Full Page Ad in Artful Living

So the winery is about to start its fifth season open to the public, and we want to get the word out to everyone in Minnesota that they can have a world class vineyard and winery experience right here. To do this, we bought a couple full page ads in Artful Living, which is a very high quality magazine distributed throughout the Twin Cities. As the graphic designer around here, I knew I wanted the ad to be of the highest quality so I looked to find out what other wineries’ ads look like. Wine Spectator was a great asset for this task.

Browsing other full page wine ads in other magazines
My job is to make an ad that is on par, and browsing full page wine ads in other magazines is a great place to start.

After my research, I had an idea of what I wanted. The ad would have a very sharp photograph of our wine bottle or bottles, a picture of our vineyard, our logo, and some text. The photographs of the bottles would be a good place to start, because I just got a new camera and was excited to try it out. Now photographing glass can be tricky because too many reflections can look messy. To minimize these distractions, then, I set up a studio in the board room, which has no windows and the walls are rough wood which don’t reflect a lot of light.

Cleared out the tables and chairs and set up a studio. Long skinny soft boxes on the lights give me the highlight in the glass that I want.
Cleared out the tables and chairs and set up a studio. Long skinny soft boxes on the lights give me the highlight in the glass that I want.
Setting up for high key. I photographed each bottle on a white background and dark background so that I could use either depending on how I was to create the ad.
Setting up for high key. I photographed each bottle on a white and a dark background so that I could use either depending on how I was to create the ad.

Now one of the neatest features of this new camera I have is the ability to connect to my phone via WiFi. I can then use my phone to compose the image, change camera settings, and to snap the picture. this saved me a lot of time because I didn’t have to walk back and forth from the bottle to the camera to check minute adjustments.

IMG_4571a
I love this feature
The two photos on the left are how the raw captures looked, image on the right is the bottle after dust cleanup and cut-out
The two photos on the left are how the raw captures looked, image on the right is the bottle after dust cleanup and cut-out

After photographing all of the bottles, I cleaned them up in Photoshop and cut out of the background using bezier curves. The entire photography and bottle cleanup process took the better part of a day and a half, but it is very much worth it. The magazine is 12″ high and the photographs had to be perfect, and a poorly photographed bottle would definitely hinder the appearance of our winery as a first rate operation.

The photo on the left was a quick snapshop I took so I could put an image of the wine online. The picture on the right is a new photograph from the studio session with the new camera. Notice the difference?
The photo on the left was a quick snapshot I took to put an image of the wine online. The picture on the right is a new photograph from the studio session with the new camera. Notice the difference?
All of the wine lined up
All of the wine lined up

With the bottle photographs done, I got to work on designing the ad. I kind of had a good idea of what I wanted, so my versions are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but I think they are project a feeling of quality and atmosphere.

Lots of little variations, and as I went along I would take a bit here or a bit there.
Lots of little variations, and as I went along I would take a bit here or a bit there.

In the end, we all agreed that we liked a dark background, the gold bar, only one red and one white wine, a scripty headline font, an a warm-tone sky.

The finished ad. Look for it in Artful Living Magazine!
The finished ad. Look for it in Artful Living Magazine!

Cooking Prime Rib for the Supper Club

I think one of the more unique things about our winery is that I’m also a chef and I get to cook delicious food to serve with the wine that I make. For our Friday Night Supper Club, I cook the main entrees and Prime Rib has been a feature from the very beginning. Here is how I like to make it.

Just Got a New Camera

camera-comparisonSo last fall, someone stole my Canon 5D Mark II + 24-105 f/4 L IS, and obviously I was very upset about it because it was a great camera. My backup camera, a Nikon D90 + Tamron 28-105 f/2.8, was an OK replacement for a while, but it was quite difficult to get as good of a picture as I was used to with the 5D Mark II without a lot of extra work. Now, I’m sure that most of the issue was that I had been reared on Canon and my familiarity with Nikon is not great, but ease of use is very important to me especially when I am so busy with many other tasks.

So, for comparison’s sake, you can see the new Canon photographed with the Nikon and vice versa. Both were set to AF, Av f/4, ISO 6400, AWB – which is a pretty standard way for me to shoot when I’m working in they winery or the kitchen. Obviously the Canon took a much nicer picture straight out of the box, though I’m sure with a lot of tinkering I could make the Nikon look just as good.

Checking on the 2014 Wines

Checking on the 2014 Frontenac Gris. It is very nice so far, but there is much more to do.
Checking on the 2014 Frontenac Gris. It is very nice so far, but there is much more to do.

I had tasted a lot of very good cold climate wines during the conference, so I was a bit anxious to check on our own wine as it was aging. The Minnesota whites we had from 2014, La Crescent, Frontenac Blanc, and Frontenac Gris, were developing very nicely and I am excited to start finishing them. Though we only have about 200 gallons of these wines this year on account of the light harvest, I do think all of them will be excellent.

MGGA Conference

Manning our winery's booth at the Midwest Wine Fest
Manning our winery’s booth at the Midwest Wine Fest

The Minnesota Grape Growers Association organizes the Cold Climate Conference every year, and for many of those years I had been a participant in helping plan it. I designed the conference logo, t-shirts, program, calendar, and posters from 2011 until 2014. As I took over move winemaking responsibilities, though, I had to scale back the work I did for the conference, and this year I had not done any work for the MGGA at all. So, this year I was able to attend the conference as a regular attendee, which was actually rather nice.

I enjoyed the sommelier class quite a bit and it has given me an appreciation for French wine that I didn’t have before, so that was probably the biggest takeaway I got from the conference. For the oenology seminars I attended (and I didn’t get to them all), I picked up a thing here and there but they were mostly refreshers for techniques I have already adopted in the winery. It’s always good to stay informed, though.

The main event, however, was the Gold Medal Gala where we were presented with the Governor’s Cup for the Best in Show – Minnesota Wine in the 2014 International Cold Climate Wine Competition. We won for our 2013 La Crescent which was an estate bottled wine, and I had great pleasure to take through fermentation, aging, finishing, and bottling. The grapes were very good and I was able to use a very natural approach to winemaking with very little corrective adjustment. It’s as good of a wine as I have ever tasted from a cold climate region, and I’m quite proud of it.

winning-governors-cupI was glad to have some family join us for the Gala as well. Kurt, Hanna, my wife Hana, myself, Paul, Terri, Rachel, and Justin all posing with the Cup.