On Design and Friendship

By Sarah Pittenger, December 2023

how our visual brand was born

It’s been about 15 years since we started working on the label design and brand for Gros Ventre, with its latest iteration being the new Brut Rosé label concepted and designed by our friends Jen and Jon Campbell. They’ve been the creative minds behind our brand from the very beginning, and have become dear friends along the way. I’ve been wanting to write about them for some time, and with a new label fresh off the presses, it seems like the perfect time.

I’ve always enjoyed copy, art, and design. It’s what led me to my first job at an advertising agency in New York City – I couldn’t resist the headlines, design layouts, free flow of ideas, and creative people. An appreciation for graphic design grew over the years, and I noticed that some work just felt “right.” I couldn’t explain it or do it myself, but I did know who was capable of creating the good stuff.

Jen and I met while we were working at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Even at a very young age, her calm, peaceful demeanor and beautiful designs soon had her creating some of the agency’s best work. So, when it was time to start designing our label (around 2008), she was our top choice. Lucky for us, she said yes – and even better, brought her fiancé at the time (Jon, also a designer) on as her partner.

We decided to have them over to taste the products. As it turned out, Jon and Chris share an appreciation for many things – surfing, wine, dry sarcasm and inappropriate jokes (which had Jen and me pretending not to laugh while doing a lot of eye rolling). After that evening, we decided the best course of action would be to conduct a deep exploration of wine out of our apartment. One evening turned into thirty evenings, and multiple brown bag blind tastings gave us a deep dive into new world Pinot Noirs, old world everything, and many, many other wines from around the globe. It was FUN. And those hours of wine education launched the design of our label and brand right – with a design team who knew exactly what we were about. It seriously enhanced my own wine education and understanding of Chris’ journey in wine over the years (from bottle shop to restaurant to winery), an unintended biproduct that, looking back, probably helped our partnership get started on the right foot. And it created a friendship with the Campbells that we enjoy to this day.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve all grown together – adding a collective 5 kids to the mix, moving a few times (with the Pittengers landing in Healdsburg and the Campbells in Santa Cruz) and evolving our businesses and careers. They put up with us all this time, and we hold their friendship very dear. So, we asked Jen and Jon to help us tell the story of our brand. 

Jen and Sarah, 2010
Jen & Jon, Placerville, 2012
We’ve grown a bit! Healdsburg, 2021
Santa Cruz, 2023

The evolution of the brand

At the very beginning, we considered using our last name
Some initial moodboards - can you tell which one we picked?

We started getting serious about the brand around 2008. We asked Jon and Jen what they remember from that time:

“The starting point was broad — nature, wilderness, clouds, rivers, fishing, surfing, coast, mountains, Jackson Hole, California. We had no name – should it be Pittenger? Gros Ventre was an idea that came later. I do remember Chris saying, “Whatever we end up with, it can’t be French and it can’t have trees.” Ha!

“Inspiration came from a collection of shared experiences from Sarah and Chris, a culmination of their lives and experiences together, as they looked to start a family and a winery. It was fitting to lean into where they met, where the idea to start something was born — Jackson Hole.

“A local Jackson artist (Ben Roth) was someone we drew inspiration from, eventually using his aspens on corten steel as the main image for the label.

Once we had identified a style, a name and aesthetic, we dove into layout and design, creating a word mark that was timeless and felt young and new to the California Pinot scene. It had to create enough tension to be engaging yet be oddly familiar. (Always a difficult task for designers!) The color palette came from some early textures we began to love – it revealed age and patina. It was modeled from Ben’s work and felt fitting to the brand.”

Jen and Jon’s other winery work includes label designs for Red Car, Ryme Cellars, West of One, Cormorant, and the Limerick Lane Rhône Series. Besides raising their three children, Jon is currently a Creative Director at Apple and Jen has her own freelance design business. You can view her work at https://jencampbell.work/.

There’s a saying: “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” We realize with Jen and Jon, it’s all of the above.

The final label design, which has carried us through many iterations, is centered around alpine nature.

Our latest evolution of the brand was inspired by the shadow of leaves on the ground. Jen and Jon took gave the shadow a watercolor effect for our new Brut Rosé.