CHICAGO — What happens when one of Chicago's top wine pros teams up with his friends on a new wine brand, and they just happen to manage the likes of Chance the Rapper and Skrillex? You get a brand new wine company targeted toward casual drinkers.
Ryan Arnold, wine director for Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, is bringing his considerable wine expertise to the new No Fine Print Wine brand. Meanwhile his friends, Pat Corcoran and Tim Smith, bring their considerable street cred and management abilities to the wine's branding and marketing.
"We spend a lot of time dining out and drinking, and their love of wine grew organically," said Arnold over the phone. "We didn't know going in what the wine would be, but we started by defining our mission," which is to create a wine that is high-quality but low snobbery.
"Working on the restaurant floor, I've just had so many conversations with young people about wine's intimidation. Young people like wine, they've seen 'Somm,' but its still all very inaccessible to them."
"Pat and Tim built the following around their musicians organically, starting small. That's our same vision for the wine."
No Fine Print, is an easygoing cabernet sauvignon, while Fine Print is a more complex wine, a blend of syrah and a touch of pinot noir, aged in oak for 24 months. (Matt Ahern)
This is not Arnold's first wine (he's made two others before), but for Corcoran and Smith, No Fine Print Wine represents a chance to branch out creatively. "We love the wine world and wanted to find a way to merge the creative branding we've used in the music realm with wine," said Corcoran in a statement.
Arnold, who sourced the grapes, tapped his friends at Scribe Winery, a lauded and critically acclaimed Sonoma maker run by brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani, to assemble the wine. The first bottle, the more casual No Fine Print, is an easygoing cabernet sauvignon. "I want this wine to become one of those iconic, everyday bottles," said Arnold. "It's unintimidating and meant to fly off the shelf."
A second bottling came out of the tasting and development stages. "The price point for the Fine Print blend is a little higher, but it's a good counterpoint," said Arnold. Made with syrah and a touch of pinot noir, Fine Print No. 1 is a little, well, finer, having been aged in oak for 24 months and delivering texture, density and some fruit. "Pat and Tim wanted a wine that speaks to younger generations, without the pretense."
The wines retail for $19.99 and $34.99, respectively, but are available only in limited quantities. There are only 522 cases of No Fine Print and 470 of Fine Print, though Arnold hopes the series continues to change and evolve, much like batches change in craft beer.
The labels, too, shed pretension, reminding one of album art _ stark and to the point. "I'm not a creative person, but watching the guys dial in and apply their knowledge and creativity to wine, it's been fun to watch," said Ryan.
The wines are now available online, and the company will be seeking distribution. The group is looking to partner with social and environmental charities too.
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