Discussing wine with people, you run into many that will tell you, with some embarrassment, that they usually pick the wine by the label. Most people think this is the wrong way to choose a wine. Well it's not... Always. There are, of course, certain unwritten rules about buying a wine by the label. One is that you should never buy a bottle of wine with an animal on the label. But then, one of my favorite Pinots has a dog on it (O'Reilly's). Then there is the rule that you should never buy a bottle with grapes on the label, but this too is not a hard and fast rule. Some winemakers just don't know any better. The fact of the matter is that sometimes wine bottles have cool labels because the winemaker has style, and is also business savvy. Most winemakers know that in order to sell their wine, they need to have an attractive bottle. Unfortunately, a good winemaker is not always a good wine-label-picker-outer. There are some terribly tragic examples of this phenomenon (see Champagne).

There are some wine producers out there that just have that killer combination of great wine and great packaging. They know how to make wine, and they have great taste in label art. Charles Smith of K Vintners is one of these guys. He has a plethora of cool labels. They are always black and white, and somewhat minimalist. The one exception being perhaps his label for “The Creator,” which depicts Charles himself as a sort of “messiah” of good wine. From his “Kung-Fu Girl,” Riesling to his incredibly popular “House Wine,” Charles understands the fact that a cool label will sell a bottle. Good thing Charles also happens to be a great winemaker.

 


K VINTNERS BOOM BOOM SYRAH, 2007

K Vintners is located in the whimsically named little town of Walla Walla, Washington. It's one of those places that only has a few restaurants, but they're all good. And its one bar, “The Green Lantern,” is like the coolest bar ever. In Walla Walla, Charles Smith developed his skills and his wines. He became known for making fantastic Syrahs. Some of his Syrahs were given 95+ ratings and one was named in the top ten best Syrahs in the country. But, being a man of the people, he never stopped making more affordable alternatives to these pricey critical darlings. He continues to make several fantastic wines in the $12 to $25 range.

The “Boom Boom” Syrah fits this profile, coming in at around $18. We've already discussed the packaging, which is about as eye-catching as you can get. Certainly a bottle you would be proud to take to a party or give as a gift. The screwtop may worry some people, but it shouldn't; a wine like this is made to be drunk relatively young and a screwtop is a far cheaper and less risky option. The wine itself is a deep inky red with a luscious bouquet of blackberry and other black cherry which opens up dramatically as the wine is exposed to air. It evolves into something far deeper, with dark undertones of coffee and black pepper. On the palate it's all wild berry fruit that's juicy, yet structured with ripe tannins on the finish.

The perfect wine to drink with a baguette and some great cheese on a rainy winter evening. Put on an album of some haunting 50's music like The Fleetwoods, who also hail from Washington State, and you've got the full effect. An eerie, yet sultry evening in the rains of Washington, right in your living room.