By Andrea Hall/Greenwood Commonwealth
GREENWOOD – Whether you remember its name or not, chances are you will recognize that flavorful wine from last night or yesteryear by its label.
Shawn DuBard of Greenwood remembers moving down the aisles of the liquor store and picking her drink based on its packaging before she knew little more about wines than their distinguishing colors.
“You knew the more boring the label – those old, certificate-looking ones – that the wine was going to be expensive and very good,” she said.
Those weren’t the wines that caught her eye. DuBard found the bottles with bright colors or interesting designs, whether conceptual or creative, most appealing – though not always to the taste buds.
An art major at Mississippi State University, she fell in love with the idea of designing on the small palette. However, she didn’t think much of making it part of her career. She had always assumed the vineyard owners came up with the names and designs of the bottles that housed their grapes.
After getting married, DuBard moved to Fairhope, Ala., where she began doing freelance graphic design. Through her business, Rooster’s Crow Graphics, DuBard had the opportunity to work with International Wines, out of Birmingham, and her dream career to design wine labels began.
“I wondered if it was possible to sell a $40 bottle of wine with a fun label,” she said. “International Wines really worked with me to develop those kinds of designs.”
She remembers one of the biggest challenges was not coming up with the designs but fitting everything on the label.
“They would have to remind me to put the alcohol content on there and the other necessary information,” DuBard said. “I am an artist. That was just cluttering my canvas.”
Despite the small size of the labels, DuBard brings big ideas to each design.
“To create custom wine labels I have scanned in paintings I have done by hand and worked with their brush strokes digitally, and I have used old photographs,” she said. “I design as if I am the one who will be buying the bottle.”
When she needs inspiration, she often finds it at the liquor store.
“It is so fun to see what others respond to,” DuBard said. “My husband, who has never had a sip of wine, will pick out a bottle because he thinks I will like the design.”
She also enjoys perusing the aisles to see if any of them catch her glance. If they do, she likes to look a little closer to see what technique or element had that effect so she can use it in her future designs.
Once she has some prototypes made up for the latest wine to be labeled, DuBard prints them off and attaches them to a set of bottles she keeps.
“I look at them up close. I look at them from far away,” she said. “Like any type of design, I wait to see if one really grabs me.”
Dubard’s first custom wine label in Greenwood is for the new cabernet sauvignon “Delta Moon.”
She first suggested creating a custom wine to John Stewart and Matt Gnemi shortly after moving back to Greenwood with her family earlier this year.
They collaborated on the project with Harry Parducci Jr., blending and bottling operator at Adler Fels Winery In Sonoma Valley, through DuBard’s connection with International Wines to create this wine for the Delta.
“A lot of private-label wine is not very good,” she said, “Because of my work with this company, I knew they produced high-quality wines.”
Gnemi and Stewart were sent shiners – bottles of different blends of wine without labels. They gathered friends and families to help pick a wine they felt most represented the Delta.
“We wanted something that was not too sweet or too dry, so that it would appeal to everyone,” Gnemi said. “We also wanted it to be a reasonable price.”
The result is described as having an earthy structure with a fruit-forward finish.
Although the wine comes from California, DuBard says she designed the labels to feel familiar to Delta residents.
“I knew I really wanted to use the moon in my design,” she said. “Old or young, whether it was something scandalous or something as precious as your first kiss, I think everyone in the Delta has a story about something they have done in a field under the full Delta moon.”
Some of her initial ideas included a conceptual image of a moon made from the ring left behind from a glass, but the final result was more straightforward. The label presents a full moon in a clear evening sky as the final moments of daylight come to an end over a field.
“It’s meant to feel like there is a story and a history behind it,” she said.
With the Delta Moon Wine Co. already making plans for its second wine, a chardonnay, which will be introduced the first of November, DuBard has finished work on the second label.
“For the white wine, we decided to do the field from the original label with the cotton in full-bloom” she said.
She hopes her designs will bring personality not only to the wine bottles but also to the events at which the wine is served.
“It can add a really personal touch to parties or weddings,” she said.
The featured image is of Greenwood farmer Justin Jefcoat’s cotton field in Phillipston under the light of the moon.
“Maybe after people drink some of the wine they will even be more apt to tell their Delta moon story,” said DuBard.