Launching a new wine brand on April 1, 2020, is not a very funny Fools’ Day joke, given that America was in the most anxious throes of the pandemic on that date, with no idea whether even essential businesses would survive, let alone luxury goods like $30-and-up wine. But that’s when Flocking Fabulous flew onto the Santa Barbara County scene, and, against long odds, proceeded to flex celebrity connections and social media clout to chart a flight path toward survival and success.
The brand is a collaboration between longtime winemaker/preservation architect John Wright of Standing Sun in Buellton and a couple named Jeremy Fraser and Tim Tighe, who run a tasting room called The Hideaway in Los Olivos. Both Fraser, who works as a photographer by day, and Tighe, who dabbles in real estate, have a wide range of famous friends from their many years of living in downtown Los Angeles. And Wright is no stranger to that world either, having been married for more than 20 years to his ex-wife, the soap opera star Laura Wright.
“We can either figure this out, or sulk and drink ourselves out of wine,” said Fraser. They figured it wouldn’t hurt to send some of their social-media-savvy friends the new Flocking Fabulous lineup — a sauvignon blanc, rosé of syrah, and grenache-based red blend, all in squat bottles adorned with playful, flamingo-laden labels — see if they liked it, and encourage them to spread the news if so.
“We just asked, ‘Can you help us market this?’” said Tighe, who sent the wines to about 50 actors, reality TV stars, athletes, and others. “Everyone said yes,” explained Fraser. “It really blew up from there.”
Online sales of the wine immediately spiked. “Someone would post something, and we’d sell $2,000 worth of wine overnight,” said Wright. One post alone by the actress Katherine Heigl, which got picked up by BuzzFeed, garnered more than 140,000 likes. Typically, social media influencers charge more than $15,000 for a single endorsement post, but Wright explained, “Not one person asked us for a dime, and many of them have bought the wine afterward” — “which is the cool part,” added Fraser.
The buzz isn’t just virtual. Once the tasting room reopened in June, in-person visits boomed, powered by the Flocking Fabulous fame. “Now we have fans and they’re showing up every single day,” said Tighe, who recalled one party of six that all came in wearing flamingo clothes.
It certainly helps that these colorfully presented wines are indeed quite good, as are the other wines that the trio make together to pour at The Hideaway. That lineup, which features Fraser’s bold photography on their labels, includes Rhône and Bordeaux single-variety expressions and blends, and even a rare Santa Barbara County–grown zinfandel. Wright’s Standing Sun wines can also be tasted there.
Their partnership goes back to 2013, when Fraser and Tighe stopped in the Santa Ynez Valley on the way back from an event up north, met Wright, and wound up staying all week. They started returning frequently and, by 2014, were making some wine with Wright at his Buellton facility. Their main label became Blue Scarlet Wine, which was poured at restaurants across Los Angeles and elsewhere. (Flocking Fabulous was actually the name of a rosé they first made in 2017, and then grew into 2020’s full-fledged brand.)
Wanting to diversify their distribution and gain a direct connection to customers, they opened The Hideaway in Los Olivos on April 11, 2019. A few months earlier, they’d taken over the lease on the quaint wooden shack — believed to be Union Pacific’s ticketing office when the train came through town — on Grand Avenue that Carhartt Winery made famous before moving across the street. During COVID, visitors are enjoying flights on the back patio under the Japanese maple trees, as the old bar stools inside await a safer time.
They’ve recently added a sparkling wine from the North Coast to the Flocking Fabulous lineup and continue to reap the rewards that come from asking a few well-connected friends for support. More than 150 different celebrities have posted about the brand so far, from Katie Couric and Beverly Hills, 90210 alumni like Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green to female soccer star Alex Morgan to a whole slew of lesser-known but widely followed folks from shows like Dancing with the Stars and The Biggest Loser.
“People have been super generous and great,” said Tighe, who’s become closer friends with many of them during this campaign. “It took on a life of its own,” he said, as the viral attention continues to grow. “Now it’s happening naturally.”
2990 Grand Ave., Unit A, Los Olivos; (805) 697-7892; thehideawaylo.com
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