Jon Bon Jovi and son Jesse tell Moneyish the business lessons they learned while creating their new rosé wine in time for Father’s Day
Bon Jovi and his son will be enjoying the fruits of their labor this Father’s Day.
The 56-year-old rockstar has teamed up with his son Jesse Bongiovi, 23, to launch their new Diving Into Hampton Water rosé wine label — although he says it hardly feels like work.
“It’s a joy,” Bon Jovi told Moneyish while promoting the new wine at the The Surf Lodge hotel/restaurant in Montauk, N.Y. “Every time you write a song, whether it’s with someone or you’re creating it with the band, it’s a wonderful collaboration. (But) when you’re working with your son, that takes it to a whole other level. To see this kid grow up to be a man, and to come up with this great business idea … it’s been a pleasure.”
From a young age, the “Livin’ on a Prayer” singer, considered a champion of the working class, has taught his kids the value of hard work — whether it was selling lemonade on the street outside of their New Jersey home, or now pouring wine in the Hamptons.
“Growing up, it would have been very easy for me to be handed things,” Bongiovi said about having a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee for a dad. “My parents found it easy to tell me, ‘You live a very fortunate life, and it’s important to give back and be a part of the community.’ It made me want to work a lot harder in my life.”
Bongiovi, who majored in business and political science at Notre Dame, always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He was drinking rosé on his East Hampton porch last summer when his old man came out and asked, “Anyone want more pink juice?” The silly question got him thinking more about starting a wine label. So Bongiovi did the legwork, researching reputable wine makers and grape varietals.
And his dad encouraged him every step of the way. “He said, ‘You’re going to have a lot of opportunities in life, but it’s up to you to make them happen,’” Bongiovi said.
When it came time to think of a name for the wine, the father-son duo didn’t want it to be labeled as just another celebrity-backed product among a saturated market of others out there, like ACDC wine or the likes of Francis Coppola’s merlot and Drew Barrymore’s namesake pinot grigio (even though a “Bed of Roses Rosé” was an obvious name choice).
The Bongiovis wanted to make a wine that could stand alone at the liquor store without a big-name endorsement. So they teamed up with French winemaker Gérard Bertrand, and dreamed up a clever label featuring a diver plunging into the pink wine.
It’s a good time to tap into the wine business: Total U.S. wine sales were $62.7 billion in 2017, with $41.8 billion in sales from domestic wine and $20.9 billion from imports; a 2% increase from 2016, according to market research by Wines & Vines.
But Bon Jovi believes you’ve still gotta be able to swallow what you’re selling. “You have to consider marketing; but most importantly, if you don’t do whatever it is you’re doing from the purest of places, it’s not going work long-term,” Bon Jovi said, explaining he wanted to put out an authentic product that didn’t just have his face on the bottle. “If I suddenly was making widgets, learning nothing about them, I might fool you once. But the idea of you doing it year after year after year, I don’t know how anyone can pull a rabbit out of that hat.”
Bon Jovi said he admires his son’s entrepreneurial spirit, which reminds him of when he was first starting out as a rockstar while still living with his parents in his twenties.
“We didn’t have any money, and we needed a place where somebody was going to cook for you and do laundry,” he said. “We didn’t have wives, or girlfriends, or any money, so we needed to go home. It was your bus or your parents’ house, so for me it was the only option.”
In addition to being a music legend who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and was just inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, Bon Jovi has been involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors with his family; namely, JBJ Soul Kitchen, the name of his two non-profit New Jersey restaurants. Customers can pay what they wish to dine there; eat for free; or work on staff in exchange for free meals, in an effort to help communities in need. Bon Jovi’s mission has already served more than 85,000 meals, and he is planning to open another JBJ Soul Kitchen in Philadelphia by the end of the year.
So when it came time to branching out into the beverage category, it wasn’t much of a stretch.
“You have to do something that’s genuine. Drinking wine is genuine to me. It came naturally. Years and years of practice,” he said.
And when asked who he’d like to drink his new wine with, dead or alive, Bon Jovi had a few people in mind.
“Thomas Jefferson, wine connoisseur of America. He was America’s original wine connoisseur,” he said. “He and Ben Franklin. Why do you think they went to France all the time? Wine, art and architecture.”
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