Diving Into Hampton Water

Diving Into Hampton Water
Magazine View

Good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.” William Shakespeare

Rosé has become so prevalent in France, that it has surpassed the sale of white wine. In the last few years, rosé’s popularity has crossed the Atlantic to America, in all its multi-layered, refreshing glory. So what makes this “pink juice” so intoxicating, and how do two ambitious guys from the USA expect to succeed in a long-established wine industry? Jesse Bongiovi, along with his famous rock star father, Jon (of the legendary Bon Jovi), have a taste and passion for wine, which led them to launch their own brand Diving into Hampton Water.

Jesse elaborates, “I wouldn’t say we are wine fans, as much as rosé fans. I’m only 23 years old and when we came up with the idea of Hampton Water, I had just turned 21. I’ve been going out to The Hamptons my whole life and my parents were always big French rosé drinkers on these vacations.”

Making the Brand

It was an evening on one of these vacations that Jesse and his college roommate, Ali Thomas (now business partner), were chilling on the porch when his father offered him a “pink juice,” his way of saying “rosé.” Jesse said, “You’re not drinking pink juice, you’re drinking Hampton Water!”  His dad thought it was a great name, so for the rest of the summer, “pink juice” became “Hampton Water.”

Then the question arose, “Imagine if someone put that on a label?” Jesse and his father looked at each other and with that aha-moment and said, “Let’s do it.” Within six months, Jesse had met with wine makers, distributors, restaurant owners, and label designers. He was sure to be involved in every step of the process. Even the label design is from the imagination of Jesse and a friend. “We came up with the idea and then hired a professional artist to draw it.” The label has a vintage feel, with a young woman diving into a glass of rosé. One can imagine a scene from the glamorous 1950s, at a country club in the Hamptons, socializing whilst enjoying this delightful wine.

Jesse and Jon also decided on a glass stopper rather than the traditional cork. When asked why, Jesse enthusiastically replied, “By using a glass stopper, it makes the bottle 100 percent recyclable, rather than using cork, which is a finite resource. That was a big deal for us.” Jesse also pointed out the annoyance of being with friends and family by a pool or beach and no one having a bottle opener, “With the glass stopper you don’t need that. We wanted something easy and different.” The glass stopper is becoming increasingly popular amongst wine enthusiasts, due to the inert O-ring on the closure, which is claimed to create a hermetic seal that prevents oxidation.

Jesse and his rock star dad, Jon Bon Jovi, have a mutual respect for each other. “We had never sold wine before, we just like to drink the stuff.”

TOP: Yumi Matsuo Photography; ABOVE: Doron Gild

Working with the Famous Wine Maker Gérard Bertrand

Once Jesse and Jon decided they were going ahead with the project, they started to research the market. Jesse reminisces, “We basically went to the liquor store and bought bottles of rosé from many different places—California, Spain, Italy, and France. I think deep down, we wanted it to be French.”

They then tried Gérard Bertrand’s, Cotes des Roses and thought it was amazing. After trying a number of his other wines, they knew they had to work with him. “We had a mutual friend who introduced us to Gérard when he was in New York. So we were introduced to his wine first, and then him. Gérard loved the idea of us wanting to share the lifestyle and the story of a place through wine.”

Hampton Water is available to order direct to your home through www.hamptonwaterwine.com

Photo: Doron Gild

Gerard Bértrand, a famous former French rugby union player and admired winegrower, retired from rugby to take over his family’s estate in Languedoc-Roussillon, in the south of France, and now owns a total of 13 estates. Jesse is so impassioned when he speaks of visiting Languedoc, which he has done at least five times now. “Its beautiful! It’s one of those places you almost feel like you go back in time. There is a dirt road up to Gérard’s main vineyard, Chateau l’Hospitalet, and then you see this beautiful vineyard in a valley. Five more minutes over a hill and you can see the Mediterranean.”

Listening to Jesse discuss Gerard’s knowledge of wine, history and sense of place, makes one want to pack a bag and leave for Languedoc with a bottle of Hampton Water tucked under your arm and a care free smile on your face.

