Republic of Pink: a wine brand that celebrates rosé

Welcome to the Republic of Pink, a land where the Department of Happiness wants you to be happy. To me, rosé wine brings me happiness and in the sea of rosés, one that stands out is the Republic of Pink Rosé. A young brand, Jason and Julia Martin are on a mission to make the best rosé possible. Read my story, which originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register, about starting a new brand in a relatively crowded category. Sit back and enjoy your journey to the Republic of Pink.

Everywhere we look, we can find rosé wines. The shelves at the stores are lined with bottles of rosé wines and restaurant by-the-glass lists always have at least one to offer. It seems like every domestic winery has added a rosé wine to their portfolio.

In a sea of rosé wines, there are so many choices. It is hard to imagine why someone would want to create a new brand of rosé wines but that is exactly what Jason and Julia Martin did.

Welcome to the Republic of Pink, a boutique producer in Southern California whose mission is “to elevate and celebrate California Rosé” and they make only a single rosé wine (for now).

Jason and Julia Martin met in Canada while working in a restaurant. It was working in restaurants where Jason first fell in love with rosé wines, specifically from Provence, France.

Jason and Julia, now married, moved to New York, where Jason worked in product design and Julia in entertainment. While living in New York, they went out on a few boozy bike rides in the North Fork of Long Island.

On one of these trips, they found themselves in the late afternoon, sitting in the garden of a winery with a flight of rosé wines. It was 2011, when rosé was just starting to grow in popularity, and it was their first all-rosé tasting. They loved the idea but the wines, unfortunately, were not very good. So, Jason and Julia looked at each other and said, “When we retire, we will do an all-rosé winery, but better than this.” The seed for their future had been planted.

Jason and Julia moved to Los Angeles in 2012, where Julia works as a television writer and Jason began consulting, helping others put their ideas together and bring them to market.

A weekend trip to the Santa Ynez Valley took them to Buellton where they met winemaker Ryan Roark who owns Roark Wine Co., a small winery.

Jason had always thought of a winery as a large piece of property with vineyards. This vision of what a winery was made him think it had to be his retirement plan. But Roark Wine Co. was a completely different business model in which the grapes are sourced, and the wine is made in a warehouse. Jason was hungry to build his own thing and realized that he could start his dream now.

In 2014, LA Wine Project was born. Focused exclusively on rosé wine, they came up with the name because LA is where the idea was born, and the term “project” implied an open-ended methodology.

Jason was determined to showcase rosé as a style of wine, not a type of wine. He wanted to tell a varietal story, so he made three single varietal wines – Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah.

He purchased good-quality fruit, read about making wine and followed the process. He made 150 cases in 2016. “Luckily, rosé is a forgiving wine style,” he said. The second year, in 2017, with the help of winemaker Andrew Murray, who let Jason make the wine in his facility, it grew to 500 cases.

In the beginning, Jason had thought through branding and packaging but not the sales of the wine. When he went to sell the wine, he realized two things. The biggest issue he came across was selling a wine called LA Wine Project outside of LA. He also noticed that “the more I poured, the more people liked the wines and really wanted to know what rosé was.” He said he thought that perhaps single- variety wines were too ahead of their time.

With the quest to make the “perfect” rosé, Jason took a look at the French rosé wines that he loved and concluded that they were all blends. So, for the 2018 vintage, Jason made two major changes.

First, he rebranded the business. He renamed the company Republic of Pink and he created a new look. The label is shaped like a 1970s National Park patch with various shades of pink, as rosés come in all shades. The image is of an airplane landing amidst palm trees and the ocean, inspiring the drinker to be transformed to their favorite place. And, there is a seal of approval from the Department of Happiness in the Republic of Pink. Hopefully when someone picks up a bottle of Republic of Pink Rosé and drinks it, it will make them happy.

Second, instead of making single variety wines, he decided to blend the three grapes. Using 38 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah, 30 percent Mourvèdre and adding 2 percent Cabernet Franc, Jason felt that he had produced a more complete wine. As much as he believes in each grape variety, it is the sum that is greater than the parts. The 2018 Republic of Pink Rosé is fun and fruity with a velvety mouthfeel and an underlying juiciness.

The Republic of Pink is a young brand in a sea of rosé wines. But Jason and Julia want to produce a wine that is delicious and flavorful and can be enjoyed with food or by the pool, all for under $20, and they are doing that.

And when you look at the airplane landing on the label and think about where you want to be, this is where Jason and Julia want to be: building a portfolio under Republic of Pink that showcases the potential of the category, from blends to sparkling wines to perhaps even revisiting single variety wines.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.