Donae Burston knows good wine. For the past 15 years he has worked with luxury wines and spirits like Dom Perignon, Hennessy, Belvedere, Moet & Chandon, and Veuve Clicquot, helping them build their brands. Now after cultivating his career Burston has struck out on his own as the founder and CEO of La Fête du Rosé. The Daily spoke to the entrepreneur and luxury beverage expert to find out what sets La Fête du Rosé apart, and how he’s building a more inclusive brand.
How long have you been a rosé fan?
I spent my 30th birthday in St. Tropez many years ago and it was the first time I really experienced rosé wine and the overall feeling that it gave me. It always had a special place in my heart. I had a chance meeting at the Cannes Film Festival a number of years ago, where I was seated next to a gentleman at the amfAR dinner that owned the winery in St. Tropez. It was one of those things that was very serendipitous and through the conversations I decided that this was something I wanted to do. Simultaneously, once I started going through the profits I realized rosé was growing tenfold year after year since 2007. I figured, the time is right why not do it now?
Sounds like your 30th birthday was lavish! Why did you choose St. Tropez?
I’m a child of hip hop. We all remember when Diddy was at his height and he was putting all these places that many of us had never heard of or could only dream about in these songs. And I remember him saying, “Have you ever been to St. Tropez?” That line stuck in my head so when it was time to plan my 30th birthday. I had never been but I’d been to Paris numerous times. Literally four of my friends and I packed up and went to St. Tropez for my birthday and it was the time of our lives. It was my first introduction to European summers on the Mediterranean.
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If you were throwing a dinner party who would you invite?
Barack and Michelle Obama, because they are really inspirational people. I would love to have a conversation with those guys. DJ Ruckus and Shanina Shaik, artists Hebru Brantley and Kaws, NBA players Lebron James and James Harden, Rihanna, Naomi Campbell, Awkafina, Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Kelly Rowland, Joan Smalls, Maluma, Elaine Welteroth, Neymar, Scooter Braun, Jeannie Mai, and Caroline Vreeland. It would also be a lot of friends and family, and people I’ve gotten to know throughout the years.
The winery you use is committed to sustainable agriculture. How are they sustainable?
They’re a port city Saint Tropez they really respect all of the environment whether it be the ocean etcetera. Instead of using pesticides which harm the planet they plant grains and weeds in between the rows of the vineyards. That acts as a natural pesticide and helps ensure there’s a circle of life in which we are not poisoning the earth. And the vines grow sustainably. A lot of times when people have wine and they have a headache its not from the wine or the alcohol, it’s because the pesticides have seeped into the vines, which ultimately seeps into the grapes.
Why is sustainability important to you?
I love to travel, I love the world. And some of the most beautiful places in the world are nature, whether it be the ocean, the beach, the grand canyon, etc. It’s important to me, the average traveler, to make a brand that respects nature. Thats why I chose these guys and once I learned their story and how they work, the results were very good. The winery is also where Leonardo DiCaprio would host his annual gala to benefit his foundation as well.
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I’ve read that you feel a lot of brands are serving a one-dimensional audience. What do you mean by that?
Every brand when they first launch asks, “Who is our target ideal consumer?” The problem many of them make is that they say, “My consumer is a male, who makes over $50,000 a year, likes buying cigars, and reads the Wall Street Journal.” So every message they release from that point on fits into that mould. But what they fail to realize is that there are some 25 year olds who would appreciate a $100 bottle of scotch just as much as that 50 year old. By not being inclusive in your messaging and not building around a lifestyle you begin to alienate the consumer.
How is your messaging more inclusive?
If you look at the name, La Fête du Rosé, it [translates to] the rosé party and we want to invite everyone to the party. Everything you see will be very diverse. Whether it be Asian, Indian, Black, or Hispanic; male, female, gay, or straight, that will be what we really push out there because that’s who we are as a brand. In addition we really want to make the consumer have an experience with the brand, so instead of a lot of traditional advertising with stagnant pictures and billboard ads, we want to do a lot of events. We can all remember the first time we ever had tequila or the first time we ever had rosé because of the experience in which we had it. That’s what really drives home any brand loyalty.
Through your career what have you learned about wine and spirits, and how has it changed the way you order drinks?
I learned the processes in which it is made is really more important than anything. A lot of times we go off of what’s flashy. Sometimes you can get a great bottle of scotch whiskey for $25 that’s just as good as the one that’s $50. I no longer just jump for how much things cost. At the beginning, I thought, “It’s $75 a glass, it must be the best one!” Now, I actually like to learn a little bit from the bartender or sommelier about each particular product.
Where are you traveling this summer? Any tips for planning a great vacation?
I’ll be going to the winery to see how things will be prepared for 2019. I’m also going to Greece. I travel to places where I can partake in a little social activity like parties or clubs. But I also like places where I can go off the beaten path a little bit — drive into town and go to a bed and breakfast and relax. My travel tips would be to pick a place where you can have the best of both worlds. Because you can go somewhere great and isolated and four days later you’re like, “I want to kill myself I’m bored out of my mind.” Or you can go somewhere and party the entire time and come back feeling worse than you did when you left. Find places where you can get a balance.