Wine has been described as an ‘experience product’, in which quality and flavour are only part of the overall appeal. Other factors include packaging and the location and circumstances in which it is consumed. Wineries – and increasingly wine retailers – are increasingly aware of this, and looking to go beyond the simplicity of pouring samples and selling bottles.
One wine company that has embraced the concept particularly enterprisingly is John Anthony Cellars, owners of the popular JaM brand, which has just bought the 860-seat, art deco, Uptown Theatre in the heart of the town of Napa. The theatre is an iconic building, thanks to its lovingly restoration by the vendor, George Altamura who also converted it into a live music venue a decade ago. Recent performers include Lyle Lovett, Graham Nash and Robert Cray.
The acquisition follows a pattern of involvement with music by John Truchard, founder and CEO of John Anthony. Jam Cellars is lead sponsor of the annual BottleRock Napa Valley Festival, owners of Jam Wine and Music Studio, close to the Uptown Theatre and, since last year, producers of a weekly JaMHappyHour music Podcast.
JaM’s wines, which include Butter Chardonnay, JaM Cabernet, Sugar Sweet White, Candy Rosé and Toast Sparkling are not always highly rated by critics who prefer minerality and dryness, but they sell well and are widely copied. Founded in 2009, the brand (named after the first names of John Anthony Truchard and his wife Michele) is the 25th largest in the US, with revenues of over $80m. In recent years, JaM has taken legal action against a number of other producers, including the Wine Group and Franzia which have used names like Butterball, Butter Bomb, Butter Knife, Buttercream and Butterkissed for their rich Chardonnays.