Thursday, January 26, 2012

History of the Artist Series Quest

I was skimming my blog and realized I haven’t posted much on my Artist Series Quest in quite some time. One might think I haven’t been actively collecting – but one would be wrong. I have about 20 labels already taken off, with another…at least 30 ready to be taken off. But my inability to finish projects is not the point of this post- it’s to talk about the reason for my affection towards “artist series wines”.

When I was .. well, we’ll say a bit younger.. I worked a restaurant that had an excellent wine list and the owners were committed to their staff knowing about wine so we often had the opportunity to taste wines before a shift, or if a table wanted to give us a glass, we could share a little bit with them. It was a wonderful kick start to my wine knowledge – but also propelled my palate quickly past the “entry” level wines, thus I’ve always had a taste for wines that are more expensive than my pocketbook would like. One of the wines I learned about was the Kenwood Artist Series. I had mentioned it in another post, but since then the link has changed, so I’ll tell the story now:

In 1974 Kenwood released a wine (what is now their Artist Series) with a drawing of a naked lady on it. It was rejected by the ATF because it was “obscene”. They then submitted a new label, but with a tongue in cheek twist-it was the same label but with a skeleton where the lady was. It was also rejected. So, finally in 1975 they released the “Hillside” label- the same label, just with no lady, no skeleton. (no…fun). Times changed and in 1994 they released the same “Naked Lady” label – the originally rejected one – and it was accepted! Here’s a picture of the 1994 label, along with a very grainy picture I took at the Kenwood winery earlier this month of the 3 labels:

This was a very interesting story with a nice twist of sex, art, and booze. (while at the winery we also picked up 2 free posters; one of which was indeed, the 1994 label!) Times have certainly changed - you can find all sorts of provacative labels now! The best part about the Kenwood Artist Series is the wine is always great and ages well. So, I decided to try other wines with art-based labels -  typically if a new "artistic" label is released for a bottle, it's because the wine is special, whereas if it's just mass printed year after year, it may or may not be special.   I've liked most, if not all, of the wines with a true unique-to-the-vintage "artist series" label, thus, the Artist Series Quest was born! Currently my quest is focused on the Gundlach Bundschu artist series - a bit pricey, but I'm on the lookout for a deal....