Discussing the wine industry and the vast competition, Jesse noted, “Like any industry it is competitive, so you want to have the best product you can, and I think that’s what we have. It also helps that we obtained 90/100 by Wine Spectator. In the wine world specifically, everyone has their own palate, their own taste, so this also helps us make our mark. Luckily everyone wants to share their knowledge of wine. I’m a young guy, I’m not a sommelier, so it’s been really great that Gérard has been an amazing teacher and a fantastic business partner.”

Working with Dad

Jesse loves working with his father and although they don’t agree on everything, when it comes to their wine business, they agree on a majority. Jesse laughs, “It’s not like I’m trying to start a band, I’m not trying to get into managing or anything like that. The wine business is new for both of us. It has been great to work with him, getting to bounce ideas off of him and getting to use his marketing expertise.” Jesse giggles, “It’s cool as we don’t really know what we are doing. It’s not like my dad is telling me, ‘This is how it’s done, believe me I have been doing this for years.’ We look at each other and say ‘What do you think’? It’s been a great opportunity to work together and use him as a resource. I don’t think you can have a 35-year career in anything and not be a pretty savvy businessman. At the end of the day, neither of us had ever sold wine, we just like to drink the stuff.”

Quizzing Jesse on the distribution of Hampton Water, he notes that international distribution is currently limited because they are focusing on the East Coast of America. “We are concentrating on different areas of the East Coast right now. We are more concerned, for example, if we take this to Boston or Chicago, what’s the response going to be? Well, it really has been unbelievable. The brand’s background is based on a place near New York, although for us, The Hamptons is not just a place, it is more than that, it’s a feeling.”

After chatting with Jesse, it is obvious that the brand’s voice is strongly tied to family, friends, experiences, and memories shared with loved ones. It doesn’t matter where you share a bottle, you get a taste and sense of place, feeling, and fun. Jesse makes a point, “You could be in your pool in Illinois, but when you open a bottle of Hampton Water, you are transported to a special place—The Hamptons.”

Diving into Hampton Water in South Florida

Jesse’s parents are currently building a place in Palm Beach, and they are often in the South Florida area. Jesse has also been spending time in Miami this fall. “I’ve been getting the word out in South Florida. When I came to look at the market down here last year, a liquor store may have had four or five rosé varieties. This year it’s ten plus.”

Gerard Bertrand’s master sommelier also resides in Florida and he took Jesse and his father through a tasting session with Hampton Water. “Unlike a white or a red wine, rosé is pretty versatile. Not only does it go with seafood and cheese, our wine has a bit more body to it, so it pairs shockingly well with a steak or BBQ.” The Bongiovi’s are currently focusing on producing the rosé, but Jesse ponders, “Maybe a lot further down the road, we may look at doing a white wine. I am going to France to discuss premier blends, the future of our brand, and the 2019 selling season.”

As the interview comes to an end, Jesse says, “If your readers are looking to pick up a bottle locally, check out our website. We have a map on there so you can see where you can buy it. If we are not near you, then go to your local liquor store and have the store order from our Florida distributor Southern Glazer. If you are not comfortable doing that, there is a link on our site where you can order some direct to your house.” (www.hamptonwaterwine.com)

In Conversation with Jesse Bongiovi

Alias Entrepreneur, rosé drinker, world traveler and all-around nice guy:

Favorite place to eat in or around Palm Beach? The Breakers
Favorite drink besides Hampton Water? Corona Light
Any hidden talents? I can juggle
Can you sing? Only in the shower
If you were a rock star, what would you/your band be called? Rolf’s Aquatic
Do you ever get fed up with people dropping your Dads lyrics into conversation? Only when it isn’t clever
Favorite vacation spot? St Barts
If you were an animal, what would you be? A dolphin, world’s best surfers

The grape doesn’t fall far from the vine, with Jesse’s inherited entrepreneurial skills and pure thirst for his brand, the Bongiovi’s have another number one hit on their hands. •

Magazine View
By: Danielle Macdonald on Nov 05, 2018
Tags: Wine, Food & Drink, November/December 2018, Hampton Water
Issue: November/December2018
Get More: Food