One in a million
Dixon, CA 95620
In a world populated by 150 commercially important wine varieties, 20 million acres of vineyards and—according to one estimate heard by this reporter—1 million wines, just how does a newbie to the industry gain consumer attention and make enough sales to float on? Some wineries make sustainability claims. Some put critters on their labels. A few aim high and sell at a $100 a bottle. And at least one sells at an infamous $2 a bottle.
But Purple Pearl Vineyards is trying some different tactics. For one thing, the Dixon winery (founded in 2004) is making white wines out of syrah and merlot grapes, a blatant rejection of the industry norm. The syrah is a semisweet wine redolent of peaches, while the white merlot—actually orange—is dry and bears a strong grapefruit nose. Before fermentation of each, the grape skins are immediately removed, before enough tannins leak into the wines to qualify them as rosés.
Purple Pearl is also the only winery selling at the Davis Farmers Market. Though tasting is prohibited in this venue, the presence of a market stall laden with hand-corked, hand-labeled wine bottles evokes an arrangement more commonly seen in Europe, where winemakers and farmers frequently brush shoulders. Indeed, Purple Pearl co-founder Rory Horton is both a winemaker and a farmer. He tends his grapes, harvests them, makes the wines and helps handle the company’s marketing. His wines are sold at Peddrick Produce stand, Higby’s County Feed store and the winery itself, where tasting costs just $3.
Meanwhile, distant horizons are opening. Horton has scored a deal with an East Coast distributor reportedly smitten by Purple Pearl’s sweet muscat, and his wines recently found their way into China. Just imagine that: visiting the urban monstrosity of Beijing and having a chance encounter with, of all the world’s wines, a bottle of Solano County Purple Pearl. It would be, no less, a chance in a million.