Playing the name game

An online search leads to a fruitful partnership between a local artist and a Sonoma winery.

May 23, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Townley Gallery's Marketing and Sales Director Bill Bradfield, right, stands next to "Pinot Sky," the same artwork that's on the Townley white wine label.
Townley Gallery's Marketing and Sales Director… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

With the power of his middle name, Randal Bennett prevented a website being created for a winery that didn't exist.

Those are the peculiar facts of the arrangement that ultimately led to Townley Gallery in Laguna Beach providing artwork for the bottle labels of Townley Wines, a boutique winery in Sonoma.

Over the past year and a half, the winery has released a cabernet and a pinot noir featuring paintings by Shane Townley, who runs the gallery at 570 S. Coast Highway. How the two businesses came together is a long story — according to Bennett and Townley, both genealogy buffs, it goes back to the 18th century, at least — but in modern times, it began with the gallery owner daydreaming about starting his own vineyard someday, then Googling "Townley Wines" to see if such a company existed.

Townley, who claims to have registered about 150 domain names, sometimes snatches up the rights to a URL for a company or project to be launched later. One such address is, which he intends for a children's education nonprofit; at present, the URL redirects to his regular website at


"I start everything with a domain name, and then I go from there," Townley said.

When he punched in the name of his imagined winery, though, he found there was already a Townley Wines up north. Over the next two years he revisited the winery's Facebook page several times, then, on a whim, messaged the proprietor, Bennett, and suggested a meeting.

Bennett accepted the invitation and made the trek to Laguna, wine bottles in tow. Once he saw Townley's paintings and the gallery staff sampled his stock, a partnership was born.

"We tasted the wine and went, 'Oh my God, this wine is incredible,'" said Bill Bradfield, the gallery's marketing and sales director. "It's something we could really feel proud to put our artwork on. It's not cheap wine by any means, but we don't want our artwork on cheap wine."

Townley Wines, which began in 2007, describes its stock online as "specialized small lots of artisan wines"; according to Bennett, a typical batch consists of 100 cases with 12 bottles each. Until the winery began using Townley's paintings, its bottles featured silhouetted photographs of towns that Bennett had visited.

The new labels, he said, could help to expand the winery's fan base.

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