“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring,” said the great David Bowie. We took that quote and made a winery out of it.
When we started Tank Garage Winery in 2014, we weren’t quite sure what it would become, but we knew we wanted to be different. I mean, we really didn’t have another choice. Housed in a restored 1930s gas station, with wall-adornments celebrating bootleggers and daredevils, Tank is about as unconventional as wineries come.
We established the motto to “never dream alone” with the goal of inspiring our guests through immersive wine experiences that dare them to rebel and challenge them to dream. It is a strategy more fitting of Banksy than Robert Parker, but after a slow start, the dreamers eventually found us.
This ethos informs our winemaking too. Rather than focus on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, we challenge ourselves to explore and experiment, pushing on the fringes of winemaking to constantly create something new, fresh, and exciting. Each wine is a limited one-time bottling, with a unique blend of rare varieties, a soulful backstory, and bespoke packaging.
Sounds like an operational nightmare, huh? Yeah, it is. But it’s worth it. By continuing to wander and evolve, we’re able to attract and retain customers that, like us, want to chase the next challenge, the next rhythm. You know the type: the dreamers.
That’s what drew us to ASL Print FX, they’re dreamers too. A group so refreshingly committed to innovation, quality, and service that I refuse to write them a boilerplate corporate testimonial. I just can’t. They deserve better than that.
The first thing I immediately realized when we met with Travis and Jeff is that they aren’t sales guys, they are printing nerds. The passion in which they spoke about printing processes reminded me of the way our winemaker, Bertus, talks about winemaking. It’s infectious. And whether I had a dumb question about color gamuts or rotogravure, they sat there for two hours, eagerly educating me on the possibilities of printing. It blew my mind. We wanted to push the boundaries with our labels, and they did too.
Our production demands are complex and fluid. We produce about 25 new wines each year, ranging from 750 cases all the way down to 5 cases. Our designs are unproven, often experimental, and we never repeat them. We aren’t high-volume. We aren’t predictable. Half the time, we aren’t even certain. And for these reasons, packaging companies don’t like working with us. But the team at ASL Print FX saw the potential and were down for the challenge.
But let’s be honest; ASL had us at “The Prototyper.” We treat each Tank label like a piece of art, combining vintage imagery with textural embellishments, and it was never feasible for us to create full label tests with custom die-shapes, foil, and embossment. But then Jeff from ASL introduced us to a machine that we still cannot believe exists. Through ASL’s state-of-the-art technology, they can quickly, and affordable show us what our final label designs will look like with various degrees of iteration. If you look up “gamechanger” in the dictionary, it will show ASL’s Prototyper.
Working with ASL never feels like a chore; it’s fun. Our partnership with ASL is genuinely collaborative. When we bring in a cool new idea, they don’t just tell us how to do it; they expand our possibilities. In 2018, we released a wine collaboration with the streetwear brand HUF. During the conceptual phase of this project, we struggled to figure out how to bring our subverted, tattered homage to classic French wine labels to life. Most wine clients ask their printer to make their labels look pristine, and here we are, asking ASL to makes ours look old and dirty. Then Jeff, who handles pre-press engineering for ASL, came up with the brilliant idea to individually distress each label using their dynamic printing. Now, even when lined up next to one another, each bottle appears uniquely aged. It looks killer.
But then again, everything ASL prints looks killer. Whether it’s recreating a spot-on 1970’s 8mm film strip or nailing a classic foil embossment, these folks are pros. And boy do they care. I have voicemails from Travis detailing his disgust for imperceptible tolerance flaws in embossing plates. I regularly walk in on Dan crouched over a jeweler’s loupe inspecting spot gloss registration on a label we’re only producing 24 cases of. Every morning Jeff leaves Sacramento at 4 AM, driving two hours uphill, each way, to work on our labels. I told you earlier, this is a team of printing nerds, and I mean that in the most estimable way. They’re hungry for innovation and quality isn’t just some corporate cliché.
And god bless their patience with us. In the eleventh hour, they’ll accept our “Cool-Vibes-Final-V2-Final-Edit-JH-EF-Final-V3(2).ai” file revision and hit our most unreasonable deadlines, time and time again. Never failing in quality. They always charge us exactly what they quote, if not less, and they’ve worked hard to create a library of dies we can re-use on an ongoing basis to minimize our costs.
Travis will tell you that customer service is the backbone of what ASL does, and he’s not joking. They are really about that life. They’ll go above and beyond for you not just because they value your business, but because half-assing things is not in their DNA. One summer, we hired a graphic design intern from the University of San Francisco. She was an innately talented artist and well-versed in the concepts of design, but she had no practical experience with print. I asked the ASL team if I could bring her in to show her the press, and when we arrived, we discovered Travis and Jeff worked for over a week to put together a comprehensive lecture on printing, with examples, videos, and samples…basically a whole curriculum. It still stands as the most sincere and incredible gesture from any of our business partners.
By now you’re probably wondering where this is going. And to be honest, I don’t know. But what I can tell you is that we are grateful for our partnership with ASL Print FX. It is every winery’s dream to be featured in the New York Times, Dieline, and Playboy (maybe that’s just us), and ASL helped Tank Garage Winery pull it off. So, if you are considering ASL Print FX for your printing needs, I think you should do it. ASL will work tirelessly to realize your dreams…and I promise it won’t be boring.