Washington winery with tech connections hopes to uncork some of the hype around NFTs

A screenshot of the animated Baba Yaga label sold as NFT by Andrew Januik Wines.

A Washington State winery with technical connections joins the NFT game and sells three unique digital works of art reminiscent of the release of a limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon. While fine wines mainly appeal to an older audience, the phenomenon of NFT technology is more recent.

“It’s a way of creating interest in a group of people who might not have known about the wines,” said winemaker Andrew Januik.

The works of art are animated versions of the label for Januik’s Baba Yaga wine – named after a legendary witch who lives in a house on chicken claws. The question now is whether prospective buyers will see the value of the NFTs or write them off as a fantastic technical vision all poultry legs stand on.

A similar experiment apparently happened earlier this month for Yao Family Wines, a Napa Valley Winery founded by retired basketball star Yao Ming. The winery reportedly auctioned the first pairing of wine bottles with an NFT. Among the winners was billionaire entrepreneur and NBA team owner Mark Cuban.

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have become a craze with some collectors as well as cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts. The tokens are issued as virtual certificates of ownership that are recorded as part of a blockchain computer network. NFTs were sold for playing Cryptokitties, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, and a picture of an article in the New York Times. And every day seems to bring the news of yet another staggering sum paid for a random piece of internet history.

Like the Yao Family Wines auction, Januik plans to offer a signed bottle of Baba Yaga wine and a personal or virtual wine tasting with the NFT in the hope that something more tangible will complement the draw.

Andrew Januik (left) and Grady Kenealey have worked together to release three unique digital artworks to be auctioned as NFTs to commemorate the release of a limited edition of the Baba Yaga label by Andrew Januik Wines. (Courtesy photo of Januik)

Januik, in his early 30s, is the son of Mike and Carolyn Januik, who own the Januik winery. Andrew Januik founded his own label in 2011. Located in Woodinville, Washington, the winery works in partnership with Novelty Hill Winery, owned by Tom Alberg and his family. Alberg is a co-founder of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, a leading venture capital firm.

Januik said it took him a few tries to explain the NFT concept to his father. He finally told him, “Just think of it as a virtual baseball card. I think he thinks it’s a little silly. “

Alberg, who was an early investor at Amazon and served on the board for 23 years, is also a little unsure about NFTs in general.

“Cryptocurrencies are real and important, but we don’t yet know the long-term importance of NFTs,” said Alberg, who wondered if they are just a fad. “Seems like a financial bubble, but I think it will persist, even in ways we haven’t yet realized.”

Januik said they will start promoting NFT sales this week. He and Cellar Master Grady Kenealey, who created the digital artwork, see the effort as a marketing tool rather than a big money-maker. They will be offering the NFT, a signed bottle and wine tasting for 0.18 Ethereum, which is currently valued at around $ 450.

Cryptocurrencies are real and important, but we don’t yet understand the long-term importance of NFTs.

The winery could offer more NFTs in the future, but would likely limit sales to once or twice a year and for a limited number of artwork. This is partly due to the environmental impact of the tokens. As it grows in popularity, people are voicing concerns about the carbon emissions associated with the computing power required by the blockchain.

Most of the NFTs, including those sold by Januik, are part of the Ethereum blockchain. It’s smaller than the better-known Bitcoin blockchain, but it requires similar, energy-intensive processes. Digiconomist estimates that a single Ethereum transaction for more than two days uses as much electricity as the average US household.

“Those are things that we take into account,” said Januik. “We are an industry that is more or less 100% dependent on the environment and that is important to us.”

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