Fine Art of Fun




What do Toad, Hedy Lamarr and Zeppo have in common?


Great innovations are inspired by any number of sources. It is sometimes surprising to learn about famous people who have been responsible for important innovations. Take, for instance, the glamour girl of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr. Hedy wasn’t just a beautiful face; she had the brains to match. In 1942 Hedy and a partner invented a communications system that was meant to scramble radio frequencies, keeping enemies in World War II from decoding secret messages. Ultimately, her ingenuity was an important step in securing military communications as well as in the development of cell phones. Who knew?

But there’s more. Did you know that bad boy Marlon Brando patented an invention that made it possible to tune a drum? I guess before Brando, drums didn’t stay in tune. Most surprising, Zeppo Marx, part of the hilarious family comedy act that was popular from early 1900s into the 1940s, co-invented the cardiac pulse rate monitor. We can thank Zeppo for helping us maintain heart health.

Yes, innovation can come from any number of sources—like here at Toad Hollow, where we are inspired by our muse, Toad. It isn’t just clinking glasses and bucolic vineyards here. We’ve also been pretty innovative, developing first (or nearly first) wine styles that have become accepted standards. Take our Unoaked Chardonnay. The first vintage arrived more than two decades ago, when full-blown oaky and buttery styles dominated the marketplace. We knew that the pendulum would swing and that consumers would demand an alternative. When very few (or perhaps no) wineries were producing an Unoaked Chardonnay, we released our first. Aged only in stainless-steel tanks to retain fresh, clean, and vibrant fruit flavors, our new version of Chardonnay took off, with many other vintners following suit.

Another example of Toad Hollow’s ingenuity took place in 1994 with the release of one of the first (if not the first) California Dry Rosé wines—a daring proposition for sure. It took daunting coast-to-coast education to convince wine buyers that a blush wine needn’t be sweet. We showed that beautiful Pinot Noir grapes, grown for the production of sparkling wine, picked at lower sugar levels, and then fermented bone-dry, resulted in wine that was layered with flavors and a structure that could deliciously stand up to food. While Dry Rosé is currently enjoying phenomenal popularity, our little innovation has just received its third consecutive 90-point score from Wine Enthusiast magazine!

Hedy, Marlon, Zeppo, and Toad just found a need and filled it!