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I admit that labels attract me to wines, they appeal to my artistic side, drawing me in for a closer inspection when peering into a wall of wine. From the likes of Orin Swift’s jaw-dropping label art to the ostentatious bottles of Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) Champagne, I cannot help but want to pick up the bottle. But, I know better than to dive head first into these sometimes shallow waters despite being riveted by packaging. I do succumb to the marketing when it is coupled with a region of interest or a trustworthy producer, rationalizing my purchase on more than whim while secretly falling for the artwork.

This phenomenon occurred recently, when I brought home a bottle of 2010 Sharecropper’s Cabernet Sauvignon (#154) from Owen Roe Winery. I love the decor–it is simple yet communicative, a pen and ink drawing depicting a horse pulling a barrel by cart on a sand colored poster. Nothing is overstated; the text is easy to place, like a copyist’s work on a 19th century poster, and the sun-worn and scuffed edges completes the package, which, to me, is not tacky. Another thing that this bottle had going for it in my eyes was its source—grown in Columbia Valley—my fondness for the Pacific Northwest is not feigned.

When I got home I was in a hurry to validate my purchase. I uncorked the bottle, pouring the contents quickly, to see if they mimicked the wine’s outward aesthetic. The Cabernet was painted a medium deep garnet with a light feathering of color at the edge showing its youth. I sniffed the wine after a swirl; the esters dispersed hints of black cherry, plum and dried cedar.

The first sip yielded notes that followed the nose (ripe cherry and cedar) with a lean but full body, moderate oak, medium acidity and soft drying tannins. The Pacific Northwest Cabernet did not knock my socks off but it was delightful for the price (less than twenty dollars).

I was lucky, vindicated even, purchasing a bottle of red, based mostly on the artwork and it had actually exceeded everything I was expecting. This purchase was a light gamble because I was familiar with the winery yet it could have backfired. I would love to say that I live above the influence of artwork when perusing the local wine bazaars but some of my favorite bottles cellaring now (or that are in my possession on wall racks) are adorned with beautiful works of art. I can’t even promise that I will abstain from making choices based on artwork in the future, but I recognize the peril of shopping that way and you should too!

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