Reflecting on half a decade of wine brat antics . . . or what’s in a name?Wow, half a decade! Sounds pretty damn good. Better than saying five years. And yes, it’s true, somewhere in the near future, over the next few months, it’ll be the Wine Brats’ “Wooden Anniversary” (that’s what the etiquette book said, anyway). We’re not quite sure of the exact day or even month in 1993 when Jeff Bundschu (Gundlach-Bundschu), Mike Sangiacomo (Sangiacomo Vineyards) and Jon Sebastiani (Viansa Winery) united their ideas, energies and personalities for the cause. We are, however, certain that they deserve recognition for their vision and tenacity in acting on their beliefs. Salute!Now you’re probably wondering, “Why doesn’t anyone remember the actual date when the Brats were created?” Well, here’s a little history to shed some light on this obscure moment in wine-time.Upon returning home from college after completing their undergraduate degrees — each at separate campuses — Jeff, Mike and Jon reconnected back in their hometown of Sonoma, California. While catching up on the usual stuff, the trio realized that they each had the same revelation during their days on campus — namely that wine has serious cultural barriers for young adults. From there, the evolution of the Brats came about through a series of incidents. Or maybe accidents. Or possibly fate.
Again, first came the proverbial return to Sonoma and their families’ wine businesses. Then came their chance meetings at industry events and get-togethers, where they discovered a mutual belief that something needed to be done to make wine interesting and fun to their peers. Next, they acted on these beliefs by staging “raids” on local Bay Area restaurants, accosting their peers table side and asking why wine hadn’t been chosen with dinner. They’d then challenge these patrons to taste the food first with the diner’s chosen beverage (usually beer or some elixir) and then with an appropriate wine supplied by one of the three “Wine Brats.” Of course, throughout all this, the boys carefully planned a media campaign to magnify their efforts. And it worked.
Ah-ha! You got me. I called them the Wine Brats without actually telling you how the name came into existence, which should shed further light on the ambiguous nature of our Wooden Anniversary. Even as the executive director of this organization, and having been involved for more than four years, I’ve come to know multiple conflicting stories on how we got our name.
Story #1: After realizing their mutual beliefs, Jeff, Mike and Jon began speaking up to their families about the issue. Thus, through all the bitching and moaning, they became affectionately known as the Wine Brats.
Story #2: Following one of their first restaurant raids, the three found themselves unprepared by the media’s immediate attention to their antics. As they nervously sat in a Sonoma cafe, glancing at the clock, waiting for a reporter from a major Bay Area newspaper, they decided now might be a good time to figure out what to call themselves. Scratching through a long list of possible names, somebody threw out “Wine Brats” just minutes before the reporter arrived. On pure instinct, they went with it. There was also an acronym involved, but we won’t go there.
Story #3: One of the family’s PR gurus came up with the name. It was catchy. It poked fun at the snobbery associated with wine. It made sense because they were the sons of respected wine families. And it was kinda like the Hollywood Brat Pack thing. End of story.
My above choice of order was not random. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s some combination of the three — blended together like a bold and unbalanced Zin cuvee — that we should be swallowing with a smirk. I’m not even sure I care to know the exact truth. Speculation and rumor can be so much more fun. Anyway, the stories became ink, and future Brats began calling about joining the pack.
Although the three founding members’ initial reaction was, “Uh, but it’s just us three guys,” they did, of course, open the doors to membership, while embracing the goal of going national. Jeff, Mike and Jon’s vision paid off. The project has exploded beyond even their wildest dreams. Perhaps this, and a mix of all of the above, is why nobody can quite put a finger on the exact day the Wine Brats came to be. The dynamic nature of a good idea can become its own living, breathing beast. So why get too close? I suggest we simply let the lore of our founders’ wisdom and the conception of the name play out to personal conjecture and interpretation, just as one should do when exploring the great world of wine.
Happy Wooden Anniversary, guys!