Behind the Small Hours Label, a Corked Tie-in Lodi Zinfandel

Behind the Small Hours Label, a Corked Tie-in Lodi Zinfandel

A new arrival

Traveling Vineyard is pleased to introduce an addition to our collection of exclusive wines: Small Hours, an elegant, balanced, Bordelais-style Lodi Zinfandel.

A more serious Zinfandel, the latest vintage of Small Hours is notable for its herbaceous-yet-juicy palate, its wild brambly notes, and its 16% alcohol.

The last descriptor earned the wine its name.

What’s in a name?

Small Hours was born when Traveling Vineyard’s wine director, Francis Sanders, decided to improve upon a previous product and make Traveling Vineyard’s signature zin a little more true to the varietal.

The result was a serious wine, Zinfandel being one of the most alcoholic California reds, perfect for contemplating some of life’s more mournful truths in the witching hours.

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The name, Small Hours, is in tribute to those characteristics, a reference to Frank Sinatra’s classic album, “In the Wee Small Hours,” a musical catharsis released shortly after his infamous breakup with Ava Gardner.

The label itself is an homage to the classic cover art from that album, with mirrored colors, fonts, tone, and lights. Even the wardrobe and attitude reflect Frankie’s tilted fedora and almost-forgotten cigarette.

Frank Sinatra-In the Wee Small Hours

Sanders and his co-creator, artist Dave Griffin, ensured the authenticity, even going so far as to consult with legendary Capitol Record’s executive art director from the era, Jim Silke.

The result, as you can see, is striking.


Setting the scene

The first vintage, our 2012 Small Hours Lodi Zinfandel, is also notable as the first Traveling Vineyard wine to be featured in Corked the comic, a wine-based comic strip, brainchild of Sanders and Griffin.

Corked the comic follows the misadventures of the denizens of the fictional Isinglas Cellars. The Small Hours label in particular features winemaker Punt Tomas, whose long-standing love of the tasting room manager, Chenin Meunier, has once again proven unrequited.

Having been unceremoniously turned down (again), Punt has found his way into a quiet corner, to treat his sorrows with the most potent wine at hand.

The tie-in strip makes his plight even more clear, showcasing his chronic inability to get any date. He is rejected not only by his ladylove but also by two other well-known ladies of the wine world, Roxie Ward of Buellton, Santa Barbara County, and Jenn Zeek of Geyserville in Sonoma.

Corked - a wine based comic strip

In the funny pages

After the creation of the strip, Sanders and Griffin merged their roles in wine production and design, branching into tie-in wines: creating the wines, designing the labels, and presenting them at events.

The labels win the awards, the strip opens doors to less traditional wine-selling venues, and together, Corked the comic’s creators are popular guests at comic book conventions and shops, classic film festivals, illustration art museums and galleries, and vintage music venues (Small Hours is their second music tie-in label).

In fact, they debuted the 2012 Small Hours with the Society of Illustrators at the 2014 MoCCA Fest at the Museum of Cartoon & Comic Art in New York City and the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival.

The 2015 Small Hours Lodi Zinfandel is now available to Traveling Vineyard’s Wine Guides, hosts and guests. We’d like to know what you think. Have you tried it? What did you have it with? Does it live up to the name?

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