Confession: I sometimes buy wines because I like the label. Not 'label' in the sense of the producer, but the actual paper on the front of the bottle. I know, I should know better, but some are so very, very shiny! Usually the actual wine is just kinda 'meh,' and sometimes I end up with a (well deserved) polished turd. Every once in awhile, though, the method yields a winner.
Wandering around Wagshal's the other day, this guy pictured at left jumped out from amongst the domestic Merlots. Look at that label! Its like a gothic parody of an old school Bordeaux bottle, complete with blood vomiting roosters, for chrissakes -- If Tim Burton designed a wine label, this is what it would look like. While nowhere on the label does it actually say who makes it, the back sports a compelling mission statement:
To capture terrior in its most raw form and to preserve the integrity of the wine world by rebelling against the 100 point rating system. A wine of sustainable and environmentally friendly farming. No advertising.
Below this, in bold black and red, a call to arms:
This is just my kind of iconoclasm. I absolutely loath the 100 point system, and whoever this producer was, I could tell he felt similarly. Sold! I picked up the 2007 Merlot, and its sister 2007 Chardonnay, for $12.99 and $13.99, respectively.
It took a surprising amount of research to figure out who actually makes this stuff. Independent Producers appears to be the pet project of Christophe Hedges, Sales & Marketing head of Washington State's biggest winemaker, Hedges Family Estate. About five years ago, HFE stopped sending their wines to the big magazines for review, rightfully asserting (in this writer's opinion) that the assignment of numbers to wine is both absurd and detrimental. Christophe, a self described 'hipster,' and former score junkie, is very vocal on the subject on the Netterwebs: check out his delightfully bizarre Xtranormal video on the subject here (careful, it is frakkin' NSFW). This brand is the culmination of his philosophy, and is unabashed in its message.
In addition to the heretical appeal, these wines are also pretty drinkable, both displaying those cold-climate characteristics that make Washington State wines so appealing. The Merlot is mouth filling and round, with lots of chocolate and raspberries on the nose, and a dark and dirty, dry, smooth-tannined finish. The Chardonnay is nice and steely, with subtle notes of pineapple and pear; though a little low in acid for my taste, it made a fine compliment to my dinner salad with balsamic and oil. Anyhow, I give them both a solid 92...
I am pretty sure these wines are new to the area, so it might be some time before they are commonly available. As I said, I got mine from Wagshal's, and I will update here as I spot them around town. If you have a good relationship with your retailer, tell him to contact Roanoke Valley Wine Company, who I believe represents the brand throughout the region. And if you try them and like them, tell a friend, as the ScoREVOLuTION will not be advertised.