Bon Jovi And Son Jesse Are Sitting Pretty On A Bed Of Rosés With Their Haute Wine Label, Hampton Water

Jon Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water

JESSE BONGIOVI WAS IN COLLEGE at Notre Dame, but he wasn’t about the typical keg party, frat boy experience. As a native summertime resident of the Hamptons, he and his college roommate, Ali Thomas, prided themselves on drinking more wine than spirits. “We very quickly fell into the old Hamptons saying of, ‘People drink more rosé than they drink water.’ And we were doing that, I think, by the truckload. The running joke was that we weren’t drinking rosé; we were drinking Hampton water. That just turned into a pet name between me and my buddies. We were buying giant bottles and going to the Surf Lodges of the world, calling everything we were drinking Hampton water.”

His dad, Grammy winning musician Jon Bongiovi (otherwise known as a dude you might not have heard of, otherwise known as, ahem, Jon Bon Jovi), too, has been a longtime rosé enthusiast. Which is how Jesse’s own love of the pink stuff blossomed.

“He always had it around the house — it was his drink of choice. He always jokingly would call rosé ‘pink juice.’ And one night — it was more like 2 a.m. — he offered us a glass of ‘pink juice.’ Me and [Ali] started making fun of it. We were literally like, ‘Come on, you’re in the Hamptons, you don’t call it that, you call it Hampton water, because when you drink with us, that’s what we call it.’ He kind of lit up and started laughing. And we were joking about he’s like, ‘Oh, man, Hampton water. That’s so funny.’ But then we looked at each other and were like, ‘People out here would really love it, wouldn’t they?’ Everyone looked at one another and were like, ‘How hard could it actually be?’”

The next day, he bugged his dad about the idea. Jon’s reaction was pretty clear. He essentially said, “Put it in a bottle. Take those college degrees and use them. You’re in business school. Leave me alone. If you’re serious about it, do something about it.’ And so Jesse and Ali went back to school, finished their senior years and spent the next six months proving that their short-lived fantasy could be a reality, wandering in and out of liquor stores doing “research” and realizing just how very little they actually knew about the wine game.

Jon Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water

As their knowledge grew, so did their certainty that they needed something youthful yet with credibility, something fun yet attainable, but something in a classic French style with a rich taste, like it was worth much more than it actually was. “We realized that we could find a happy medium, that we could create a high-quality product that was approachable, fun, and accessible, but also had that aspirational piece of the Hamptons.”

They took their plan back to Bongiovi, the elder, who fell in love with it all over again — and helped by reaching out to his contacts to make sure the family business was an unqualified success. “You know, my dad will famously brag that the reason the East Hampton liquor stores carry rosé in the first place is that, while touring in Europe, he would discover great brands, then come back to the Hamptons. He’s definitely responsible for growing the trend here.”

And Bon Jovi agrees. “I like to say that I’m basically the Easter Bunny. Ali and Jesse do most of the day-to-day, and I am simply there as a resource. I try to provide as much wisdom as I can and the guys have learned incredibly quickly what needs to be done so that we can have a successful business.”

Though Jesse and Ali might bear the brunt of the work, methinks it was a true family collaboration that spurred the growth of Hampton Water, which, since its 2018 launch and with the help of renowned winemaker Gérard Bertrand of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, has become the highest rated rosés, earning 90-plus point ratings four years in a row from Wine Spectator.

Jesse is still marveling at the brand’s seemingly overnight success. “The critical acclaim has been crazy; the growth has been crazy. We feel like we’re holding on to a rocket ship most days.”

So hold on to your hats and buckle your seat belts, friends, because Jon and Jesse are about to take Haute Living readers on the wild ride that is Hampton Water’s meteoric success story. Cue “Shooting Star” accordingly.

