2014 0 No tags 0

A bachelorette party toast with fresh fruit margaritas

I was so excited when Pottery Barn wanted to collaborate on a fun shoot for their wedding blog Have and Hold. They sent me an array of PB products of my choosing and let me take my ideas and pretty much run with it. I actually have an odd obsession with weddings – the dress, the reception and even all of the events leading up to the wedding. So, I thought, “what’s in my wedding wheelhouse?” Uh, duh, a bachelorette party. 

Margaritas in Pottery Barn Beverage Dispensers

Grilled steak tostadas and margaritas

My inspiration for this bachelorette brunch was my dear friend Claire, who is soon-to-be-married. She is a classy lady that deserves an elegant, but fun and colorful, affair. I wanted to think outside of the box a little and do something during the day, because who doesn’t love brunch and day drinking?  I offered two fresh and easy-to-make margaritas and a build your own tostada bar, taking nachos and tequila shots to the next (grown-up) level. 

Mexican fruit paletas on ice

Read the full post, see drink recipes and product links over on Pottery Barn.

Creative direction + photos: Whitney A.

Styling: Dean Renaud

Top 5 Tips: Thrifting with Dean Renaud

Sunday, August 24, 2014 0 No tags 0
Dean Renaud is a stylist, interior designer, event and wedding producer…and thrifting wizard. She is one of the most talented ladies I know. Her eye for design is cray and she can throw together a dinner party for eight in like thirty minutes with ease.

I’ve actually known Dean since elementary school. That’s a fact and a friendship I am very proud of. We grew up a few blocks away from each other in Lexington, KY and were both drama majors at an arts magnet school for most of our youth. Needless to say, we both talk a lot and like to do things with flair *jazz hands*. Dean now lives in Chicago, so we only get to see each other a few times a year. When we do get to hang, in between eating, drinking and laughing our faces off, we thrift. Or rather, she thrifts and I just wander around marveling at her genius. So, I thought it would be nice to share some of her thrift magic with the world. Here are her top 5 tips!

1. GO OFTEN.  I go to thrift stores pretty much every day; sometimes I’ll go to the same thrift several days in a row.  There are 2 between my house and my studio, so I’ll usually pop in after work…Since thrift stores get donations daily, there are almost always new things on the floor.  I’m often asked “What thrift stores do you go to?” And I answer honestly: I go to all of them!  It seems like I find all the best stuff because I just go all the damn time.  Believe me, I leave empty-handed more often than not.


2. GET LOST.  Whenever I’m traveling or simply in a part of town I’m not familiar with, I use the Yelp app to search for thrift stores in the area.  On a rare day off, I’ll pick a suburb that’s at least an hour away from the city and thrift my way home.


3. SMELL IT.  I don’t shy away from rugs or upholstered items, but I always thoroughly inspect them.  Check for stains, fading, holes, and yep- odors.  If a couch or a rug previously lived in a home with a cat…Well, that’s probably why it was donated in the first place.  No matter how cool or how cheap it is…It’s a lost cause.


4. TO DIY OR NOT TO DIY?  I’m all about giving ugly or broken furniture new life, but you have to consider the time and money you’ll invest to fix something up.  It’s fairly inexpensive to have a lamp rewired, reframe a piece of art, or spray paint a vase but remember that it’ll take a lot of time and elbow grease to strip and refinish a credenza and it costs a fair amount of money to have a sofa reupholstered.


5. KARMA IS REAL / LEARN TO LET GO.  Okay, yes, I have 2 storage spaces full of things I’ve thrifted (for clients/projects), in addition to my home and studio, which are like, 75% thrifted.  But as my style changes, I donate stuff that I phase out in hopes that someone will be as excited as I was to find it in a thrift store.  Also, when I find something rad while thrifting, I consider whether or not I reeeeeeeally need it (either for myself or for a client).  If I can’t justify buying it, I leave it for the next person who shares my love of weird stuff.
I’d like to add a 6th tip! Bring water and stop for snacks. When Dean was in town last week, we made the very smart decision to grab some ice cream at Scoops while we were out scoring some nice finds. Delicious!
Photo of Dean by Lucy Hewitt
Instagram photos by Dean
Ice cream by Whitney A.