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?
Voila! My week in wine labels.
Recognize any of these guys?
Another monochrome wine week at Haus Armchair Sommelier.
Sea Smoke Chardonnay 2010 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 91
From the Santa Rita Hills AVA in central California. The Sea Smoke vineyards are located in cool micro-climate of the Santa Ynez River (the valley is cooled by Pacific Ocean fog). If you’re into maps, this might be the coolest vineyard map I’ve ever seen. The Sea Smoke label is simple, elegant calligraphy (the sea-smudge is an unknown contributor from my wine fridge).
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to walk the Sea Smoke Vineyards with their (then) vineyard manager. He brought a bottle of Sea Smoke Chardonnay for us to taste as we walked. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first brush with biodynamic wines. Back then, I just thought he might be a little crazy-pants. He told us about how they collect female cow dung because it offers a more favorable energy to the vines (I am not making this up). And then he told us about the enhanced gophers. But the vineyards were spectacular, and the Chardonnay was pretty terrific (it tasted like sunshine, with a hint of gopher on the back-end).
The 2010 vintage is another elegant expression of a cool climate Chardonnay. A precise parade of acidity, stones, flint, apples and toast. Not quite as much gopher. $55.
Wagner Stempel Höllberg Riesling GG 2013 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 92
From the Rhinehessen region of Germany. Wagner Steeple was founded in 1845, and today is run by the ninth generation of the Wagner Family. This is a dry Riesling (the GG means Grosses Gewächs, or great growth, and is used to indicate a dry wine from a top-level vineyard) from the Höllberg vineyard, which is formed from volcanic rocks. The column on the label mimics the vaulted interior of Wagner Stempel’s tasting room. I love the simplicity of the pencil sketch.
I thoroughly enjoyed this wine. Bracing acidity, restrained and powerful at the same time. Slightly more tropical than I’d expect for a German GG Riesling. Loads of peach and mango, but the acidity and balance is superb. More, please. $55.
Maison Louis Jadot Pommard 2005 ⭐⭐⭐/ 88
Louis Jadot has vineyard holdings all over Burgundy. This bottle is from the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, specifically from the village appellation of Pommard (there are no Grand Crus in Pommard), which is for red wines only, specifically Pinot Noir. The name Pommard is a nod to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees. And that’s our friend, Bacchus, on the label. All of the Maison Louis Jadot wines (whether they are a simple Bourgogne or a Grand Cru) have the same image on the label. Someone at Louis Jadot did their marketing homework.
A pretty nifty village wine. Garnet color with a sort-of orangish halo. My overall impression is an earthy funk — tea, leather, mushrooms, maybe even a bit gamey. The finish is a little abrupt, but overall, pretty nifty. $40ish.
Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 93
As far as success stories go, Kosta Browne is a pretty good one. In a nutshell, two guys (Dan Kosta and Michael Browne) save their tip money and open a winery. They make some kick-ass Pinot Noir and sell it direct to their mailing list. The mailing list quickly sells out, and is now a waiting list about 7 miles long (you’re looking at 2-3 years for the Pinot blends, and another 3-5 years for the single vineyard stuff). I honestly can’t remember why Kosta Browne came onto my wine-radar, but I feel pretty smart jumping on their mailing list when I did. My allocation is puny, but I buy the whole thing every year. And, after several years of faithful buying, I’ve just been rewarded with an offering (a tiny one) of their single-vineyard Pinots. Wheeee!
We opened this bottle for Thanksgiving dinner. This was Wine Spectator’s 2011 Wine of the Year, and it has a mountain of other accolades, as well. So smooth and elegant. It’s beautifully structured and balanced. So much to think about in this bottle — plums, cherries, cranberries, cocoa, rose petals. But what keeps me coming back for more KB each year is the approachability — there’s a smoothness and elegance in these wines that just curls my toes!
Oh! The label. I looked and looked for information on the impetus for the now wildly-recognizable grape cluster on the Kosta Browne label. I came up with zippy. So if you know . . . please, enlighten me!