The Only Thing They Take Seriously Is the WINE in The Ghost of Autumn’s Unquenchable Spirit
The questions are many, and the answers come fast — all of them rich in storytelling details. Where did the Ghost of Autumn originate? What’s behind the creativity of combining art, hospitality, the use of mixed-media and commissioned art pieces, and great wine? When did the three founders meet? What does the name mean? And how does a new brand tackle a Diamond Mountain Cabernet for its debut? For anyone who knows Bradly Tyner and brothers John and Steven Arrambide — and many natives of Napa do — it’s clear that the story behind The Ghost of Autumn is a reflection of their infectious enthusiasm and splendid gift of repartee. In a nutshell, they figured, “Why not us?” The threesome is behind the niche wine brand, an overnight sensation that’s taken Napa by storm.
“When everyone is making a right, we’re going left,” said Bradly. “Not having a clue is a part of the magic. We know that the only thing we’re running out of in Napa is bad wine, so let’s emphasize the stories and art.”
IN THE BEGINNING
The Ghost of Autumn wasn’t conceived until February 2019, so by Napa Valley standards, it’s just a babe. However, this trio are born-and-bred locals, so they’ve long had the essence of Napa running through their veins. Former classmates at Vintage High School, each of them struck out into the hospitality and service industry, and particularly in these pandemic times, that’s a pedigree they honor and respect. “Although we had never worked together, we inherently trusted one another, and each one of us knows the high standards of Napa Valley.”
The search for a brand name was on. Bradly recounted the “Aha” moment that hit him while visiting the Napa Art Show. “Autumn was a service dog I received to assist me because of my military service. She had passed away before the art show, hence the ‘ghost’ of Autumn.” The name’s relationship to harvest is obvious, but not wanting to steal the thunder, Bradly was a bit reticent. “When you drink a bottle of wine, you’re drinking the ghosts of that harvest. What’s left of that vintage is in the bottle. That’s a pretty cool thing,” said Steven. And so, TGOA was duly christened.
THEN, SERENDIPITY ENTERS
“Diamond Mountain, are you kidding me?” was pretty much the lads’ reaction when the opportunity presented itself for an inaugural release. “We met winemaker Fernando Candelario through Bradly’s family. He had been planning to use the four barrels of 2016 single vineyard Diamond Mountain Cabernet for his own brand but fell in love with our concept and offered it to us,” said Steven.
“When you tell people you have a wine company in Napa, it’s like saying you’re a singer in Nashville,” said Bradly. “It’s always, ‘Oh, that’s nice…good luck,’ But when you tell them you have a Diamond Mountain Cabernet, everyone begins to pay attention.”
The attention intensified in November 2019. “We were invited to a live benefit auction for the Boy Scouts because my brother and I were Eagle Scouts, and Bradly served with them in the U.S. Air Force,” explained John. That bottle went for $550, and the exposure wasn’t bad, either.
WORD-OF-MOUTH TAKES OVER
Initially, The Ghost of Autumn wine launch was planned as a gathering for 60 people on a run-of-the-mill Tuesday evening in John’s Napa property. “We were expecting a 20 percent no-show factor, as is common. We fired up the pizza oven, had a chef attend, and parked our wine tour limo out front to help with shuttling people to their cars,” said John.
A crowd of 300 packed the place and flowed right out into the backyard. “We knew people were excited to try it, but we didn’t realize that the anticipation was this high. Everyone was taking selfies with our commissioned painting and with the empty bottles. It was a straight-up house party,” said John. Handsomely presented in custom walnut boxes and priced at $225, wine sales were brisk. We show- cased our artistic wine labels to the crowd and basically, a release of our wine.”
POWERFUL ARTISTIC PRESENTATION
Innovative wine label design is based on an artist’s powerful, personal inspiration put to canvas. The first two commissioned wine labels for The Ghost of Autumn have set the benchmark high for whatever comes next in 2021. For the Cabernet, Nashville-based visual artist Ty Christian flew to Napa, soaked up the scene, and got out his brushes. The captivating result on canvas can be described as an intertwining of multi-ethnic hands holding a single grape to represent the combination of cultures that serve to create the region’s most celebrated product.
The next release, a single vineyard 100% Malbec from Chalk Hill just northwest of Alexander Valley in Sonoma, features a label by local artist and hospitality worker Danasabe Mohammed. In a video set to music, we see him standing, facing a blank canvas on an easel in an empty restaurant. He splashes a vibrant red across the canvas to bring the painting to life; when we next see him, he’s a server. Sleeves rolled up on a white shirt, wearing a face mask and a Bottega apron, Mohammed looks deep into the camera as the caption appears, “Hospitality Worker: 2010 – March 2021.” John explained that the server had just been served–with his papers to say he’d been laid off.
“Whatever the artist paints, that’s our label,” said Bradly. “And we make what we make. When a specific label runs out, that’s it; we aren’t going to bottle anymore with that label. It’s like a ghost. It disappears.”
And so The Ghost of Autumn had their second label for these 51 cases. Titled ‘The Ascension of Hope,’ the vivid illustration pictures a little boy and a balloon at the moment he’s released it from his fingers. As Mohammed steps out of the frame, the reveal is a powerful moment capturing both the spirit of optimism and frustration shared by those within the hospitality industry, the artist included.
Finally, as fans of the brand know, there were handsome custom walnut wood boxes for the wine bottles, each handcrafted by Spring Mountain Case Co. Sadly, in August 2020, that story gained another chapter when the studio making those custom wooden boxes was destroyed in the Glass Fires.
THE ASCENSION OF HOPE
Just one year into the surging popularity of The Ghost of Autumn, the mutually supportive world of wining and dining had come to an abrupt halt. As lockdown fell into place overnight, an essential Napa touchpoint had taken a direct hit. The small team recalled, “Our world stopped, and we thought to our- selves, ‘The valley is usually so busy right now. Let’s go and film the emptiness.’”
Inspired by a support effort they had observed at PRESS, the St. Helena restaurant, the team decided to reach out to local restaurants to help hospitality staff who’d been furloughed or laid off. The idea was to donate cases of The Ghost of Autumn wine as a donation program for restaurant patrons of take-out meals to support laid-off workers. And because “we’re into the cinematics of everything,” they artistically captured the distribution of 15 cases of wine on video and called it “The Ascension of Hope.”
“Over and over again, this valley has proven its true resilience,” observed John. And then they were off to film their next video—complete with storyline and script, purposefully spilled red wine, and costume changes—in preparation for The Ghost of Autumn 2021 release, still under wraps.
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Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr // Photos By: Bob McClenahan