Jon Bon Jovi
Hampton Water

Photo Credit: Hampton Water

HAUTE WINE & SPIRITS: Jon, why is rosé your drink of choice?
JON BON JOVI: I’ve been drinking rosé for many years. 15 to 20 years ago I was introduced to what I like to call “pink juice.” We were vacationing in places like the Mediterranean and the Caribbean and rosé was really my go-to. Ever since, it’s been something I’ve always had around the house. I have too many fond memories of great family trips, as well as time spent with friends enjoying a glass and having a great time. It’s something that we drink all year-round, whether it’s Thanksgiving or New Year’s, rosé is always nearby.

HW&S: Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t rosé traditionally been described as a summertime drink?
JESSE BONGIOVI: I agree with you. I think that maybe 6 or 7 years ago it was really only from Memorial Day to Labor Day that people were drinking rosé, but we’re seeing the category not only continue to expand as an offering, but the season is also getting longer and longer once new vintages show up. February, March, people really start bringing it into stores. We’ve really seen that it’s extended well into November because people are starting to drink it with turkey on Thanksgiving and as a starter wine during Christmas. I certainly have drank it for many years around New Year’s. But again, that was going back to going down to the Caribbean for Christmas and for New Year’s, going to the south of France in the summer with my family.

HW&S: Jon, do you feel that this is something that should be drunk year-round? When you drink it, what does it evoke for you personally?
JBJ: Hampton Water is definitely something that you can drink all year-round. For me, there’s always been a great opportunity for the rosé market to continue to expand. I certainly drink it most in warm climates, but that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy it during Thanksgiving or Christmas. Personally, it’s really about who you’re drinking it with, creating memories and having a good time. That’s why rosé is so easy, it’s so accessible, and it’s always something that you can enjoy no matter what the occasion.

Jon Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water

HW&S: Jesse, what is your earliest wine memory?
JB: I had my first drink at 11 years old. I mean just kidding, I had my first drink at 21. But seriously, when I was younger, we’d have holidays in the Caribbean, and down in St. Barths, the legal drinking age is 18. In places like Nikki Beach, you would see people getting giant bottles of these rosés and like I said, my dad’s drink of choice was rosé, and he’d let me have a glass at lunch.

HW&S: You sound like a rosé purist, so what’s your take on frosé?
JBJ: I say, why not? However you like to drink it is how we think you should. Frosé is great. I personally love to put a couple of ice cubes in mine to keep it extra cold, but we’ve gone as far as creating some amazing cocktails with the help of the USBG so I say whatever floats your boat.

HW&S: Jesse, do you agree?
JB: We’ve really tried to lean into the fact that we don’t really look at ourselves in the same way that so many other traditionally French wine brands do. For us, rosé works great in cocktails. We have an unbelievable spicy margarita with a rosé floater on it. It’s great, but we have a lot of other excellent cocktail recipes, too. Rosé, for us, is something that is super versatile; you can drink it with anything. When it comes to the frosé craze, I think that people are looking for lower ALC cocktail alternatives that rosé lends itself to beautifully, but I’m a mimosa drinker. If you said that to a well-to-do champagne maker, they’d be like ‘How dare you?’ But if you said that to the average twentysomething having brunch in Manhattan, they go, ‘We’re getting a tower of them.’ So that’s why I believe there’s so much more room for the rosé world, and we’re trying to be really cutting-edge in that space.

Jon Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water

HW&S: I love that you drink mimosas! But by that same token, rosé in the past was generally consumed more so by women than men. Do you find that’s the case nowadays?
JB: Because it’s pink, it has skewed more female in the past, but we always joke that real men drink pink. [That being said], in Europe and certainly in the Hamptons and in New York more generally, I think that that stereotype is going away.

HW&S: Where do you plan on taking the brand next?
JBJ: Our plan is to continue to grow it. There’s still so much opportunity in the rosé business. The East Coast has been drinking rosé for a long time, from New York to Florida, even the Caribbean. People are familiar with different types of rosés, specifically French ones, so for us the opportunity on the East Coast is to open people’s eyes to the Languedoc and show off our award-winning style of rosé. In other parts of the country, places like Chicago and Dallas, the rosé wave is just now getting there. We think that we can be one of the first rosés people try or if we’re lucky the very first one people really like! That’s where we think that we have the most opportunity and that’s where we intend to grow the brand.

