One sure way to guarantee something gets done is to make it illegal. Such was the case during Prohibition, that ill-conceived period in our country’s history, where our government outlawed the commercial production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. As is often the case, the unintended consequences led to widespread flaunting of the law as bootlegging, rum running, and speakeasies flourished. Alcohol poured in from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Lodi even went through a period of vineyard expansion as hundreds of rail cars left for east coast markets loaded with crates of grapes packed with instructions on “how not to make wine.”
Speakeasies replaced saloons, and provided well-to-do Americans with clandestine drinking establishments. These bars were hidden from public site, often behind secret doors and passages, and many required patrons to utter passwords to gain entrance.
Our longtime customers are all probably well aware of our beginnings in the wine business as my father bootlegged our 1981 Vintage Port out of a less-than-reputable winery that refused to pay us for our grapes. That began our adventure in the wine business, but the similarities to Prohibition run far deeper than our bootlegging past.
For many years, my father operated what could best be described as a modern day Speakeasy. There were no signs directing patrons to our entrance, guests often circled the building looking for the front door, and if they happened to make it that far, they were often greeted with a brusk, “Did you call for an appointment?” That phrase was more than just a question – it was a test, and if you passed, you gained admittance to the St.Amant Speakeasy. You were told the call sign - that if the blue pickup was parked out front, St.Amant was open.
Clearly my father never attended the Disney school of customer service, but it worked for him, and many customers came to love his direct style. But at the end of the day, he always let the wines speak for themselves, and more often than not, they spoke well.
So when we decided to create our wine club, it seemed fitting to name it the Bootleg Society, a name that reflected not only our beginnings in the business, but the spirit of the brand and our against-the-grain approach to wine. We also wanted to create a piece of art that helped identify and give our club its own personality. I turned to my good friend and artist Vince McIndoe. I had come to know Vince through Zinfest – I had worked with him to create the iconic posters that helped define and promote Lodi’s premier wine event. We had become good friends and I knew he could create the perfect poster for our wine club.
The poster has been a hit! We even created a new wine, our Speakeasy Red that features the poster art on the label. It’s been a very fun project and we look forward to creating more prohibition themed events, wines and experiences for our loyal club members.
We hope you enjoy!