Joseph Phelps

We had the honor of crafting the name and narrative for Proem, a distinctive wine from the Sonoma Coast. Proem highlights a sense of place and the winemaking story.

  • naming
  • concept/ideation
  • writing

Joseph Phelps Vineyards is a renown winemaker with vineyards in Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast, specifically the Occidental-Freestone region, a rustic area just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean. The unique climate and distinctive soil of this area make these vintages utterly different from those anywhere else.

When Joseph Phelps decided to release a new series of wine, Design Minded was called upon to name the vintages and create a narrative that would bring forth the specialness of this place. We began the project with immersion, interviewing the winemaker, Phelps family members, and staff who are intimately familiar with the vineyards and region. 

Based on insights gathered from immersion, we concepted eight unique creative directions, each complete with name, narrative, and example messaging. Since this wine would be a series, with new varieties to be released each year, we were intentionally designing a future-proof naming system that would outlast this project.

We named the new wine Proem. Proem is an introduction to a work of literature; or the preamble to a story. We were inspired by the generous storytelling about the Phelps Freestone Estate, history of the region, stories of the soil, and even childhood memories from Phelps family members. We proposed crafting an artful “proem” for each wine’s origin story, and including this on the actual wine label. 

We decided on a numbering system for the different varietals of wine, which is easy and scalable. The very first release would be named Proem No. 1, and each subsequent release would be numbered sequentially. 

Here is Proem No. 1:

This Pinot Noir is from Jupiter. No, really. 

In the wild region of Freestone along the Sonoma Coast, there is a hilltop by that name that seemingly touches the clouds. Take the steep climb up by the edge of the forest. The air will gently cool and the world will gradually fade. This is a place where time stands still. And, it’s where the story of this wine begins. 

Here is Proem No. 2:

This Pinot Noir is from beyond the old oak. 

In the wild region of Freestone along the Sonoma Coast, the morning sun reaches out through the shifting fog and clouds. A light breeze will coast through in the afternoon with the loamy Goldridge trails laying far below. This is a place where the sunsets are so quiet; beautiful and lingering. And, it’s where the story of this wine begins. 

Design Minded wrote the narratives for the first five wines, and created an easy-to-follow system so future labels could be written in-house. Each proem is about the actual place where the grapes are grown; the poetic telling of the wine’s authentic origin. The labels mention scenery, climate, and earth. Our ambition was for the beauty and rustic sense of place to come to life with through descriptions of their real-life beginnings.


Photo credit: Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Joseph Phelps Proem
Joseph Phelps Proem Serving
Joseph Phelps Chardonnay
Joseph Phelps Pinot Noir
Joseph Phelps Proem Pinot
Joseph Phelps On Table
Joseph Phelps With Cork