Jana Kramer never expected to become a wine enthusiast, let alone have her own wine label. The first time she took a sip of wine from her mother’s glass decades ago, she turned up her nose in disgust.
“I was 15 and obviously at that age where I was like, ‘Ugh, this doesn’t taste very good,’” Kramer recalls.
It wasn’t until the actor and singer was in her mid-20s that she finally gave wine another shot. However, it took some coercing.
At the time, the Michigan native was living in Los Angeles and had made appearances on several television shows and the big screen in titles like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Prom Night,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “One Tree Hill.” Though many of her peers and castmates were advancing their palates, Kramer largely refrained. That is until a pal suggested she explore red wine.
“I had a friend who thought I would love red wine, but I wasn’t much of a drinker. Since my mom wasn’t very strict about alcohol, I never really drank it,” says Kramer. “At first, I was hesitant to really get into it, but my friend insisted that I just hadn’t tried the right kind of red wine. So I started tasting different red wines, and I fell in love with the process of figuring out what regions I liked and what kind of wine was suitable to my palate and why some wines taste better to me than others.”
Kramer’s friend was clearly on to something because the mom of two has been a fan of red wine ever since.
“Before my friend convinced me to give red wine a serious try, I hadn’t realized how expansive wine could be. But I got interested in and intrigued by it, and it’s been a fun-tasting journey. I’ve been drinking wine for the last 10 years or so now,” Kramer says.
Creating One Brick
Having developed a genuine appreciation for red wine specifically, Kramer now identifies herself as a Cabernet Sauvignon girl.
“I’m always reaching for a Cab, especially Cabs from Napa. I love the texture and how complex they can be,” Kramer says.
With her undeniable thirst for big, bold wines, it should come as no surprise that red wine was the first product Kramer released in a partnership with Sonoma-based winery One Brick. With the help of winemaker Mica Raas and grape growers throughout Sonoma and Napa, One Brick produces its signature and affordable Everyday Cabernet and a red blend, along with a pricier Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet. The winery also makes a Chardonnay.
“When I got the call that One Brick wanted to partner with me, I was very interested, but I knew I could only get involved as long as I got to make the wine I really wanted to make — not just put my name on a product,” Kramer explains. “I wanted it to be authentic to who I am. I drink wine all the time. I have a podcast called ‘Whine Down.’ So I wanted to pick the wines we make, and I wanted to be able to create something affordable for people that tastes good.”
Creating her own wine came with a learning curve. Though Kramer had a wealth of experience in front of the camera and performing on stage, the “Voices” singer didn’t initially understand just how much work went into winemaking until she started traveling to Napa regularly to help with wine production.
“I didn’t realize that the winemaking process was so scientific and how much actually went into the wine. There’s a percentage of this, and a percentage of that — it’s a lot more than just letting grapes sit in a barrel for months on end,” she says.
However, what was most shocking for Kramer was learning how expensive grapes tend to be.
“At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around why the Napa Reserve had to be so expensive compared to our red blend and Everyday Cabernet. Mica had to explain how the cost per grape fluctuates depending on where the grapes come from, and Napa grapes are really expensive,” Kramer says. “It’s been interesting understanding the business side of winemaking and the cost of things when you don’t have a vineyard, and you’re buying grapes.”
Nonetheless, Kramer finds the winemaking process fascinating and says collaborating with One Brick’s winemaker keeps her motivated to learn more about the industry.
“It’s like when I’m making a movie or something. I can talk to my director and explain what I’m feeling for a certain scene, and we talk about it and work together. But I also lean on their expertise. It’s the same with the people I work with at One Brick,” Kramer says. “I like working and having that communication. I think that’s important all around.”
End of the day Cabernet
So far, drinkers have reacted positively to Kramer’s wines. Having released its first offerings a year ago, One Brick’s wine club already has almost 1,000 subscribers. “People are loving it, and they’re engaging with us,” says Kramer, adding that she hopes to grow the brand and potentially open a tasting room where she lives in Nashville.
“We don’t have many wine bars here in Nashville. That’s something that, eventually, I would like to have. I’d love to have a brick-and-mortar operation for One Brick. That’s a future goal and dream,” Kramer adds.
While Kramer may have hopes of slinging glasses of Cabernet to customers in a One Brick tasting room one day, for now, she enjoys filling up her own. Kramer often unwinds after a long day with a glass of red wine.
Though she is a member of St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Casa Piena, and Far Niente Winery wine clubs and keeps a supply of those Cabernet Sauvignons on hand, she actively visits her local wine shops in Nashville to discover new bottles. She recommends a few of her favorite Napa Cabernet Sauvignons.
3 Napa Cabernet Sauvignons to try:
Honig Vineyard and Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
When Kramer isn’t in the mood to search for something new, her usual go-to is the Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Honig Vineyard and Winery in Rutherford, in the heart of Napa Valley. Made by winemaker Kristin Belair, the sustainably-made wine features a bright, structured profile, exuding plum and red currant aromas while savory herbal notes emerge on the palate. “This is a good middle-of-the-ground Cabernet that’s worth the price,” says Kramer.
Quilt Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Don’t be fooled by the screw cap. The Cabernet Sauvignon awaiting inside Quilt Wines’ bottle is lusciously opulent, according to Kramer. Fifth-generation winemaker Joe Wagner hand-picks grapes from nine regions throughout Napa Valley to deliver a taste of all California has to offer. This full-bodied wine is rich with blackberry, bay leaf, cocoa, and orange zest aromas. The palate is just as complex with firm tannins, strawberry, rhubarb, and citrus fruit flavors that get a lift from vanilla and spice in the long, mesmerizing finish.
Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
For special occasions — or moments when she simply wants to indulge in the finer things — Kramer often turns to the Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon by Caymus Vineyards. Owned and farmed by the Wagner family since the 1940s, the award-winning Caymus produces wines in Rutherford that have consistently won over the palates of critics. “It’s my all-time favorite wine,” says Kramer, adding that the wine’s unique complexity and age-ability make it “worth the money, especially if you’re enjoying it for a special occasion.”