Judy Phelps, Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards

There’s a whole lot of love in winemaking and a whole lot of risk in making sure your audience love it too.


One lady who is not afraid to take a risk at love is Judy Phelps - Outshinery’s first ever client, winemaker and owner of the number one destination vineyard in Lake Chelan, Washington State, Hard Row to Hoe.

This Valentine’s day we’re drinking, shaking and celebrating Judy, who dared to be bold and rebrand her vineyard around romance.

Pouring passion into every bottle, we sat down with her to discuss the successes and risks of Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards…

Previously known as Balsamroot - after a local native wildflower - in 2009, Hard Row to Hoe was rebranded around a Lake Chelan love affair and developed by creative genius, Bernie Hadley - Beauregard from Brandever. The story celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of a man who ran a row boat taxi service on Lake Chelan in the 1930’s ferrying miners by rowboat to a brothel located at Point Lovely.

Judy was looking to create a connection with a broader audience, outside of eastern Washington.

She made the “risque” decision to shape a name that would raise an eyebrow and be remembered.

Judy shared the three steps she took in creating a whimsy and successful winery.

1. Make a memorable first impression.

For Judy a rebrand was necessary and a business critical attempt to attract the right consumer and make their wine memorable, “you have to ask yourself who is your wine for? What kind of change are you trying to create? For me, the name and the story came first.

Hard Row's Tasting room.

Hard Row's Tasting room.

The name was chosen because of its brilliant word of mouth aspect, “It's a clever double entendre and indulges a story within our story. People tell the story on behalf of us, contesting the story behind the name.”

I positioned Hard Row to Hoe to be the wine for people who like to have fun, don't take themselves too seriously but enjoy premium wines, ”Hard Row to Hoe have been making wines for over 12 years with their first commercial crush in 2005.

“We're serious about our wine but think that the whole winery experience from labels to marketing should be fun and lighthearted.”

2. Create a cinematic experience to seduce your audience

With a daring brand and bold wine labels such as Burning Desire (Reserve wines) Shameless Hussy (lower tiered wines), and Double Dip (magnum), the next task was to communicate her entire portfolio, without compromising the high quality and value of the wine.

To sell wine online, you need to have a nice picture of the bottle but to find a photographer for bottle shots was time-consuming and expensive,” Judy shares.

In September 2015, Judy was trying to build Hard Row to Hoe’s online presence, “We bottle three times every year, with 15 or 16 different types of wine that turnover, meaning a constant stream of new wines being brought to market.”

Bottle shots by Outshinery

“I was ready for something like Outshinery... I was ready to order high-quality bottle shots online within a couple of days before the wine was even released.”

That’s when the love affair between Outshinery and Hard Row to Hoe began. And we’ve been swooning over each other ever since...

Just in time for February 14, Outshinery created a Lifestyle Image Hard Roe’s 2015 sparkling, "Good in Bed." The bottle is neatly sitting on a bedside table next to strawberries and flowers.

“I used this Lifestyle into an email marketing campaign and on social media to help me sell my sparkling wine for Valentine's Day and, it was very successful!” Judy says.

3. A little bit of swag and a lot of smart design

Judy attributes her success to finding her niche market which has allowed her to leverage the brand all year long. “We're a little edgy, a little different. We've got some naughty nuances in the tasting room that takes people by surprise and shocks them. That's what sets us apart.”

“It’s not for everybody,” she explains.

For Hard Row to Hoe, their cheeky brand and imagery allows them to wine and dine their customers before they visited the vineyard or taste the wine, “The brand we’ve create with the labels and marketing make people want to visit” says Judy.

We want to make wine tasting more accessible to the everyday consumer and move away from an exclusive industry. I realized I was attracting clientele that were put off by snobby wineries and pretentious labels.
— Judy Phelps, Owner at Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards

The final wedding and bedding occurs in the tasting room, with branded interiors and playful events. “We do an event called red wine and chocolate for Valentine’s day to offer people different flavors of artisan chocolates to try with their wine.”

“All the wineries in Lake Chelan valley participate in this event so we try and play it up to do something special.”

Lake Chelan Valley is one of Washington state’s newest Appalachians, the new AVA, host to over thirty family owned small wineries. An undiscovered, wine tasting paradise for those looking for a high quality wine with a bit of humour.



If you would like to indulge in something new over this romantic holiday day, Judy recommends their Iconic brand Naughty Boy.

It's easy drinking, easy to love and great with spicy food.

Learn more.

If 2018 is the year to focus on your brand strategy, Outshinery can help you be a little more BOLD. Take five minutes to try it for yourself for free, and unearth what a new bottle shot can do for your brand.