HW&S: Do you think at any point in time that you’re going to expand into other things? I mean, even though you have a French rosé, you’re Italian. It would make sense.
JB: I think that there is. We’ve talked about it from the very beginning and we continue to talk about. There’s a lot of room left to grow, but right now we want to really focus on being a master of one before we try to be a jack of all trades. Before we expand and distract ourselves, we want to make sure that Hampton Water is everywhere, so maybe in 3, 4, or 5 years we’ll be like, ‘Okay, we’ve reached this mountaintop, and now we want to have that second option, so we’re going to get selfish and try to sell yet another thing.’

HW&S: Did you apply the same strategy for success to Hampton Water that you’ve employed throughout your musical career? How, if so?
JBJ: For me, it’s really always been about work ethic. I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you put in the hours and you believe in what you’re doing, you can achieve your goals. We knew that when we came up with the concept for Hampton Water it was going to be something that was totally new to us. But I also knew that if we took the time to make it the best it could be, and that we weren’t afraid to work incredibly hard, that we would have the opportunity to be successful. We still have a long way to go, but much like in the music business, we collaborated with the best and we created a product that we find people really do enjoy.

HW&S: Jesse, where do you think the brand is going?
JB: It’s going, and going… where it will stop, nobody knows! We hope up, and to have doubled our business every year. We started off with distribution in 13 states, and now we’re in all 50 states and 50 countries.

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon, Jesse, and winemaker Gérard Bertrand

Photo Credit: Hampton Water

HW&S: What’s next in terms of Hampton Water? Expansion into other territories? A different varietal? Or are you stopping with rosé?
JBJ: The intention is to continue to grow the business. With the waves still growing across the middle of the country, we still have a long way to go. When you look at places in Europe, they drink rosé during lunch. We know that that wave is still coming to this country in markets like Nevada. We’re doing a great job, but it’s obviously a rosé market. Warm weather, great restaurants, fun parties… to us, it’s a no-brainer. We also want to create excitement and provide people with the opportunity to enjoy a great glass of rosé.

HW&S: What do you think is the greatest lesson your dad has ever taught you, and how do you apply it to Hampton Water?
JB: There are certainly countless lessons. My dad has obviously had a very long career, and no matter what field it is, if you’ve kept the same job for 40 years, you must have been pretty good at it. He’s certainly passed along many lessons to me, but I would say the most important one has probably been to be patient. Being the young businessperson that I am, I am often expressing a desire to rush to do things. But my dad’s advice has always been, ‘You can’t take it back. You tell someone go, you put something out, you say something, you do something, you make an agreement with something — you can’t go back. There’s no putting the toothpaste back in the tube, so make sure that when you are overwhelmed, when you are rushing to do something, when you’re trying to hurry up to get something done, don’t be afraid to say, I need 24 hours. I need another 30 minutes. I need one more look at that before we go out.’ I don’t always follow it, unfortunately, but I’m constantly working on it.

Jon Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water

HW&S: What do you think the greatest piece of business advice you gave to Jesse was?
JBJ: I simply tell him to take his time and work hard. At the end of the day hard work pays off and I think that’s what we’re seeing happen with Hampton Water. The guys travel like crazy, they’re constantly circling the globe because they believe in what they’re doing and so do I. To me the cornerstone of any good idea is whether you are willing to put in the time to make sure that your dream comes true.

HW&S: Jesse, which of your dad’s songs was the soundtrack to your summer while drinking rosé?
JB: I would say that the song that goes great with rosé is “Bed of Roses,” of course.

HW&S: Jon, what to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?
Photo Credit: Hampton WaterFor me, it’s about spending time with friends and family. I spent most of my life traveling. It’s really about spending time with those that I care the most about.

Bon JoviPhoto Credit: Hampton Water