If you're cruising down the freeway and you spot a long-haired dude in a bubblegum-colored 1966 Cadillac DeVille convertible, you might be crossing paths with Charles Bieler, the rosé winemaker who just set off on a 60-day tour around the country to promote pink wine.
On Monday, Bieler gassed up his Caddy in Seattle, heading—with his wines—first down the West Coast, then across the South, up the Eastern Seaboard, and back through the Midwest, finally finishing in Aspen, Colo., in June.
Bieler's been down this road before: In 1999, he graduated college early to help bring attention to Chateau Routas, the Provence winery owned at the time by his father, Philippe Bieler, and to educate the country about a little-known style of wine—dry rosé.
"I mean, 20 years ago, it was out of total desperation," Bieler told Unfiltered just before hitting the road. "[My dad] quickly realized it was going to take more than making delicious wine; we had to get out there and people had to connect with it. He was getting his butt kicked."
At the time, pink wine in the U.S. pretty much meant semi-sweet white Zinfandel. "People didn't want to touch it!" Bieler said. "They wouldn't be caught dead with pink wine in their glass, because they would assume that somebody would look at them as a kind of unsophisticated drinker." If he wanted to change people's minds, he realized, he'd need to do something big to get their attention: "I was like, 'OK, let's go P.T. Barnum!'"
So in 1999, 23-year-old Bieler bought a 1965 Cadillac DeVille off eBay Motors, painted it pink and thrifted some matching pink tuxedos to complete the look. Armed with trusty Yellow Pages books, he traversed the country to meet with distributors and retailers to introduce them to dry Provençal rosé.
"It certainly wasn't like, 'This is awesome, people are getting it,' but it did stop people in their tracks," he said. "[It] gave me an opportunity, probably mostly just out of people pitying me." (Bieler showed up to more than one meeting in a AAA tow truck, thanks to numerous breakdowns in his Caddy. The '66 DeVille he's driving now is a new acquisition.)
It's safe to say that it's a different world for rosé today. Pink wine is everywhere, and the success of rosé has rewarded Bieler in his own wine ventures. After the sale of Chateau Routas in 2005, Bieler and his father started Bieler Père et Fils, and he subsequently went on to expand globally, most notably collaborating in Washington with Charles Smith on the Charles & Charles label.
But now it's time to hit the road again, this time with a different mission. "I want to talk about how it's made, what goes into it, why it deserves to be on the shelf, and move away from the sort of frenzy of 'It looks pretty ... I like the slogan,'" he said. "I don't mean to say that there's good rosé and there's bad rosé. But I would love more thinking about what you're drinking." On the 2019 #RoséRoadTrip, Bieler and his now-robust portfolio of pinks will be stopping to meet with merchants, media and fans, logging his adventures on Instagram and his website.
This time around, Bieler is bringing an RV and a trailer to tow his ride during some of the long stretches of highway driving. And he won't be going it alone! Bryan Minto, Bieler's friend and a member of Providence, R.I.,-based band The Low Anthem is coming along with his dog, Sam.
"It's kind of like a classic American thing to do," Bieler said. "When you have something to say, you hit the road."
Enjoy Unfiltered? The best of Unfiltered's round-up of drinks in pop culture can now be delivered straight to your inbox every other week! Sign up now to receive the Unfiltered e-mail newsletter, featuring the latest scoop on how wine intersects with film, TV, music, sports, politics and more.