Humboldt’s Finest Cannabis Vodka

Long-time client, Humboldt Distillery, came to us with a desire to create a Cannabis-infused vodka that would be a quality tribute to Northern California’s Emerald Triangle. The product would not feature any of the THC found in marijuana, instead it’s a product made with locally grown hemp that’s a subtle nod to the region’s pot-growing tradition. 

And that subtle nod had to remain subtle. Aside from the usual built-in labeling law limitations that go along with packaging alcohol, federal labeling laws strongly prohibit referencing, or depicting anything related to illegal drugs on alcohol packaging. So, in this case, it meant no pot plants, leaves, reefers, blunts, pipes or bongs — nothing fun. 

The challenge of evoking the essence of the local cannabis culture without any of the typical visual cues led us to go for a subtle hemp burlap sack texture in the background and a cluster of vegetation that “kind of” looked like marijuana plants. The first label version was rejected for stating “Cannabis Vodka” on the brand banner (a completely accurate description for the product), leading us to use “Humboldt’s Finest” on the front label – a reference for those in the know. 

This label is digitally printed on Neenah Packaging’s Estate Label #8 uncoated, pressure sensitive, substrate. It features a multi-level emboss. The first level is the hemp bag background texture; the second is our custom botanical & banner illustration.

The final package is one that delivers the needed cues and Emerald Triangle spirit, yet still delivers a package that appeals to a wider audience. 

 

 

Synthesis

“the combination of ideas to form a theory or system”

Martin Ray Winery’s Synthesis label offered Auston Design Group the unique challenge of visually representing an abstract concept. The wine itself utilizes Cabernet Sauvignon from lots in various Napa Valley sub-appellations to create a wine that is greater than the sum of it’s parts — thus, Synthesis.  

Visually, ADG represented the various Napa Valley lots through the series of small gradient and patterned circles. Individually, the circles’ intricate patterns are a visual metaphor to the textures and feelings one might get from drinking the wine. But together, the circles make up an abstract and modern twist on a complete cluster of grapes.

The brandmark also expresses the idea of Synthesis. Through different typeface styles from the same type family, the brandmark brings together seemingly discordant parts to create something harmonious. Other details include a new Martin Ray Winery seal with both a deboss and a sculptured emboss. 

A special thank you to CCL Label for providing the expertise to execute all of the many details. 




Westwood Winery

Sonoma Valley’s Westwood Winery approached Auston Design Group to develop a new Pinot Noir-centric brand image and package design. The desire was to create a brand that was representative of the location and unique terroir of their vineyard plantings. A narrow passage at the top of Sonoma Valley, known as the Annadel Gap, keeps vineyard temperatures up by day, and draws in cooling maritime breezes at night. Westwood sought to leverage this unique terroir story, along with an air of understated elegance, to guide the process of branding and the designing of their packaging.

While many options were considered, ultimately, it was the topographical map and compass rose, printed with metallic ink and intricately debossed, that give this brand both a sense of place and a high-end appeal. The addition of a hand-applied wax seal reinforces the exclusive nature of these small-lot wines.

With wines of this caliber, it was also important to present technical information regarding growing conditions and winemaking details. This helped drive the clear and concise information design of the back label. While not conventionally exciting, these small details help communicate the value of the wine and are important to the serious consumer.

Thank you to our friends at Westwood Winery for entrusting ADG with this interesting assignment and for allowing us use of their photography. 

Wrangletown Hard Cider

Today, it’s a small quiet Humboldt County community named Freshwater, but around the turn of the century it was better known as Wrangletown. And while Wrangletown was small, it was anything but quiet — miners, loggers, and seven saloons, were the perfect formula to breed public disagreements. 

Two of Wrangletown’s most notoriously disagreeable women provide the focal point for this package. The unique town history not only provided the inspiration for the old-west look, it became a prominent element of the packaging. 

The proprietary, hand-lettered brandmark and the custom woodcut style illustrations were created to roughly reflect the old west look and feel of print design in the late 1800’s. The use of multiple typefaces also evokes the era, and gives the sense that the printer used every piece of wood-type in his drawer ­— not an uncommon practice back when printers doubled as designers.

We think it all adds up to a “sorta refined, kinda classy” package.

The label was printed digitally. Thank you to CCL Digital in Portland for their expertise.

Lost Republic: A Bourbon Rooted in California Lore

Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Distilling Co. presented Auston Design Group with the challenge of creating the brand image and package design for their new bourbon brand, Lost Republic. The only direction given was their desire for branding that represented a monumental three week span in California history; the California Republic.

Also known as the Lost Republic, due to its short existence of only a few weeks during the summer of 1846. American insurgents declared their independence from Mexican rule by hoisting the new California Republic flag over the town of Sonoma. After 26 days the U.S. government had taken control of California.

