If you've never popped bottles with a rock star before, let me tell you, you're in the wrong business.
And no, this was no Penny Lane situation.
While Coachella is cool, we guess, we've never spent it in cocktail attire with endless magnums of rosé at our disposal, trays of crab legs, or world-renowned synchronized swimmers making magic in the pool. All to the tune of a music legend performing live just a few steps away. Indeed, the real go-to for bacchanalian revelers is the annual South Beach Food and Wine Festival, which takes place in Miami and is attended by the most well-heeled culinary and cultural influencers from across the world.
This year, we flew down to hang out (well, party) with none other than Jon Bon Jovi, who was celebrating the much-anticipated launch of his new vino venture with iconic French winemaker Gérard Bertrand, and his own son, 23-year-old Jesse Bongiovi. Aptly named Diving Into Hampton Water, the dangerously delicious rosé was inspired by one of those glorious late nights out East, when father and son were sitting out on the porch.
"My dad always used to call it pink juice," says Jesse, lounging in the main foyer of Miami's Villa Casa Casuarina (a.k.a. the Versace Mansion). "Literally, everywhere we would go, we would have rosé with us. St. Barts, the Hamptons - we would have cases and cases."
"So we were drinking it one night, and he came out and said, 'Hey, do you want some more pink juice?' And I said, 'Listen dad, we don’t call it pink juice anymore!' My buddies had been saying that rosé is the water of the Hamptons and so we'd shortened it to Hampton Water. And he said, 'That would be a great name for a rosé.' We kind of laughed about it for a little bit but the next morning, I said, 'Seriously, what do you think about that?'"
Jesse, essentially, is the one we can thank for driving this tipsy idea forward. And people say millennials have no ambition.
"I met with distributors, I met with wine people and [learned] how the business of it works. I came back to my dad a couple of months later and said, 'Look, I know I asked you about this months ago, but [let’s] seriously sit down.' I had a design - well, I had an initial iteration of the design." And that's where Gérard's expertise came in. Originally, Jesse had wanted the stuff shrink-wrapped. But while uber portable wine certainly sounds appealing, "Gérard said that it was impossible... something about the plastic actually changes the taste. It’s been quite an education in the year and a half since then."
It's a hot day and the sun is shining into the open-air villa. Somewhere outside, Jesse's famous dad is doing soundcheck; people are rushing in and out to prepare for the evening's exclusive bash. But despite all the excitement, I felt nothing but relaxed. That's what a glass or two of this stuff will do to you - which was, essentially, their plan all along.
"It was important to [form] a relationship between the Hamptons lifestyle and the South of France lifestyle," says the man himself, Gérard Bertrand. We mean, what two places so perfectly capture languid, dreamy days? Put the vibes in a bottle and voilà - the ideal summertime sip.
"I asked them to visit me [in] France and we worked on the project together. It was important for me to not make the wine myself, but to create a union - plan together and go deep into the detail [together] because it was a collaboration and that’s why it was so exciting."
It isn't easy to snag a collab with Gérard - he's serious about his wine. But the trio soon formed a friendship based on their shared love of music, emotion, and joie de vivre. "We don’t need an endorsement. What we like is partnership and friendship and that’s why it was exciting for us to come up with this concept. [We want to] connect people and want to see people happy."
As evidenced later that night, they certainly succeeded.
While guests dove into Hamptons Water, world renowned synchronized swimmers, the Aqualillies, dove into the iconic tiled pool for a performance only rivaled by Jon Bon Jovi himself. Situated on the terrace overlooking the chic revelers, the singer played an intimate set of fan-favorite tunes, including a particularly goosebump-inducing rendition of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You." He also reminisced about the friend he used to visit at the very same spot - Gianni Versace.
Between the magic and the music, it was a perfect Miami night. A toast indeed to friends both old and new, and the ideal introduction to our new favorite rosé.
[Photos by David Fritz Goeppinger courtesy Gérard Bertrand]