I’ve always loved Mouton labels, how every vintage is adorned with a new piece of artwork, the antithesis of the traditional, boring Bordeaux label. Then a few days ago at a wine bar, I was given a taste of a red blend with a hilarious label — a cocktail napkin with a sardonic note handwritten on it. I loved the label, but unfortunately the wine was below average. I try hard not to buy wine because of the label, to rise above hype and aesthetics, to be “that guy” who can tell what’s in the bottle without looking at it. Yeah right. Which wine sells is about 90% marketing. We all know that. But it’s unfair, and unwise, to hold good marketing against a wine, so I’m making a concerted effort to stop judging cool labels (and the people who keep pointing them out to me) until I’ve tasted what’s inside the bottle. Damn good thing. The 2016 Intrinsic Red Blend is the best of both worlds: exceedingly well-marketed, and also a truly excellent wine.
I’ll admit that I’m not very familiar with street art, but at least enough so that I’ve stopped thinking of it entirely as vandalism. There are some massive concrete grain silos, about twenty of them, that are each a good 300+ feet high and stand adjoined only a few miles from my home on Interstate 80. They once bore a beautiful mural, which helped to disguise the fact that they obscured drivers’ views of Omaha’s regrettably diminutive skyline, but the city decided — and I’m not making this up, that it didn’t want to pay to clean the mural anymore, so they painted over it in white. Bastards. I suppose it could have something to do with the fact that someone climbed to the top and painted “F*ck Trump” sans the asterisk about a year ago, our mayor being an ardent supporter, but the city has denied that as their source of motivation. Meanwhile, I’ve come to think that perhaps street art, in all its many forms, has merit, and what Zimer, the artist who painted the work for the Intrinsic labels has created, certainly reinforces my belief.
A blend of 52% Cabernet Franc and 44% Malbec, the meager balance composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (3%) and Merlot (1%), winemaker Juan Munoz-Oca demonstrates real creativity not only with the grapes that he selected, but also in how he utilizes them, aging the two primary varietals on the skins of the other, i.e. the Malbec juice aging on the Cab Franc skins, and visa versa, which serves to pleasantly layer the wine. Whatever motivates this artist’s soul I couldn’t say, but the results are noteworthy. A beautifully expressive and distinctly Washington State bouquet teeming with blue notes leads into a wine that is balanced and flavorful, with blue and black fruits, candied berry flavors, hints of refined leather, and the faintest hints of walnut all mingling in harmony. I’ve always thought of the Intrinsic Cab Sauv as a bold-yet-smooth, easy-drinking wine, but now the blend takes those qualities to a whole new level. Dainty tannins linger on the finish. Ready to drink now, it wouldn’t shock me if this aged well, but why wait, especially at such a modest price point?
Wine is art. And art, such as traditional painting or less traditional street art, is also art. Its unfortunately rare how infrequently the two are married. But motivated by this understanding, the Intrinsic Wine Company has brought the two together in beautiful unison, and they’re helping the rest of us — me at least, to understand it as well. This beautiful label isn’t done justice by my photographs, nor is the wine done justice by my tasting notes, though I hope perhaps that what I’ve been able to provide you here is enough to motivate you to try this wine for yourself. As always, when you do, please let me know what you think.
Cheers to the art the motivates us,