To reflect the era of the Bear Flag Revolt, a retro apothecary bottle was chosen and a die-cut golden yellow “tag”, representative of California’s golden hills, was used as the backdrop. Auston Design Group then created a number of period correct components for the label. Inspired by the California state symbol, the woodcut style California Grizzly Bear is recognizable from across the room, and has become the face of the brand.

Other details like the brandmark, the debossed Lost Republic seal, a simulated rubberstamp seal, and a tax-stamp style tamper band, work together to evoke that 1846 Sonoma, California, sense of time and place.

The pressure sensitive label was printed digitally on 70# Eggshell Felt stock, and the deboss and diecut were finished offline. Special thanks to David Bishop Studios in San Francisco for the beautiful photography. 

Cline Cellars

A well-established and trusted brand, Cline Cellars came to Auston Design Group for a redesign of their packaging system and overall brand experience. There was plenty to work with — a recognizable brandmark, a loyal following, a well-known location, and numerous wines. But it also featured the challenge of differentiating four very different tiers of wines under one unified brand.

Our update brought together previous brand elements with new elements to help promote that Cline is a family-owned, Sonoma County winery. We developed a brand system to distinguish the four tiers — while still allowing them to compete within their specific categories and price points. Throughout the design process we worked closely with the Cline family and marketing team to make sure we accurately represented the personality of the brand and the winery. 

 

California Classics

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Cline’s California Classics received a redesign that positioned it as a serious, yet humble and approachable Sonoma County wine brand. Large brand name, color and the equity of their previous large script C were folded into the design. Support copy tells the story of Cline’s sustainable farming practices and family-owned history.

 

Ancient Vines

This mid-tier crowd favorite is an obvious brand extension of the California Classics tier. Custom stamps depict aspects of the family’s history. A warm, earthy color palette lends a hand-crafted feel that helps communicate the fact that these wines are made with 100-year old vines.

 

Sonoma County

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A higher-end line, sold primarily through the tasting-room and wine club, the Sonoma County tier was was inspired by many of the European varietals that grace this tier. We took a restrained approach to this design, utilizing classic French design cues like white space, beveled corners, Bordeaux red & Burgundy yellow capsules, along with high-quality bottles. 

 

Single Vineyard

Cline’s single vineyard series is also primarily sold through the tasting room and wine club. Our approach was to present the brand in the classic refined look of a well established, heritage brand; be it European or Californian. Textured paper, scalloped corners, elegant type layout, a debossed seal, and lots of white space position the Single Vineyard tier as a solid and trustworthy luxury product.

The response from the trade and consumers has been overwhelmingly positive. And thus far, the sales back it up. Distributors are reporting an increase in sales to retailers by almost 10 percent.

Thank you to CCL Label, of Sonoma, CA, for another great job of printing, and whose expertise helped deliver these perfectly printed labels on their rocking state of the art Gallus RCS 430 press.

Einstök Arctic Berry Ale Cans

Sumardagurinn fyrsti: it means the arrival of warmer temperatures in Iceland. How did we channel that Icelandic summer spirit through a brand built around cold weather Viking heritage? 

As we did with our winter seasonal, we continue to have a little fun with our bad-ass viking. We brought a little levity and the Sumardagurinn spirit with some fun sunglasses, blonde flowing locks and a bright shiny package, of course! 

A limited seasonal release, the Einstök Arctic Berry Ale is a refreshing witbier that’s flavored with tasty arctic bilberries. It’s a summer time twist on the usual Einstök offerings — and we think this can is the perfect packaging for this refreshing summer ale. If you see one in a store near you, grab it — they won’t be available for long. 

Rebranding a Storied Sonoma Zinfandel

With Dry Creek Vineyard’s rich history in Zinfandel, the winery was in need of a label that visually communicated their expertise, history and the strength of their brand. Since their last Old Vine Zin package was introduced, the Zinfandel market has expanded greatly, and Dry Creek Vineyard needed a package that stood apart, and avoided all of the expected visual tropes.

To avoid the usual tropes, we sought inspiration from the time when Dry Creek Vineyard's vines were planted. A steam ship ticket from the 1910’s served as inspiration, helping provide fuel for a label that is rich in both winemaking and visual details. Design cues include a ticket style die-cut and weathered texture. Elements like the dry-farmed stamp and hand-written harvest date markings are variably printed so that they are positioned slightly different from bottle to bottle — giving the label an authentic individual hand-stamped feel. 

Visually engaging, this package presents information in a way that appeals to the average consumer, yet has all the technical specifications that a wine connoisseur loves — including information about the cork. It was our hope that this package could allow a wine-drinker to discover something new each time they came for a bottle. 

