Everyday Icons: The Wine Authority

Want to hear from the authority on all things wine? Check out our interview with Alexis Swanson Traina from Napa Valley's famed Swanson Vineyards.
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Want to hear from the authority on all things wine? Check out our interview with Alexis Swanson Traina from Napa Valley's famed Swanson Vineyards.
wine-expert

Image Credit: Claiborne Swanson Frank

From her Florida childhood spent playing cards and eating port wine cheese with the elderly neighborhood ladies to helping her family run their eponymous Swanson Vineyards in Napa Valley, Alexis Swanson Traina has always valued the curious, creative, and eccentric (and we love her for that!). But perhaps what we love most about Swanson Vineyards' Creative Director is her ability to combine an enviable jet-setting lifestyle with down-to-earth sensibility and a love for family and home. Heck, Alexis - quite literally - married the boy next door! And she's now raising two beautiful children in their San Francisco dream home.

Alexis has a Food & Wine mag holiday feature on newsstands and her yummy Modern House Wines hitting Target shelves nationwide –the statement making wines have already garnered Oprah’s seal of approval, with an Oprah’s Favorite Things listing in the holiday issue of O Mag . With such a major launch, we're grateful she managed to carve out some time with Clementine's guest writer Brooke Cheshier to chat about doing it all and living every day with total joy...

OK. How do you do it, juggling your roles as winery creative director, blogger, wife and mom?

As a blogger, illuminating the womanly arts constantly intrigued me, and I found myself using my platform as a source for great investigation that informed my personal growth. How do I do it? As women, I never think we ever figure that question out -- we keep trying and reinventing and elevating our game as women/partners/mothers. It feels like a forever on-going project. As we get older, personal success lies in the ability to reinvent, evolve and find relevancy.

I am married to an awesome man and father and together we work hard to dream, scheme and, most importantly, strategize.

We love that word, strategize. What are some of your best strategies for keeping it together?

Vigilance. And avoiding the pit falls that historically plague me. I ask myself the same question over and over, what behaviors and actions will set me up for my best success? What will set my marriage up for my best success? My family? My work? And I use that question as a spring board for everything. I know if I am operating at my best, I feel confident and effective.

Another great word, vigilance! We have to admit though, the ability to manage oneself and make wise decisions requires constant forethought and, wow, lots of energy. How do you find the balance? And the time?!

It is close to impossible to be a great mother/ wife/daughter/sibling/ professional/ easily accessible friend-- all the while vigilantly managing/ caring for ourselves. It is a tricky balance that requires thought and organization. I recently read somewhere pick three things in your personal list each day-- and no more. I like that, and agree. Know yourself. Know your limitations. Manage the basic requirements that keep you in front of the ball and not depleted, behind the ball.

To manage what you do, to do it with that infectious enthusiasm and joy you have, and to do it all while looking as pulled together as you do, you must have a daily uniform. Right?

This is something I actually ask every woman-- because I think it is very poignant. Every woman has a method to her madness. My sister, Veronica Beard was my main source for inspiration- she started her own eponymous clothing line, VERONICA BEARD, devoted to designing the uniform for the woman who is always trying to do it all. We are all looking for the style MVPs (most valuable pieces) in our closets that carry us confidently from 7am to 12am.

Clementine Daily is a space for women who believe in embracing simple pleasures, setting realistic expectations and bettering their lives to better the lives around them. In your eyes, how do you fit in with that mission?

I am deeply inspired by the ceremonies and rituals of the mundane. The act of glorifying the everyday. It can be little things like exotic salt sprinkled on eggs in the morning; a glass of wine at the end of the day while enjoying the company of your husband/friend; daily bubble bath; my morning cappuccino; 3 gardenias by my bedside; a special hair mask. Little things.

Let's talk Modern House Wines: What was your inspiration behind it, did you have an Aha moment of invention or was it a little more studied?

After years of being on the fancy side of the wine world, where every story told about a wine revolved around elaborate tales of terroir/the vintner/the varietal-- I loved the idea of creating a wine that was shamelessly about the wine lover, and not the winemaker. A wine that honored their gesture, their story, their night... their sense of humor.

We launched Modern House Wines in 2010 as an incubator project at Swanson Vineyards, ultimately producing over 16 labels. We conceived and promoted the brand in a similar way one might a fashion brand-- it was rooted in high quality wine, modern design and nomenclature while engaging lifestyle press and social media.

This fall, we launched a capsule collection of Modern House Wines at Target for less than $13-- it was vitally important to me that these wines appeal to both the wallet and the palate. We wanted to offer a wine that was high quality, yummy and slurpy-- a wine that I would feel totally confident serving at my own cocktail parties.

Once the concept and idea struck, what was the process that took you from idea to actual product on the shelves?

Honestly, friends and family. I called upon so many friends and family who generously offered me advice, introductions and help. As with everything in life, there are many fingerprints all over anything that is loved and fought for.

Do you have a favorite?

I love EXPENSIVE-- I think it perfectly conveys our style/voice/wink and I am also deeply devoted to HELP IS HERE, which was the winner of our last crowd source contest. It speaks volumes.

And, unrelated (or possibly not), you can drink three wines for the rest of your life, they are...?

I have a very American palate-- I love wines that are rich, extracted, in your face. My favorites remain the same always: Swanson Vineyards, Plump Jack Merlot, Caymus Cabernet.

What are five daily essentials that, while you could live without them, you wouldn’t want to?

Good coffee, colored bed linens, bath tub with big, porous sponge, aubergine mascara and long night gowns.

What’s your personal motto or mantra?

I am not a black or white person – I comfortably live within the many shades of gray.

p.s. Thanks for joining us, Brooke and Alexis! For another inspired interview, hear from celebrity chef and cookbook author Gaby Dalkin.