A continuing series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them, under the macro lens.
I love to take photos of pieces of things with my macro lens — pieces of wine labels seemed like a natural extension of that inclination. It’s a lot of fun to see the colors, and especially the textures, on a wine label that you wouldn’t ordinarily see (or maybe even notice). It’s almost as fun as drinking the wine. Almost. So, I thought . . . why not stitch the photos together into a quilt? (After I created last week’s wine quilt, I decided to change the name of this series to Quilting with Wine Labels.)
Voila! My week in wine labels.
Recognize any of these guys?
OK, so I didn’t have a very colorful week in wine. Luckily, we (mostly) don’t judge a wine based on the number of colors on the label.
Sebastiani Secolo 2006 ⭐⭐⭐/88
Located in Sonoma County, Sebastiani was founded in 1904 (by an Italian immigrant from Tuscany), and was the only winery in Sonoma to continue operations during Prohibition. Sebastiani is also fairly well known for the 1980s family feud that would have made the writers of Falcon Crest swoon. Secolo is the Italian word for century, and other than knowing that, I have no idea why the wine is called century. I assumed the wine was named to celebrate a century of winemaking at Sebastiani, but near as I can tell, Secolo was first made in 2001, and Sebastiani was founded in 1904, so the math doesn’t add up. Maybe they were celebrating a century-ish of winemaking?
Secolo is a Bordeaux-style red blend — 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Malbec and 1% Petite Sirah. This is now a nine year old wine, and the tannins have mellowed considerably. Kinda jammy, but with enough of an herbal backbone to keep me interested. $25ish.
As far as the tree on the label goes, the only mention I could find is from an Archives.org oral history of Sebastiani Vineyards:
August Sebastiani is respected in the wine industry, but he admits that some of his ideas are unconventional. In clearing land for new vineyards, he has spared groves of stately oak trees despite the fact they occupy valuable land and siphon water from the nearby vines. “The view is worth more than the small loss in production,” he says.
Is that why there’s a tree on the label? Dunno. But it sounds good. Another possibility? Sebastiani has over 300 wine barrel wood carvings by Sonoma artist, Earle Brown. And that tree looks awfully wood-carving-ish to me.
Château Sansonnet La Réserve Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2006 ⭐⭐⭐/87
I opened this bottle after last month’s Paris attacks — drinking French wine that night seemed like a small, right thing to do, and I had this Bordeaux in my cellar. Solidarité. Amitié. This is a typical Right Bank, Merlot dominant blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. An initial burst of dark chocolate, minerals, and violets. Loads of tobacco and earth on the finish. $35ish.
In the 19th century, Château Sansonnet was the home of Duke Decazes, Prime Minister for Louis XVIII. Sidebar: Louis 18 had promised the French people that he would get rid of some very unpopular taxes on wine and tobacco. Turns out, King Louis was talking out of both sides of his mouth, and there were riots in Bordeaux. I wonder if Le Duke watched the riots unfold from the front porch of his Château? 😉
Balthasar Ress Schloss Reichartshausen Rheingau Riesling Spätlese 2013 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
From the Rheingau region of Germany. Fein sei der Wein, meaning, fine is the wine, is the motto inside the Ress Family coat of arms. Weingut Balthasar Ress was founded in 1870, but the vineyard land dates back to the 12th century, when it belonged to a Cistercian monastery. And because German wine labels are just such a hoot to decode — Schloss Reichartshausen is a VDP Erste Lage classification, which means the wine comes from a classified single vineyard, and is considered a very high quality (but not the highest) vineyard of the estate (the highest quality would be a VDP Grosse Lage classification).
I picked this up on a whim at Total Wine to go with take-out Thai. It performed perfectly. (Note to Total Wine: Please, please, please stock more single vineyard German Rieslings. Please.) Medium body. Peaches and pears. Off-dry, but with enough acidity to balance the scales of sweetness. 9.5% ABV. $23ish.
Ontañón Rioja Reserva 2004 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/91
From the Rioja Baja region of Rioja. Rioja Baja is the hottest and driest of the three regions of Rioja, and influenced by a Mediterranean (vice Atlantic) climate. These are high elevation vines, located on the slopes of the Sierra Yerga Mountains. Soils here are alluvial with iron-rich clay and limestone. A blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano. Flavors of cranberry and dark chocolate, with a distinct minerality (hello, limestone). Oak aging shows off in a nice vanilla finish. $25ish.
The winemaking mantra at Ontañón is, Wine is a Work of Art. Ontañon has placed numerous pieces of Greek-inspired viticultural art throughout their estate. Outside of the barrel room, there is a statue of Oenopion — the son of Dionysius (aka Bacchus, the God of Wine) and Ariadne (daughter of Minos, granddaughter of Zeus) riding a centaur, carrying a pole with two amphorae of wine suspended from it. Riding a centaur is a little bit badass. Just sayin’. The Ontañón label features this same image.