The Process Behind "Drive Through Napa"

"If Pharrell or Complex Magazine were to write a wine book, what would it look like? What would it sound like?"

I’m excited to share our latest project, a series of books under the name “Drive Through”. The first book in the series is titled Drive Through Napa, the essential modern primer on Napa Valley. The process of creating the book from ideation to fruition was exciting and for me personally the most rewarding part. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtains of the process and thinking that went into this unique project.  

If you have visited, plan to visit Napa Valley or you drink Napa Valley wine, then this book is for you! Drive Through Napa 

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Creative Direction and Design of Drive Through Napa

From the start of the project we knew the design had to stand on its own. It had to be award worthy. I have never done a book cover let alone a book in wine! I’m a brand strategist who’s worked in digital my entire career. Thus, I had to push myself and think about our brand at I lIke this grape, what it stood for, who was our audience, and how we could disrupt the way knowledge of Napa Valley wine was currently being communicated. A simple technique that helps me is to frame a question that may seem a bit silly, but forces outside the box thinking – the answer to this question would define our ‘north star’ for the project:

“If Pharrell or Complex Magazine were to write a wine book, what would it look like? What would it sound like?”

It was obvious from that question that our book had to look bold, cool, and different than any other wine book in the market. It had to visually scream, yet be subtle and sure of itself knowing it was timeless. Most importantly the book was not going to have a single photo of a vineyard! Honestly, no one can tell one vineyard from another. Not to mention it’s cliche, unimaginative, and Pharrell wouldn’t do it!

When thinking about our audience the primary attributes of the book is that it could be cover to cover in 1-hour. The challenge here is that the content of the book must also remain highly valuable so taking short cuts or leaving out information was not an option. The solve came from using iconography and font treatments for simple data visualization, along with use of spacing and design elements to help manage a readers pace. Thank goodness the designer behind the book, Kathy Lajvardi, is a multi award-winning art director and graphic artist! 

Content Ideation

So now that we have a killer creative direction, we then tackled the task of focusing the book’s content. The ‘watch-out’ is that this book could have become another guidebook telling consumers where to go while visiting Napa and what to drink. We absolutely didn’t want this to be a guidebook. Working with an award-winning wine author and professor of journalism Paul Hodgins made the process easier. 

Most visitors to Napa Valley and those that drink Napa wines know very little about the 16 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) or “Napa Neighborhoods” that make up Napa Valley and house the nearly 500 wineries there. An AVA is an officially designated wine grape-growing region in the United States. Currently there are about 242 AVAs in the U.S. 

These 16 AVAs in Napa Valley have distinctive attributes that are purley their own such as soil, climate, elevation, and grapes that can be grown there. Their unique histories also play a big part in the wine that’s produced there. Think of it this way, if before visiting Southern California you knew just a little bit about Santa Monica, Downtown LA, and San Diego, then your experiences when visiting those cities would be richer. Thus, the focus of Drive Through Napa is to provide fundamental information of these 16 AVAs and be a valuable resource for anyone that drinks Napa Valley wines.

Taking it to Another Level, 2 Bonuses

Now that we had clear creative and content directions, the book had to jump to another level so it’s clearly an I like this grape project and not just another book on Napa Valley. 

Bonus #1: Each of the 16 AVAs are being introduced by 16 prominent wineries. Think of these participating wineries as stewards who have a deep relationship with their AVA. These introductions help readers understand, from the point-of-view of those that work the land, what makes each AVA so special and how it impacts the wine. I’m grateful to announce the wineries who are participating thus far: Alpha Omega, Cade, Chateau Montelena, Darioush, Dyer Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Hess Collection, Italics, Raymond, Rombauer, Silverado, Smith Madrone, and Trefethen.

Bonus #2: I was discussing the project with Heini Zachariassen, Founder of the Vivino App. I asked him, given Vivino’s vast community of wine lovers (over 30mm!) if he would allow us to display the average consumer rating for each AVA in the book. He did me one better and came up with what is now called the “Price to Value” index charts in the book! 

What we’re able to show is the value for money you will get for each dollar spent, for each AVA. Say you’re willing to spend up to $30 for a bottle of Napa Valley wine. Our charts will show that a wine from Spring Mountain averages 4.1, but only 3.8 for a wine from Yountville. This means, you will get more value for money in Spring Mountain at that price. The charts do not mention any wineries, but instead are focused on the AVA.

Valentine’s Day 2019

I’m excited, proud. and thankful to see this project come to fruition. The book will start shipping in time for Valentine’s Day with pre-orders available now. Pre-order copies are $15 (nearly 20% off the list price of $18), plus each pre-ordered copy is autographed by Kathy, Paul, and myself. Pre-order at 

The printed book has the beautiful color front and back cover with vividly designed black and white on the inside. The eBook is currently planned to be full color. We plan on having Q&A sessions around Southern California. Click here and tweet us to stay in the loop: or email me:

Thank you for your support and I hope you truly enjoy the book as much as we loved creating it!