With the holidays fast approaching, those of us who have procrastinated on finding the perfect presents for loved ones are starting to feel the pressure—for the wine lovers in your life, monogrammed stemware can’t be rush ordered, and cork shadow boxes were so last year. One of Laguna’s best kept secrets, however, is a company producing bottles of vino that are ready to be gifted without any wrapping paper: Glenneyre Street-based Speak Wines (speakwines.com) customizes its bottles of Argentinian vintages with artfully designed labels featuring carefully curated quotes.
Co-founders Kerry Sutherland and Stephanie Fäsi seek to “thoughtfully package the wine to perfectly speak to any occasion,” and their vision has found a following among female oenophiles who resonate with phrases like “You’re Pretty” and “She Believed She Could. So She Did.” The company debuted its first collection of six labels with a 2012 Altocedro Winery malbec last July before adding a 2014 vintage as well as a 2015 torrontés from the La Consulta, Argentina vineyard to its second collection, which released last month.
“The concept behind Speak is basically similar to the fashion industry,” says Kerry, who also serves as founder and principal of local public relations agency K. Sutherland PR. “You have a fashion designer and they release these collections of fashion seasonally to always be on-trend. That’s exactly what Speak is going to do. The brand Speak will never change, but every year we will release new collections.”
Currently shipping to more than 20 states, the company is in the process of finding a national retailer, though Lagunans can find the first collection at Wine Gallery in Corona del Mar. As Kerry and Stephanie begin the process of selecting quotes for collection three (set to be released in 2016), the pair spoke with Laguna Uncorked to discuss their inspiration behind the new labels, vision for the future and wide range of perfect recipients this holiday season.
Laguna Uncorked: Your second collection launched in November with six new labels. What are some of your favorite quotes?
Kerry Sutherland: After watching collection one and getting feedback from customers, … we felt like we didn’t have a bottle that said, ‘thank you.’ A lot of people want to bring a bottle of wine as a thank you gift for whatever the case may be, so “Oh So Grateful” from a business perspective, I really loved the quote, and I think both Stephanie and I feel oh so grateful for the opportunity to be involved in Speak Wines. … Then personally, I really love “Meant To Be.” It’s just something that I’ve always said my whole life and my mom has too, and some things are just meant to be—they just work out. I never would have imagined being where I am today and I didn’t dream it, I couldn’t even have thought of it really, so sometimes I really do think things are just meant to be.
Stephanie Fäsi: I really love them all. If I had to pick a favorite one from collection two, I’d probably say “And So The Adventure Begins.” I just feel like even though it’s our second collection, it’s still a whole new adventure and this whole thing has been an adventure to both Kerry and I.
How would you describe the flavor profile of your malbec and torrontés?
SF: It’s definitely a bold malbec. … I think that there [are] hints of fruit and spice, … it’s good with a steak or pasta. The torrontés … [is] definitely a lighter, drier wine; so nothing very sweet, which Kerry and I both love. We’re both drawn to the red wine in general. … We wanted to give our customers a white wine because that’s something they were all requesting, but I’m not a huge fan of a very sweet white wine.
KS: Me neither. That was our one qualifier—as long as it is not sweet, we will be interested. I think Stephanie and I are pretty open about this with anyone that we talk to about the wine, whether it’s the media or distributors or retailers or customers: We’re not sommeliers. We feel really lucky that we have a really amazing, award-winning winemaker in Argentina. … Whenever we send our wine to distributors that want to consider carrying our brand, or retailers, they’re often surprised by how good the wine is too. It’s not just a pretty package, but the quality of the wine is pretty great.
Did you make any changes between collections one and two?
KS: We never even considered our wine being popular in the bridal world; of course it is, but it wasn’t something we were thinking about when we launched collection one. Then we would get orders by the case for a wedding, a special event, bridesmaid’s gifts, bachelorette parties; girls buying “The Future Is Exciting,” “You’re Pretty,” “Because When You Stop And Look Around, This Life Is Pretty Amazing.” They sort of emerged as these bridal favorite quotes.
About six months into having collection one, we launched Big Day by Speak, [which] is our wedding/bridal category. … Right now when you buy a case of Speak Wines, you’ll get two per quote, so if you buy a case of Speak wines malbec, you’ll get that collection … and you’ll get two of each quote in the red wine. So Big Day by Speak is the option to buy a single quote by the case. When we came up with the quotes for collection two, it was definitely on our mind to have something that meant something to us personally but might fit into also being an offering for Big Day, so we added “You’re My Favorite,” “Meant To Be,” and “And So The Adventure Begins.”
Is the bridal category something you’d like to expand on in the future?
KS: I really hope so because I don’t think there’s a wine brand right now that’s capitalizing on that industry. It’s such a huge industry, and I think brides and bridal party members are really going out of their way to find some neat things to celebrate such a special time.
SF: We’ve always talked about adding a rose or a Champagne; those would be things that Kerry and I would definitely want to do. We’re not there yet, but that’s something we’ve talked about down the line.
Have any other unanticipated categories emerged that would make ideal recipients this holiday season?
KS: Speak makes such a great client gift, like sending “You’re My Favorite” to all of your clients or “Oh So Grateful.” There’s been a lot of interest in the corporate giving section. Companies need to find something unique to give their clients, like realtors buying “The Future Is Exciting” and giving it to their clients every time they sell a house. … It’s like a card and a bottle of wine in one.
What has your experience been as women in such a male-dominated industry?
SF: I think it’s hardest when you’re working with male distributors or retailers to understand the concept, because Kerry and I have had a huge struggle with bringing it to their attention and telling them exactly what Speak is and why we think that it’s so successful. … Kerry and I always suggest, “Do you want to show this to your wife? Do you have a female employee that’s working with you? Definitely let them check it out because they’ll get it right away.” Usually once a girl sees it, [she says], “Oh yeah, I love it, that makes sense, I would love that wine.”
KS: I would say that it’s both our biggest challenge but also such a key advantage … like Stephanie said, … a lot of those decision makers are men and they don’t get Speak right away, but they don’t need to because that’s not who we’re targeting. … There’s so much competition; the wine industry is huge and saturated with so many brands, so I think we have a little bit of an advantage because we are so narrowly targeting women in a way that is very media-friendly and fun and something girls want to share and post on social media and talk about themselves. … We’re trying to drive our own consumer demand, and a lot of wine brands can’t do that. We’re trying to create demand for our product from the customer in using that leverage to help get attention from the old school wine industry, and I do think we’re getting noticed. We’re definitely getting noticed. I think there are a lot of exciting things to come in 2016.
—Written by Kristin Lee Jensen