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Hard Row to Hoe: Re-branding Success Story

Once upon a time there was a Lake Chelan Winery name Basalmroot Winery. They made some mighty fine Washington wine, had a pleasant tasting room and got  good reviews but that wasn’t enough to bring in sales. They needed a better story to attract their customers and the history of Lake Chelan provided them with one. They renamed themselves Hard Row to Hoe™ Vineyards in celebration of the enterprising rowboat taxi man who rowed miners across the lake to partake in services at the brothel at Point Lovely.

Hard Row to Hoe

Don Phelps pouring in the Hard Row to Hoe Tasting room

With a twinkle in their eye, Judy and Don Phelps, will tell you all about the story behind their Hard Row to Hoe and the enterprises flourishing in the 1920-30s around Lake Chelan. Their tasting room is now delightfully and decadently decorated in fine brothel style.

Ebony Boa

Where in the Wine Beer World is Ebony?

Anyone who has visited the Hard Row to Hoe tasting room recognized the Kama Sutra inspired wallpaper in our last Where in the Wine and Beer World is Ebony. Congratulations to Sarah whose correct guess was randomly selected to win!  She can pick up her sexy Shameless Hussy boy shorts at the Hard Row to Hoe tasting room. There is even more lascivious wall paper in the rest room, complete with a  red light over the door.

It isn’t just about wall paper, the bawdy humor is reflected in the names of many of their wines as well. They actually have two labels with Hard Row to Hoe as their premium label and boasts of wines like Iron Bed Red in reference to when the brothel burnt down only the iron beds remained. The Miss de Miner is another juicy red blend with plenty of character. The Nauti Buoy is their first estate wine, a delightful field blend Washington white wine. The Double Dip will be premiering in the tasting room August 21-22.

Shameless Hussy is their second label. Judy described this label as:

Wines that might promise more than they deliver!

Shameless Hussy

Shameless Hussy - Morning After

That may make them sound like they are all second rate wines but that isn’t necessarily the case. One of my favorite wines at our last visit was the Shameless Hussy Dry Sangiovese Rosé. Originally the Sangiovese block was designated to be a fine red wine. Mother Nature had another plan when cold temperatures last October stopped the fruit from ripening to satisfactory sweetness. The fruit had excellent acidity and Judy took her “lemons” and crafted an exquisite rosé. Food friendly acidity, fresh strawberry from the nose through the finish and pretty in pink, this is a high class picnic wine. Refreshing enough to be a patio sipper for someone like me that abhors sweet wines, it also has the depth to flirt with a variety of foods. Think high class call girl when you think of this wine!

It is more then just some innuendos that make Hard Row to Hoe stand out. They really strive to make their wines an experience, with the tasting room being a highlight of your trip to Lake Chelan. Visitors are encouraged to borrow the boa and have their photo taken as Ebony did and share their photos on Facebook. Besides the inside tasting room there is a lovely covered deck with cooling mist where you can enjoy your wines and a cheese plate or bring your own picnic. Wander the beautifully landscaped grounds before you head into the tasting room to sample wines from their extensive line up.

As Ben of Vintology Wine Blog pointed out:

The great thing about this story is not just in it’s salacious details. This story is humorous and fun, but it also is tied to the history of the area where the winery is located. In a really interesting way, this story is tied to the winery’s place, making it almost a visual display of terroir.

We never visited the winery when it was still called Balsamroot Winery but I can tell you that Hard Row to Hoe was busy at our visit this summer. From the minute they opened, there were people tasting and buying Hard Row to Hoe wines! It seems like re-branding with a great story, paired with savvy social media, has helped wine lovers discover these wines.

4 Responses to “Hard Row to Hoe: Re-branding Success Story”

  1. I have enjoyed Judy and Don’s wines for 3 years. The wines are always good, and the Phelps are most wonderful people.

  2. Jane says:

    Hi Bean,
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about Lake Chelan to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Jane

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