Wine, such a popular and traditional beverage dating back centuries, is now being made with a twist by one of our very own students, Marisa Sergi ’15. Marisa came to Cornell from Ohio where she was introduced to the wine industry early on though her parents winery, Luva Bella Winery. Entering Cornell as a Viticulture and Enology major, Marisa knew she would need to complete a capstone independent research project. But, instead of waiting until her junior or senior year, Marisa began this project while still a sophomore, and so it was RedHead Wine was born.
What began as just a design and research project to make a label, turned into a wine that has now sold thousands of bottles. Marisa started her capstone wine label project by choosing red, to match her red hair, and black as the primary colors because they differentiated the label from the commonly used whites and earthy tones. To further differentiate her label, she made it larger than the width of the bottle so customers would be forced to pick up the bottle, a strategy that increases the purchase rate of the product.
Once she finished the design process, Marisa decided she wanted to legitimize her work by having the label approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), but the TTB requires a recipe for the wine before it can approve anything. Not to be deterred and seeing the TTB’s requirements as an opportunity, Marisa got to work designing. She wanted to make something “sweet and spicy like a red head” and that matched her label. The conclusion of her work is a sweet and fruity wine with a fiery kick to finish. The unique and innovative approach to wine has excited customers across Ohio as RedHead wine continues to fly off the shelves.
It took a few months to have her label and recipe approved, but finally, on August 29th, her 20th birthday, Marisa got the approval she had been waiting for. Since then, Marisa has imported California grapes and produced 700 gallons (which is 3,500 bottles) of her RedHead wine at her parents’ winery in Ohio. While she does most of the testing and tasting work here at Cornell, she travels home to oversee the mixing and bottling process. Currently, her wine is being distributed by the Superior Beverage Group and is sold throughout Ohio.
Recently, Marisa has won several awards and hopes to use her prize money to fund the expansion of the RedHead brand. The first step for her is to purchase more tanks in order to increase her bottling rate. Last year, she won a Microsoft Business Competition and plans to use the funds she received to purchase these tanks. Additionally, Marisa hopes to expand the RedHead brand in the future by introducing other wines, while maintaining her innovative approach.
It is very exciting to see one of our peers becoming so successful in a male dominated industry where she can’t even purchase her own product. I look forward to seeing the continued success of RedHead wine and cannot wait to see Marisa take on the wine industry.