Posted on | August 16, 2012
Written by | W.R. Tish
Sustainability and Design Set the Stage For Bold New Blend
When actor and filmmaker Adrian Grenier (best known from HBO’s Entourage) and independent film producer Peter Glatzer created the Paso Robles blend SHFT, their wine experience consisted mostly of drinking, not producing. But they had (and still have) a context that promises to give their first release some extra juice in the marketplace.
Before there was SHFT, the wine, there was SHFT, the multi-media platform; its mission is “to convey a more sustainable approach to the way we live through video, design, art and culture.” The website (SHFT.com launched in December 2009) represents a powerful example of how the Internet has enabled commerce and content to be interwoven with a strong core principle. As Glatzer and Grenier state at the site: “As filmmakers who are concerned with climate change, we felt that we could bring something creative to express the changes we wanted to see and were, gratefully, starting to observe.”
SHFT.com finds synergy between the holistic and the hip. Amid categories such as energy, fashion, food and home garden, site visitors can buy the likes of self-watering ceramic planters; lounge chairs made from recycled milk jugs; free-range, grass-fed bison meat; even organic cotton underwear and neckties made from 50% cassette tape. They can also read articles, join discussions and check out videos—all tethered by threads of contemporary design and a commitment to sustainability.
Message Meets Bottle
And so it is with SHFT wine, which has been crafted in sync with the principles in place at the website. It is also the only product that Glatzer and Grenier have put the SHFT name on. Through a mutual friend, they connected to wine country via Hunter Vogel, who specializes in boutique California wines, particularly from Paso Robles. Vogel, in turn, brought in Saxum assistant winemaker Mark Adams.
Aiming to create a Rhône-style blend, the four worked together, testing various combinations based on 80 barrels from three different sustainable vineyard sites. By starting with barrels that fit their criteria of sustainability, the team was free to focus on the wine’s style; as with the products featured at SHFT, Glatzer says, the environmental approach is “baked in.”
According to plan, the 2009 SHFT House Wine is primarily Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, but it also has a dollop of Tempranillo. It approaches 15% alcohol, yet shows the balance of ripeness and structure that has become a signature of Paso Robles reds. Fruit flavors (cherry, strawberry, blackberry) abound, vanilla and clove linger with fine-grained tannins in the long finish.
Grenier says of the final blend: “The wine is decadent first, and sustainable second. Naturally, Peter and I are proud of the provenance of the wine, the fact that sustainable practices and care went into the making of the wine. But we were more interested in the flavor profile and making something fantastic.”
Vogel, who believes “Rhône blends are the future of California,” calls the SHFT premiere “layered and complex; big, but balanced.” He adds that while it is a classic G-S-M blend, the Tempranillo makes it “uniquely Paso,” and it overdelivers at the $24.99 price point.
To ensure that the wine meshes with the SHFT mindset, the bottle itself was made from recycled glass—and without a wasteful capsule. Moreover, the stunningly simple label captures the spirit of a wine that confidently breaks free from the herd mentality.
The final piece of the launch puzzle was to find simpatico distribution. Domaine Select Wine Estates took care of this. “They understood what we are doing,” says Glatzer. “We are pretty mainstream. Not just crunchy environmentalists.” SHFT began rolling out to ten markets, primarily coastal, this summer. While the initial 2009 release is only 644 cases, Vogel says that production can be ramped up in future vintages.