Magnum Wine Company Celebrates Life’s Best Occasions
Duyen Ha went from technology to cooking to culinary school to found the only American wine brand to be bottled exclusively in magnums.
“Growing up with my Vietnamese roots inspired my love for cooking,” she says. “In my mid-20s, I left a great tech job at Google to test the waters. I worked as an oyster shucker for six months at Marlow & Sons.”
It was there, at this trendy Brooklyn restaurant, that Ha discovered two things: natural French wines and falling in love with restaurant life. “That’s when the idea of starting a winery came to mind,” she says.
But the lure of all things culinary led her to pack her bags and head to Paris, where she attended Ferrandi, one of Europe’s top culinary schools. After graduating, she first worked at Arpège in Paris, then Mirazur, in Menton, France, then moved to Frenchie in Paris, where she worked her way up to Sous Chef.
“The truth is, culinary school isn’t for everyone,” she says. “The sexy side of cooking is quickly disappearing. It takes a lot of courage and resilience to work 15 hours a day, without sleep, sweating through white bosses, (coming back day after day) to work harder and improve.
Still, Ha says she enjoyed working in kitchens and particularly fell in love with wine. “Nevertheless, while working in some of France’s most prestigious restaurants as a Michelin-starred chef in training, I have witnessed the incredible power of food and wine to build relationships, enhance shared experiences and prolong the pleasure of life’s most precious conversations and celebrations,” she says.
Ha says that Frenchie’s sommelier, Virginie Bonnet, was particularly influential on her, and during her time in Paris, she kept being drawn to the idea of starting a wine business.
“At the time COVID hit, I had so many connections, and it felt like such a good time to pursue my goal of starting a wine business,” Ha says.
In November 2020, she started working on her idea, then in December 2021, she and her partner Mehdi Samraoui launched BONDLE. “I eventually settled on a wine brand that would specialize in selling natural French wines in 1.5-litre magnum format,” she says. “As the name suggests, BONDLE is all about bringing people together to celebrate with generous magnum wines.”
BONDLE is a direct-to-consumer company that sells French natural wines, starting at $110, to consumers in 30 different states. The company originally planned to launch in June 2021 but was delayed by supply chain issues and other challenges, but after the initial launch last December they now have their second collection and they have expanded their customer base.
“Mehdi and I started calling wineries with an initial pitch in the fall of 2020, as we had compiled a list of around 20 winemakers,” she says. “We started visiting them when the COVID restrictions were particularly tight. There was a curfew in France so we couldn’t drive past 6pm as they were closing the roads. You had to be extremely careful. »
Then, in April 2021, she was called back to work at Frenchie so she worked her “crazy chef hours while juggling BONDLE.” But after leaving Frenchie at the end of June, she focused on her business. “The year leading up to the launch was one of the most difficult, but also the most exhilarating,” she says. “But now we are in a good position and customers love our wines. I would say our number one goal is to build and maintain a sustainable business.
The brand, she says, focuses on artisan winemakers, and its biggest seller is its champagne. “It’s the only wine in our first collection because of its incredible popularity,” she says. “I was at Bar Martin, celebrating my new job offer at Frenchie, and the wine list was very long, but we finally decided on champagne, and I fell in love with the hit. I took note of the bottle, and (now) we’re the exclusive importer of this wine in the U.S. They’re female-owned, which is amazing, and they only make two thousand of this cuvée every year, so it was really special opportunity for us.
Their red and orange wines are also two of Ha’s favorites. “Red wine is unique in that it comes from ungrafted vines, which make up a minority of the world’s vines, and for wine lovers they are quite mind blowing because they are difficult to make but provide superior flavor.
“Our orange wine comes from an extremely rare and difficult grape variety, Carignan Blanc, of which very few in the UJ.S. had the opportunity to try.
Magnums, she says, are for outgoing people who like to try new things and aren’t afraid to try new things. “It really became a no-brainer that if people knew about magnums, they would order a lot more of them,” Ha says. “A good friend brings two bottles of wine, and a great friend brings a magnum. I think it can and should become commonplace to bring a magnum to a party instead of two bottles.
Consumers, she says, are embracing wine, especially chefs. “BONDLE perfectly encapsulates what chefs are trying to do, which is to create the best dining experience possible,” she says. “A lot of BONDLE’s biggest fans are in the hospitality industry.”
One of those big fans had attended Art Basel in Miami, and the line at the bar was really long. “He happened to live around the corner, so he ran to his apartment and got two magnums of our champagne,” Ha says. “In the middle of the art fair, he popped the bottles and poured champagne for everyone around who was tired of waiting in line. People were going crazy and it was hilarious to seeing a guy throw magnum champagne for random people.