It was late on a Friday afternoon when Smith College senior Kelsie Hoke contacted the local River Valley Market and happened to catch the wine buyer as she was on her way out the door for vacation.
That conversation was critical if Hoke’s plan were to go forward. Thanks to that timely phone call, she will offer her classmates and their families the chance to purchase a special item of memorabilia: a bottle of wine featuring “Smith College Commencement 2011” on the label.
Before she spoke with Maggie Rietzel at River Valley Market, Hoke had already identified a winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York that would bottle and label a red and a white selection for her. She had also decided on an image of the college’s Grécourt Gates for the label, and lined up a distributer to transport the product to Northampton.
“Here was my chance to have something special, unique, limited-edition, high quality, and chock full of sentimental value made to celebrate Smith,” said Hoke. “I had Maggie on the phone for a couple of minutes and, voila, we had a retailer.”
Hoke, a history major, developed her plan after learning that the college had, at times in the past, served bottles of wine with special labels marking celebratory occasions.
The idea appealed to Hoke, who happens to be from a wine region of the country – California’s Napa Valley. She is also a member of a recently chartered student organization that celebrates Smith’s traditions. That organization, Afternoon Tea, is developing a cookbook celebrating the college’s unique culinary heritage with recipes from Smith Dining Services and students’ favorite Northampton-area eateries.
Neither Hoke nor Smith is investing money in the wine project. Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery in Ovid, New York, and Northampton’s River Valley Market will profit from the sales. River Valley Market, located on North King Street, will sell the wine in accordance with the laws governing its purchase.
“A bottle of wine has such significance when it comes to celebrating and remembering occasions,” said Hoke. “This is just a great opportunity for people to have something special to celebrate graduation with, and hopefully have a bottle worth keeping.”
The special bottles’ contents will be of high quality, assures Hoke, noting that Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery recently won the award for “Best Riesling in the New World” at a competition in Germany.
River Valley Market now has the bottles available for sale. For buyers who miss the opportunity to purchase the wine locally, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery will ship it directly to a buyer as long as the state law allows the shipment and the buyer covers the cost of shipping.
“What is making it work is our belief that the wine is going to sell, so the winery makes money, the retailer makes money, and we all get Smith wine—so everyone is happy,” Hoke added.
The limited edition wine is expected to cost about $15 per bottle, she said.