Special thank you to CCL Label of Sonoma — their expertise with their Gallus RCS 430 press helped us perfect each one of the detailed effects.  

Evoking the Sonoma Look and Feel

After many years of developing brands and packaging for wineries all over California, you develop a sense of each appellation’s personal style. 

The Sonoma County appellation is an interesting example. As a brand, the county tends to present itself as a humble, earnest, and approachable world-class winemaking region. This attracts a certain type of consumer — one that doesn’t want to be over sold and prefers a more down to earth experience.

It’s not just about the presentation of their products, it’s about how they carry themselves. Often times Sonoma County producers will come to us dressed in blue jeans and work boots with pruning shears holstered to their belts. It’s that spirit that guides us in telling their brand story through the design of their packaging. The end results are all different, yet the well-executed no-fuss approach helps define their hard-working roots.

So, what is it that truly makes a Sonoma wine look like a Sonoma wine? What’s emblematic of this unique region, and how does one communicate that through packaging? It is often, a design that is engaging, looks good, looks serious, but doesn’t look precious. It should never look like it’s trying too hard, or like a lot of money was spent on coming up with the label design.

The work we’ve done for brands like Gehricke, Valley of the Moon, Pedroncelli, Lake Sonoma, and Cline exemplify the Sonoma look and feel. Humble, earnest and casual, yet serious about making excellent wine.

Bixby Dry Gin

Lloyd Distillery came to Auston Design Group with an idea for a handcrafted, small-batch gin that was inspired by California’s Central Coast and the memory of the distiller’s grandfather. The result? Bixby Gin. With a design that harkens back to pre-prohibition California, this bottle would be as at home in 1915 as it is in 2015. 

As the brand continues to grow, the Bixby Bridge and Central Coast references help capture the essence of California and give this gin a true sense of origin. Details including hand-written batch number, sequential bottle numbering and variable hand-stamped application help define this brand as a true artisanal offering. Special thanks to Tapp Label in Napa, who printed the label on their digital HP indigo 4600 press.

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Dia De Los Muertos Horchata Spiced Rum Release

Last Year, on November 1st, Auston Design Group announced it's very own, Dia De Los Muertos Horchata Spiced Rum. A year later, we are happy to announce that we have successfully filled a single batch of 100 bottles to celebrate this years Dia De Los Muertos holiday.

Our recipe is based on the flavors of Horchata, a traditional non-alcoholic rice milk drink of Mexico. Infused with Cinnamon and Vanilla as the dominant spices, it is crafted to be mixed with a sweetened milk of any kind and served on the rocks. It can be enjoyed equally well in any spiced rum cocktail.

Dia De Los Muertos' limited edition inaugural release will only be used to celebrate Auston Design Group's 20th Anniversary that coincides this year.

Here are few photos from the bottling session:

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Illustration and Conceptual Art by Alex Matus

View this design on thedieline.com

 

Valley of the Moon Winery Brand Redesign

HOMAGE TO A VENERABLE ESTATE

It was a privilege to be involved in the meaningful rebranding of one of Sonoma Valley’s oldest wineries, Valley of the Moon Winery. Originally developed as Madrone Vineyards in 1863, the winery was sold to the Hearst family in the mid 1880’s, and operated until prohibition. In 1941 the winery reopened with new owners as Valley of the Moon Winery. This historic estate was recently acquired by wine industry veterans, Dan Zepponi and Tony Stewart, who are focusing on revitalizing the Valley of the Moon brand to reflect the great winemaking history of the property, and thus, a complete package redesign was needed.

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While developing the new brand image and package design for Valley of the Moon winery, the Auston Design Group team took the responsibility of stewardship seriously for designing the next visual chapter in the evolution of such a historic brand. The significance of the winery's California history became apparent after touring the property, inspecting the winery’s preserved architecture and studying their collection of historical photographs. It became our goal to create a package design that embodies Valley of the Moon’s storied past, while developing a link to the winery’s location, and most importantly, transforming it into a brand that evokes the essence of a historic Sonoma County winery.

Valley of the moon label

As a result, the Auston Design Group team delivered a distinct rebrand that pays homage to the era when the Valley of the Moon brand was created. We chose to create only hand-drawn components to reflect an era of handcrafted artistry that represents the vision of the new owners; their meticulous vineyard practices, and the relentless attention to detail and the winemaking wizardry of their current and future vintages.

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The label was masterfully crafted at CCL Label, Sonoma, CA, on their Gallus RCS 430 press. We used every print process available on the press, including off-set lithography, flexography, silk screen, foil stamp and debossing.