Being in California is a dream when you’re are as passionate about wine brands as I am. I spend a lot of time perusing in wine stores and supermarkets’ wine section looking at their selection, the labels and the way the wines are displayed on the shelves. And of course, I taste some wines, some we buy and others brought by friends. And our friends have very different tastes!
Over the last few days I happened to taste a 2006 Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Sauvignon “vinted and bottled by 3 Loose Screws”, a division of Don Sebastiani and sons in Napa, California, a Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio and a 2006 Gewürtztraminer of Chateau Ste Michelle from Columbia Valley in Washington. No need to present the Yellow Tail brand from Australia since it is now the most famous (and sold) brand in the US: everybody knows the funny label, the extended range of varietal wines and the (rather) low price. I try to taste a few of their varietal wines every year to see if the taste is evolving: I noticed it’s getting sweeter, at least with the Pinot grigio.
More interesting is the difference between PepperwoodGrove and Chateau Ste Michelle. The latter has a “French” style label with a castle silhouetted on the top, a rather old style font and a lot of information on the front label: vintage, varietal, origin and a little comment saying “Washington’s ste founding winery”. The back label has also an “Old World” flavor: it talks of “the magical combination of sun, soil and water – the terroir” and “a slow and cool fermentation” before even mentioning aromas.
Pepperwood Grove is one of the many brands created by Don Sebastiani and his two sons – the self-described “Three Loose Screws” of their wine division. Three Loose Screws describes itself as the “new generation in wine”. “We believe in unconventional and creative brands that generate an identity with the customer. The Three Loose Screws Wine Company really represents what we’re all about — making great wine at reasonable prices, without all the pretension normally associated with wine marketing,” said Don Jr. to BusinessWire in 2005. For memory, The Three Loose Screws created the Kono Baru brand I mentioned in Wine Brands for its reversed name. Back to the Cabernet Sauvignon: the label is light green and very attractive with just four mentions: the brand name, the varietal, the vintage and the origin (California). The back label text is signed by the wine maker, Richard Bruno, which is a nice personal touch. Unfortunately it’s not very informative for the consumer!
Yellow Tail, Pepperwoord Grove, Chateau Ste Michelle – we indeed went already through a few representative types of wines available in the US. Chateau Ste Michelle is very characteristic of the European style wineries developing in the US: working on their terroir and trying to match the European wines. More on the subject very soon!