Much like food and wine, wine and art are forever beautifully entangled. The splendor of a vineyard as it dances through the growing season begs to be memorialized with a camera or on canvas. And, similarly winemaking, while at its core a scientific undertaking, is a craft done best in the hands of true artisans.
Art is necessary to sell wine as well. Wine shops can be overwhelming — shelf after shelf of many different wines from many different locals and many foreign to the consumer. We've all picked up a bottle based on the label, and Australian wineries, perhaps more than anyone else, attempt to capture our attention with brightly colored labels featuring cartoon animals. Wines like yellowtail, Little Penguin and Blue Marlin are well-known examples.
That's the low brow way to stand out, however. In their quest to stand out, local producers are leaving cartoons on Saturday morning television and are turning to world-renowned artists to design their labels.
Last year, Bedell Cellars released the first wines from it's Artists Series — a 2001 reserve merlot featuring the work of Sag Harbor resident Eric Fischl and two "Taste" wines (one red, one white) with Barbara Kruger's artwork on the labels.
Based on the success of those three wines, Bedell Cellars has released two new Taste bottlings -- a 2004 Taste Red and 2005 Taste White (both are priced at $25) and added a new wine to the Artist Series.
Bedell Cellars' 2005 Taste White is a barrel-fermented blend of chardonnay, gewürztraminer, viognier and riesling. Its fruity, aromatic nose displays bright citrus, peach and spring flower aromas accented by a sprinkling of toasty vanilla oak. On the palate, it is medium bodied with vibrant acidity. The fore palate is dominated by just-ripe peach and citrus fruit that precedes toasty vanilla oak on the mid-palate and lychee-lime flavors and minerals on the finish. The ripeness of the 2005 fruit really shines through and each component variety contributes to a deliciously well balanced wine. Drink now or over the next three years.
Bedell's first release of Taste Red was 100% merlot from the 1999 vintage. This time around, Bedell Cellars' 2004 Taste Red is mostly merlot with 13% petit verdot blended in. Intense aromas of cherries and smoky-toasty oak mingle with interesting faint caramel notes on the nose. This is a juicy (but not jammy) red that is soft and fruity with relatively low tannins. The flavors are straightforward with cherries and raspberries inflected with toasty oak. A tart cherry finish is delicious and makes this wine an ideal companion to a wide range of foods. I think this wine is best enjoyed in its youth — over the next few years.
The newest member of the Artist Series comes from Bedell's sister (white wine) label — Corey Creek. The Corey Creek 2005 Gewurztraminer ($25) labels was designed by award-winning photographer Howard Schatz. It features a striking image of a Calla Lily from his most recent book Botanica.
The wine inside is reminder that Bedell/Corey Creek is about more than just merlot. Exotically perfumed, the nose offers exotic aromas of sweet rose water, lychee, tropical fruit and spearmint. Bad gewürztraminer tends to be flat, lacking fresh acidity, but this wine is nicely balanced with just the right acidity to go with medium-full body and citrus and tropical fruit flavors (everything from lemons and orange zest to pineapple).
To buy these and other Bedell Cellars/Corey Creek Vineyards wines visit www.bedellcellars.com or visit their tasting rooms on Rt. 25 on the North Fork.