A velvety smooth red (50% Syrah, 40% Zinfandel, 8% Petit Sirah, 2% Petit Verdot), Sexual Chocolate and its makers dispelled any notion that a family history stretching back centuries, and the odd chateau, was essential to making great wine.
For this is the flagship product of SLO Down Wines, originally a couple of college buddies from Napa Valley whose company message they distilled down to: ‘Seriously good wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously’.
Brandon Allen (who describes himself as: Director of Important Stuff and Slutty Winemaker), and his then ‘partner-in-crime’ (literally) Bo Silliman, started out as teenagers trying to solve the age-old under-age conundrum…how to get some booze?
The usual method was fake ID. However, Brandon, Bo, and the boys decided instead to make their own. Selling their boot-legged bottles (complete with hand-written label and contact number) around campus, it was demand that eventually, well, demanded a life-changing decision.
Dropping out of college, the boys used their student loan money to produce 93 cases of wine – this time for sale in the San Francisco area. Sexual Chocolate went on to wow wine lovers and the normally hard to please cognoscenti - ironic really given SLO Down Wines obvious anti-establishment stance.
Wine-snobbery is right up there in Brandon Allen’s Top 10 Hated Things List. The icon on the tab of his company’s website is not a bird, but a middle finger giving ‘the bird’, a not-so-subtle example of their ‘new kids on the block’ irreverence.
Further evidence of SLO Down Wines ‘indie’ approach came when they chose to crisscross the country in a used Cadillac to host product tastings.
Infinitely more rock band tour than piano recital, wherever they went people seemed to fall in love with Sexual Chocolate. The rebellious approach, zany name, and leftfield marketing aside, this was clearly a wine punters thought worth savouring.
That said, the fairly whacky SLO Down Wines take on life didn’t do any harm when it came to brand awareness. Even the packaging had the critics purring.
Doffing a cap in the direction of those dorm room days, the bottle’s label takes the form of a hand-written scrawl that reveals the wine is part of a boot-legging operation. ‘Meet the guys with the coolest wine labels in Napa’, was how New York-based website VinePair headlined their lead story on SLO Down.
Sexual Chocolate has been an unqualified success, enabling SLO Down Wines to branch into new, equally unconventionally named products like Broken Dreams Chardonnay and Stand Out, a Cabernet/Merlot Blend.
A breath of fresh air in a world of wine often stifled by stuffiness, SLO Down Wines challenged the establishment by first and foremost producing a damn fine drop of vino.
But don’t just take our word for it. Why not give it a try for yourself?
SLO Down Wines’Sexual Chocolate (and their citrusy Christmas cracker Broken Dreams Chardonnay) ARE NOW BOTH AVAILABLE at www.homedeliverywine.com