By Steve Jacobson –
As a follow up to The Wine Ponder’s post on Creative and Unusual Wine Labels, I have come across several wines that jump into a whole other category of “What are these people thinking?”
R WINES sources grapes from all over Australia and produces these wines under several labels including BITCH Grenache, EVIL Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay, and BOARDING PASS FIRST CLASS Shiraz. Founded in 2005, partners Dan Philips and Chris Ringland certainly have an attitude in the wine they make based on the wine names and packaging.
The “Braille” labels are definite attention-getters. Culled from their website, the orange-labeled bottle ($25) is a Syrah and Merlot blend aged six months aging in French and American oak. The black-labeled bottle ($40) is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Tempranillo aged in French and American oak for twelve months. The interesting hook here is that this winery has developed a new winemaking method called “Sensorial Winemaking”, which takes the extraordinary sensitivity of blind winemakers into the process. The Professor of Enology, Antonio Tomás Palacios, from the University of La Rioja in Spain has been working with a blind winemaker since 1999. Palacios discovered that this blind person could detect changes in aromatics and taste sooner than he and other highly experienced sighted winemakers. By knowing these changes sooner, they can react sooner to direct the process for more positive developments and avoid negative things from occurring.
Peltier Station is based in Acampo, northeast of Lodi in Northern California. They make a variety of wines including this Port-style “dessert wine”. It is 100% Zinfandel with an alcohol content of 18.8%. (Average alcohol content in “regular/non-dessert” wines are 12.5%-14%.) The vineyard was planted in 1965 in the Lodi Appellation (known for great Zin). According to the pairing recommendations – “Despite being the perfect cigar match, French vanilla ice cream covered in dark, bittersweet chocolate will release the harmony of this dessert wine.” I’m ready for a cigar…
Matsu is an organic winery located in Spain. They created this trio of wines that represent three generations that devote their lives to the field. Each personality incorporates the distinctiveness of the wine that gets its name. “El Picaro” ($15) – The Rascal – comes from 70-year-old vines. “El Recio” ($30) – The Middle-Aged Man – comes from 100-year-old vines. And “El Viejo” ($50) – The Old Man – comes from vines that are 130 years old. These vineyards are located in the Toro region of Spain in the “Wild West”. And the varietal is “Tinto del Toro”, also known as Tempranillo – which is one of the more popular varietals in Spain.
Inkwell Wines, based in Australia, produces a variety of wines focusing on Syrah and some Viognier. California artist Trevor Elliot designed the logo and label in 2004. When you look at the label, you can help but think Rorschach test. The winemakers like this because according to their website, “What matters to us is what do you see?” The Inkwell Shiraz ($35) is aged in 100% French oak barrels for 20 months, blended with a small amount of Primitivo and then aged in bottles for another six months. The Inkwell Blonde on Blonde ($20) is Viognier that is aged in neutral French oak for six months.
Entrepreneur Marie Fox founded 12 Signs Wine in 2011. It is the first brand to pair wine with astrology. Each bottle is handcrafted with premium California wine to match the personality of your zodiac sign.
Pinot Noir includes the signs of CANCER, SCORPIO and PISCES. It is sourced from a vineyard in Foxen Canyon located in the Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County). This is Marie’s favorite varietal and is reminiscent of French burgundy (as many of the great Pinots in that area are).
Chardonnay includes the signs of GEMINI, LIBRA and AQUARIUS. This comes from Alexander Valley near Sonoma. This Chardonnay has more of a heart of a Sauvignon Blanc and is a bit crisper than the typical buttery Chardonnay, as Marie prefers her wine not to be buttery or oaky.
Cabernet Sauvignon includes the signs of TAURUS, VIRGO and CAPRICORN. Coming from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, this classic varietal has been aged in French oak for 18 months. 10% Petite Verdot and 4% Malbec have been added for structure, spice and color. These also help soften the tannins in the wine.
Zinfandel includes the signs of ARIES, LEO and SAGITTARIUS. This one is their most popular varietal and the winemaker, Joseph Smith, has a reputation for his Old Vine Zins from Lodi. Aged for 30 months in neutral oak barrels, this one will have a great fruit forward taste with some spice and dark chocolate flavors.
Based on these descriptions, I think each of the signs deserves a try.
When you go to the OOPS website, the intro page states “some mistakes were meant to happen”. This brand was founded by Norman Schwartz, who was the Executive Creative Director for Interpublic Group, an advertising conglomerate, as well as International Creative Director for Doyle Dane Bernbach – responsible for advertising for Seagram’s brands including Chivas Regal Worldwide. Norman partnered with Emery Olcott, who was President and CEO of Packard Bioscience. We’re talking high-powered thinking here.
Their wines include Chardonnay called “Bodacious Blonde”, Carménère Merlot called “Cheeky Little Red”, Cabernet Franc Carménère called “Voluptuous Beauty”, Carménère called “Spicy Splendor”, and Sauvignon Blanc called “Cheeky Little White”. FYI – Carménère is a varietal that was originally planted in Bordeaux and used to produce dark red wines and also was used for blending. These guys have adapted that varietal here and using it the same way – only all these wines are from Chile.
This wine comes from small family-run Bacio Divino Cellars in Napa Valley. This is one of several lines produced from this winery. After moving from Winnipeg Canada to Napa, Claus Jensen spent 12 years at Caymus. In 1993, he decided to open his own venture and works with wife and partner Diane. Focusing on beautiful Napa Cabernets, these wines are aged in 100% new French oak barrels. Other wines include Bacio Divino (Divine Kiss) – Cab/Petite Sirah blend ($100); Pazzo (Call Me Crazy) – Sangiovese/Cab blend ($32); Vagabond Syrah ($60) and Vagabond Petite Sirah ($45); and Lucie – Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($60). I’ve never had these wine before, but I look forward to my next trip to Napa. This is on the must visit list!
Champagne from France… What a wonderful thing! And when it comes in “out-of-the-bottle” packaging, it makes even more fun… as long as what’s in the bottle is highly consumable. Zarb Champagne comes from Charly-Sur-Marne, a small village in the western part of the Marne Valley. Pinot Meunier is the varietal that is grown there. Its purpose is to add smoothness, a fatter weight and full matured fruit at a younger age. This varietal has gained respect over the recent years, as it was viewed as inferior to Pinot Noir (which many Champagnes are made from). These wines are good to drink anytime as they don’t really age for long periods of time. By the way, I believe these are distributed outside of the US. I didn’t see any resource here.
Packaging and labels are a creative part of the wine process. These examples certainly know how to turn heads. I hope what’s in the bottles know how to turn mouths into smiles.