In a blending of cultures East and West, symbolism for resurrection and good will, and recognition of disaster and a contribution for recovery, a new rosé wine released this month virtually wraps its wings around all that with a pledge of proceeds to be donated to fire relief efforts.
It is called Hi no Tori rosé, which translates in Japanese to “bird of fire,” with a label and a product inside that tell its story.
The new owners of The Pink Mansion on Foothill Boulevard who moved into Meadowbrook Farm in Oak Knoll last year, had no intention of going into the wine business when they fell in love with the Oak Knoll property. It had an English cottage-style home that they adore. Their intent was not to enter the wine industry as producers, but continue to sell grapes to premium Napa Valley producers, but when the October wildfires hit, things changed.
“It was a beautiful property that just happened to have 17 acres of cabernet sauvignon. It was just supposed to be our home for the Napa Valley and the original intention was just to enjoy the property, perhaps make small batches of wine for family or friends and continue selling our cabernet sauvignon grapes to prominent wineries in Napa Valley,” said Peter Chiang, whose family purchased The Pink Mansion bed and breakfast last year and moved into their Meadowbrook Farm home in late June, 2017.
But during the October evacuation of Meadowbrook Farm there was no electricity, no cellular connection, no WiFi, Chiang said, and they couldn’t get confirmation from the wineries who normally purchase their grapes that they would still be purchasing the grapes. So, his family turned to him to make a decision.
Days later Chiang, with grapes in a production facility, then turned to winemaker Steve Matthiasson, whom he had met before and who previously worked with the Meadowbrook Farm vines for 10 years, to create a wine that would represent not only the terroir, but also represent an event that will shape wine country for some time.
"I hadn't planned on taking on any more projects," Matthiasson said, "but I love that vineyard."
Now the rosé wine, Hi no Tori (which translates from Japanese to “bird of fire), is available for purchase at $25 a bottle, with $20 of each bottle to be donated to California wildfire relief. Based on the number of bottles available for sale, portions of the donations will be split as follows: $70,800 to Napa Valley Community Foundation; $35,400 to Sonoma County Resilience Fund; $17,700 to Ventura County Community Disaster Relief Fund; $17,700 to Santa Barbara Foundation Community Disaster Relief Fund.
The image on the label combines both the Western and Japanese cultures incorporating a phoenix, a symbol of rebirth, and an origami crane, which is a symbol of hope, the design is a piece of artwork created by Brigit Kang.
“Most people will understand the symbol of the phoenix, being born from the ashes, coming back stronger from perhaps something that was devastating. It was combining that with an origami crane, which in Japan is a symbol of hope and prayer for whenever there is a natural disaster or whenever someone is going through maybe something with their health. It’s like a get well soon symbol,” Chiang said.
It is a common tradition to fold 1,000 origami cranes as a form of prayer in Japan, said Chiang’s fiancée, Azumi Kubo.
It was Kubo, who is “a foodie and loves wine,” Chiang said, who inspired the family to move back to Napa Valley after a handful of years away.
Kubo fell in love with Napa Valley because it has four seasons and a landscape similar to her rural homeland of Japan. Together she and Chiang are overseeing Tadaima, the company that oversees Kanpai Wines, which is their first unintended vintage of their grapes under which Hi no Tori falls. Tadaima also includes The Pink Mansion. Chiang is the vice president of development, Kubo is the chief culture and communication officer, and the family retained former owners of The Pink Mansion, Toppa and Leslie Epps, in management capacities.
When the wildfires broke out on Oct. 8, Meadowbrook Farm was scheduled for harvest that night, and workers showed up for harvest as scheduled.
But Chiang and his family saw the danger nearby on Atlas Peak – the fires would eventually reach about a mile from their home and vineyards – and sent the workers home to be with their own families and be safe.
As the family watched Napa and Sonoma valleys burn, they were so moved by the devastation that they knew they wanted to do something for their community to give back, and be of support.
“As you can imagine it was quite an eventful first vintage for our family. We’re not third generation winemakers,” and then the October wildfires happened, Chiang said.
They watched the Wine Country wildfires, then the wildfires and mudslides in southern California.
“We saw the impact it was having,” Chiang said.
Chiang, who has a culinary degree and a background working in high-end restaurants in Napa Valley, doesn’t consider himself an expert yet in wine, but he was the natural one to turn to given his experience. But it was probably his upbringing that may have been the most influential on taking 10 tons of premium cabernet sauvignon grapes and practically give it away.
His parents are well-known in the high-tech world. His mother Eva Chang earned her success in the computer cyber security, and is now CEO of Trend Micro. His father, Daniel Chiang, is co-founder of Sina.com, an equivalent in Asia to what Yahoo is to the U.S., he said.
Peter Chiang’s parents taught him that committing and donating time is just as, if not more valuable, than donating dollars, he said. And he, Kubo and their family are already trying to make that mark in Napa Valley.
Hi No Tori Rose is available for purchase online at Kanpai.wine/products/hi-no-tori-rose.