You Can’t Judge a Wine by its Label

There you are at your local wine store, looking at the walls of wine and wanting to try something new and of course delicious! You come across the well known names of the top wineries, or at least that’s what it says on the tag attached to them, “91 Points by ___ ! But more often than not, those points can relate to dollar signs and a whole lot of them.

Then you remember the conversation you had at a recent company function with one of your co-workers about a winery that they had recently experienced, and a great wine he tasted and bought a case of. Almost immediately you remember the name of it. How could you not with that name, and then there is the winery name. What was this guy thinking you ask yourself, to even think they could be serious about wine making, right?

As you continue to browse the selections, there it is the exact bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon he was talking about. You look around to see if anyone is watching, and reach down near the floor where the store seems to be hiding it. You ask yourself, can I actually bring this to the front register and have the girl ring it up without looking like a fool? And the next question, what will my wife and friends say when I bring this to the table tonight?

And then you make a decision that may very well open your eyes and palate to a whole new experience in wine. The “Shock Winery” and its line of “Shock Wines”. These newer wineries are using this method to gain attention, and get the public to notice them and maybe taste their wines. In an industry that has grown to an outrageous number of wineries, in that sea of black, blues, white and silver labels, a red will stand out on that shelve. And as far as the wine in that bottle, don’t kid you, there are some fine wines being produced by extremely well known winemakers in them. The reality is you can no longer judge a wine by it’s label.

Case in point, Sweet Cheeks Winery – ( located in Eugene Oregon, in the South Willamette Valley. Ok, it’s a funny name and gives all kinds of thoughts on how they came up with it, but the bottom line is, would you pull a bottle of their wine off a shelf and take it home? If you looked at it you might, because the label is quite intriguing, looks like a horseshoe with a vineyard and a crow inside it and grape clusters around it. But with a name “Sweet Cheeks”, how serious could they be, right? Well, if you ever have the opportunity to experience a glass of their Vintage Riesling, Pinot Gris or Shiraz, do it because it will be a heavenly experience, one that bring you back for more.

Another winery that comes to mind is Rabbit Ridge Winery ( located in Paso Robles, California. Now let’s face it, if you saw a bottle on a shelf or on a wine list named Rabbit Ridge, with a bunny on it, what are the chances you would try it? If we told you that it was located in a prime California growing region of Paso Robles, one that is increasingly becoming as famous a viticulture region as Napa, and consisted of almost 700 acres of vines, would you? Producing more than eighteen different wines or blends, some with questionable names, like “Bunny Cuvee” and “Speed Bump”, they produce some of the finest wines in Paso Robles. One has only to experience a glass of their Reserve Zinfandels, Reserve Petit Syrah or 3 Clusters Syrah to know that this winery is producing only fine, classy and delicious wines.

The Rabbit Ridge ’04 Paso Robles Sara’s Ridge Syrah is grown on one of the highest ridges in Paso Robles. It is produced from grapes grown in three different locations within this vineyard, so the grapes ripen at three distinctive times, weeks apart. What this brings to your glass is a complex fruit forward and very rich mouth, with chocolate, raspberry and mild black pepper, of a very classic and elegant Syrah. You would be well advised to indulge in a bottle or two of this fine Syrah.

Let’s talk about “Hip Chicks Do Wine” Winery ( located in Portland Oregon. Owner Winemakers Laurie Lewis “Wine Goddess” and Renee Neely “Wine Maven” are definitely a case in point of deciding to be a “Shock Winery”, and get noticed. They opened their winery in 2001 in the warehouse district of Portland, near the Brooklyn Train Yard, with neighbors like a micro brewery and local artist’s shops.

Laurie and Renee decided to start a wine business that would entice and attract Generation-X and beyond, a population that seemed to be ignored by the wine industry. They wanted to produce wines that attracted that population, with “drink now” wines with food or without. Their target sippers weren’t interested in storing expensive wines for years in some cold dark cellar. They wanted to party and drink wine, now.

You will find the ladies from Hip Chicks Winery at their winery in Portland as well as their tasting room in Newberg Oregon on 1st Street, as well as the many wine functions in Portland and surrounding areas. You can’t miss their wines, with their “Wine Bunny Series Wines”, Wine Bunny Rouge” and Wine Bunny Blush”, and also their “Pulp Novel Series Wines”, “Bad Girl Blanc”, “Riot Girl Rose” and of course, “Drop Dead Red”. Given the chance, you will find that these wines are just what they wanted to produce; great drink now wines, for parties, or a relaxing sunny afternoon.

That’s not to say that these winemakers aren’t proud of their craft, or aren’t constantly striving to make higher quality wines. Their grapes are sourced from some of the best producers in both the Willamette Valley as well as Washington State. Examples of some excellent winemaking can be found in a sip of their Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon ’07, produced from grapes harvested in the Columbia Valley by Windy Ridge Vineyard. They have also produced and excellent ’07 Reserve Malbec that presents layers of boysenberry and raspberry to your palate, and finishes with slight pepper and tannins.

This brings us to the Queen of the Ball, “open the envelope please, and the winner is….The Naked Winery & Orgasmic Wine Company” – ( If there ever was an award given to the most outrageous winery as a “Shock Winery” it would be presented by Howard Stern the infamous “Shock Jock” of radio to The Naked Winery”.

Naked Winery located in Downtown Hood River, Oregon, advertises openly that they are a place where you can “Get Naked Daily” in their wine tasting room. As a matter of a fact they invite you to get naked wherever they are. Their wines each with a unique name and label are an encouragement for you to set the mood of wherever you decide to open a bottle. Start your special evening with your spouse or “significant other” by opening a bottle of “Foreplay”, and see if he or she gets the message. Next Thanksgiving why not serve a bottle of Penetration Cabernet, and have your Mother-in Law read the label for everyone?

So you may thing that we are joking about these wines, and they are just a gimmick to sell novelty wines as gag gifts, but you’re wrong. Either visit their winery in person or on line and visit their “Library Wine” section for a big surprise. There you will find a 2003 Penetration Red selling for $60, or their “Orgasm” line, a bottle of the 2007 Oh! Barbera for $70, and then there’s a very popular 2008 Dominatrix Pinot Noir for $52. Trust us, they are being purchased , opened and completely ravished.

In all seriousness, Naked Winery is a family owned Winery, with an additional winery located in Wishram, Washington. All grapes grown for these wineries reds are as they say “Orgasmically Grown” in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley and Washington’s Columbia Valley. The whites are grown in the Willamette and Illinois Valleys.

Regardless of what you think of the name, rest assured that much has gone into the production of this wineries wines. Of note is the ’07 Foreplay Chardonnay with its mild coconut and banana smoothness penetrated by a wisp of oak on your tongue. The ’04 Penetration Cabernet Sauvignon is just a dream with red ruby lips, mild spicy and chocolate notes that can only erect your senses, and cherry blackberry and raspberry tones thrust upon your upper palate. The finish is long, hard and will leave you enjoying the mild tobacco you so deserve after such an explosive finish.



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