The name can be polarizing, admits Brad Ball, the guy who originally came up with the name Wine Awesomeness. “Some people love it,” he says.
“And other people hate it,” adds Dale Slear with a big grin.
Ball and Slear are one-half of the Wine Awesomeness crew, representing wine and digital content respectively. You may already recognize Ball. He’s the young gun of the Poogan’s Porch restaurant family who returned to town after developing his wine palate in New York’s fine dining world. He opened Social Restaurant and Wine Bar soon after and recently joined Charleston’s exclusive club of advanced certified sommeliers, becoming one of four in town to reach that distinction. He also has an MBA from the Bordeaux Management School, one of four programs in the world that focuses on wine.
For Wine Awesomeness, he’s the guy who selects and buys the grape juice and then writes cheeky copy like: “The best part about drinking wine is, well, drinking it. And the worst part is the awkward dance at the liquor store where both you and the wine seller pretend to know more than you really do about the nectar of the gods.”
This is the language of the millennials, the generation currently in their 20s and 30s, the generation that will soon be the largest group of wine drinkers ever. Through them, Ball, 31, Slear, 27, and their partners Logan Lee, 29, and Luke Correale, 25, plan to revolutionize the wine selling industry. A pretty big pronouncement for a spunky little start-up that fulfills orders in a sparse office above the Gin Joint, but with a name like Wine Awesomeness, what else do you expect?
Slear is a self-taught techno-geek who runs another company, the one that pays his bills, called BeatCopter. In his office he has a small photo studio for product shots of wine bottles and a flying helicopter gizmo called Artemis that has been engineered to do aerial photography. He employs a pilot and engineer to fly the thing during shoots. His video company provides the graphics and look for Wine Awesomeness. He’s currently trying to figure out how to get Artemis to pour wine at the next party.
Lee and Correale are the event and editorial side of the Wine Awesomeness equation. They organize parties in places like Montauk, N. Y. and San Francisco, Calif., partner with other cool up-and-coming brands like Warby Parker, and somehow, someway pull off the impossible. ”We’re never scared by someone saying, no, you can’t do that,” says Lee.
Lee, like any good millennial, is keenly interested in giving back to the world. He went to a conference at Harvard Business School where he was inspired by the do-good-for-profit model and came home to start Champagne with a Cause to raise money and fun at the same time. “We have big ideas and want to have events that are not lame and boring. You know, the shitty meal around a circle table.”
For their recent Charleston launch party held at the Royal American a few weeks ago, they donated half of the cover charge and proceeds from all sales of La Wine Agency product to VH1’s Save the Music foundation.
Correale, Lee’s frat brother from CofC, is also essential to the party planning process, establishing relationships with new brands and venues around the country. In addition, he curates the blog on the website, acting as the resident cool hunter, posting photos of Steve McQueen, Jack Rudy Tonic, and Harper Poe’s Proud Mary line — things that represent the height of awesomeness, of course.
The foursome established Wine Awesomeness about a year ago. The company’s main revenue stream is its wine club. Subscribers choose to receive three bottles of wine a month: red, white, or mixed. Around the first of the month, they gather at their new offices and start packing boxes. Inside each box are the wines, along with write-ups that includes wine tasting notes from Ball (“This wine is hedonistic and restrained…”) and suggested occasion, food, and music from Correalle (the 2007 Renieri, Syrah will go great when you’re catching up with the homeboys, eating mom’s meatloaf, and listening to Surprise Hotel’s “Fool’s Gold”). They also include recipes and info on another cool brand, like Indigo and Cotton.
“For $40 a month, you have Brad Ball picking wine for you,” says Correale. The club is gearing up to add a six-bottle a month option. You can also order wine a la carte on the website.
Because they’ve held several events in the New York area, that’s where the bulk of Wine Awesomeness subscribers are. They had an epic turnout for a party at the Solé East Resort in Montauk, where Citizen Cope played and Steven Rojas spun tracks. Watch the video on their site, and you’ll see the vibe they’re going for. Young people, good wine, fun times.
Of course, Wine Awesomeness isn’t just about the parties. They want to make Wine Awesomeness succeed. Each of the guys has his own benchmark for success, whether it means drawing full-time salaries or becoming a well-known lifestyle brand.
For Ball, it’s all about the wine. “I’m a competitive son of a bitch,” he says, “and we’re here to change how people think about wine.”
To sign up for a monthly box of wine, visit wineawesomeness.com.