A continuing macro-photography series on wine labels, and the wines that wear them.
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.
See all of my wine label quilt squares in once place by clicking on the Wine Label Quilts tab at the top of this page.
Recognize any of these guys?
*Vanderbilt Reserve Merlot 2013 ⭐⭐⭐/84
A Biltmore Estate wine. Made with grapes from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California. A beautiful purple-ruby color in the glass. Nose is more herbal that fruit — thyme, tobacco, bay leaf. Some currant and raspberry flavors, and an unusual flash of potting soil (not necessarily a bad thing, just a little unexpected). Pleasant enough, though I suspect some of the edges it would benefit from a little more time in the bottle. $27.
The Vanderbilt Reserve Merlot wears the insignia of George Vanderbilt. And, if you’ve ever been to Biltmore, you know that gilded insignia is on everything from plates to pillows.
A blurb about Biltmore . . . Built during the height of the Gilded Age (between 1885 and 1889), the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina was home to George and Edith
Moneypants Vanderbilt, and remains owned by Vanderbilt descendants today. The house was designed in the French Châteauesque Style (meaning, if you can’t get lost inside, it’s not big enough). The estate has 250 rooms (33 bedrooms, 45 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces).
Wine at the Biltmore Estate was the vision of George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William Cecil. The first vines were planted in the early 1970s. Admittedly, North Carolina isn’t known for its great vineyards, and there has been a lot of wine grape trial-and-error at Biltmore. But today, there are six grape varieties that “have proven to be particularly well-suited for western North Carolina terroir and the microclimate of the estate” — Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
The Mr. Armchair Sommelier and I lived in North Carolina when we were first married — this would have been the early 1990s. I remember tasting a few North Carolina wines during that time, and they fell squarely into the avoid at all costs category. But that was over 20 years ago. Last year, I reviewed three Biltmore Estate wines (a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon), so anxious to revisit again this year.
*Biltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs North Carolina 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/85
Of the three Biltmore wines, this is the only one made with grapes grown in North Carolina. North Carolina only has 4 AVAs, and the grapes for this wine are not AVA specific. 100% Chardonnay, made in the traditional method. Very tiny bubbles, yet a heavier mouth-feel to the wine. Decent balance, flavors of yeast and ripe, red delicious apples. I found myself wishing for a smidge more minerals, nevertheless, it was really interesting to taste North Carolina terroir in this bottle. $30.
And there’s that George Vanderbilt insignia on the label again.
Georges Dubœuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 ⭐⭐⭐/84
Beaujolais Nouveau is all about experiencing life’s simple pleasures and nature’s seasonal gifts (it says so right on the bottle). I buy a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau every year, but I buy for the love of tradition, not because I expect any kind of ethereal tasting experience. I’m a big fan of Cru Beaujolais, but I struggle with Beaujolais Nouveau (it usually tastes like a banana Runt wrapped in bubble gum to me). But I am a sucker for tradition. This year was a bit of a surprise, there seemed to be more heft in the bottle. Still, it made me think of IHOP’s pancake breakfast, Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity. Light and uncomplicated, with plenty of strawberry compote. But satisfying.
Every year, Georges Duboeuf designs a new label for its Beaujolais Nouveau. This year, the label depicts the lush Beaujolais vineyards and bright, celebratory colors of the harvest. I give the label a Bravo! this year.
*Antler Hill Chardonnay 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/86
A Biltmore Estate wine. Made with grapes from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California. Fermented in stainless steel, no malolactic fermentation. Pale, with an ever-so-slight effervescence. A clean expression of Chardonnay, with higher acidity, flavors of pineapple and lemon needed a little coaxing out of the glass, but when they finally came out to play, they played nicely. There’s an interesting briny quality to the wine which makes me sorry I didn’t have any seafood to pair with it. $30.
The Antler Hill series wines are the top-tier of the Biltmore collection. They are named for an historic ridge on the property called . . . you guessed it . . . Antler Hill. George Vanderbilt set aside part of the estate as a deer preserve, and I understand today there is a rather significant deer population at Biltmore. The stag on the label makes me think of Harry Potter’s patronus. (And yes, I probably spent too much time in the world of Harry Potter when my kids were younger, but there are worse worlds. Twilight comes to mind.)
*I received the three Biltmore Estate wines as samples.