Alida Solomon takes a break after the lunch rush at her Tuscan-inspired Toronto restaurant Tutti Matti, pops the cork on a fresh bottle of red and starts to pour. “Look at that sediment,” says the chef, “it’s beautiful.” At the next table, a pair of gentlemen lingering over a long midweek lunch look over and raise their glasses. “This wine is amazing, Alida. It’s no surprise if you had a hand in making it.”
The wine is La Sarta, Tutti Matti’s own custom Syrah. Solomon created it with veteran Tuscan winemaker Roberto Cipresso and Toronto designer Laura Wills to commemorate the restaurant’s 10th anniversary last year. The experience of creating and branding her own wine inspired her not just creatively (“You have a connection to the wine on a whole different level,” she says) but professionally as well. Solomon has since launched a service called Wine Tailoring that pairs clients with Cipresso to create their own blend, then with Wills to design a custom brand and label.
These are not your buddy’s basement experiments, known more for their epic hangovers than their oak overtones. Nor is Solomon in the business of slapping a corporate logo onto a forgettable bottle of Merlot. From wine to whisky, personalized booze has been a growth industry in recent years, with hard-liquor producers offering enthusiasts perks like VIP distillery visits and the chance to own their very own cask. (See “Buying the barrel,” right.)
But none of these compare to the level of attention Solomon is aiming to provide. Wine Tailoring’s high-roller option includes a two-week trip to Cipresso’s farmhouse estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, overlooking the vineyards with a pool, outdoor kitchen and Solomon as your personal chef. Clients work with Cipresso in his state-of-the-art wine lab, housed in a separate house with underground cellars, tasting grape varietals such as Montelpulciano and Aleatico and picking their favourites to be blended. From these, three different batches (or cuvées) are created, and clients pick the one they like best. Five months later, a minimum batch of 300 bottles (the output of one barrel) is ready, at which point you sit down with Wills to put a name and look to your new creation.
The cost? “The price is based on what you want to do,” says Solomon, admitting that the top package could rival the cost of a new Beemer. However, if a trip to Montalcino isn’t in the cards, clients can still work with Solomon, Cipresso and Wills from Toronto and walk away with a custom wine for less than $150 a bottle. “It’s not uncommon for companies to arrange golf retreats for executives, but what do you come home with besides a few snapshots?” asks Solomon. “With this, you come home with an amazing, unique wine that you helped create.”
Jeff Beer is staff writer at Canadian Business. His cuvée would be called Hobo Ubriaco Ballo.
MORE Wine Spectator’s top three wines of 2012: Shafer Vineyards Relentless 2008 (California), Château de St.-Cosme Gigondas 2010 (France), Two Hands Shiraz 2010 (Australia)