Notable wine: Sherman & Hooker Shebang! Red
This red wine blend is an offbeat tribute to Civil War generals Joseph Hooker and William T. Sherman, who founded Bedrock Vineyard in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1854. The wine is a project of Morgan Twain-Peterson, son of Joel Peterson, founder of award-winning Ravenswood Winery. He bottles Shebang! in 1-liter glass jugs, which he says alert customers to the fact that the wine is affordable and unpretentious. Wine retailers K&L Wine Merchants praise Shebang! Red as “a throwback to simpler times when exceptional wine was available to just about anyone.”
Visitors to the winery learn about the jug’s label, which is a reproduction of an 1849 land grant illustration given to General Hooker, who had so many prostitutes following his troops during the Civil War that people began calling the women “hookers.”
Notable wine: Longboard Mavericks Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaking and surfing have a lot in common, says Oded Shakked, surfer and founder of Longboard Vineyards. “Both are part sport, part meditation, and both require working with, rather than against, nature,” he says. And both create a community of passionate followers.
Anyone enamored with the sunny, carefree lifestyle of surfers in pursuit of the perfect wave will enjoy a visit to Longboard Vineyards. Even though its Healdsburg, Calif., location is 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the tasting room is decked out with surfboards and photos of big waves. Its Longboard Mavericks Cabernet is named for the famed surfing spot located just south of San Francisco.
Shakked, who built surfboards before becoming a winemaker, seeks to keep the vibe at his winery authentic, often extolling visitors to “relax, it's only frickin’ wine.”
Notable wine: Mad Housewife Chardonnay
Irreverent, yes, but women — and the men who love them — are hooked by the name, retro imagery and slogan, “What’s domestic bliss without a little wine?” The label takes gentle aim at wine snobs and unruly husbands and children.
Started in 2005 by Rainier Wine Company in Seattle, the brand was specifically created for women, say co-founders Damian Davis and Mike Lynch, who wanted to take advantage of the fact that women purchase and consume more than half the wine in the U.S. Mad Housewife has a devoted fan base who go to the web site to buy T-shirts, share recipes, and share photos of themselves enjoying the wine.
Notable wine: It’s My Fault Red Table Wine
Back in 2006, Pacific Star Winery, located on California’s north coast, learned that part of the infamous San Andreas Fault runs directly under its wine cellar. Owner and winemaker Sally Ottoson had always promoted her winery’s breathtaking location on an oceanside cliff as an unexpected place to try new wines. The fault added another dimension to her marketing. Ottoson named her blend of Mendocino County syrah, charbono, and carignane grapes, “It’s My Fault,” with a map of the fault line on the label. She talks people into buying multiple bottles with the suggestion that “a bottle comes in handy when you are looking for a way to offer an apology.”
Notable Wine: Hop Kiln Big Red
Before there was wine, there was beer. Hops used in beer-making once ruled the roost in Sonoma County, Calif., and Hop Kiln winery makes hay with that heritage. About 50,000 visitors a year come to taste wine in a three-story hops dryer built in 1905 from local redwood. Hop Kiln Big Red is the most historic of the wines, named after a tall redheaded cowgirl who lived nearby back in the 1890s. Bernadette Randall, aka Big Red, “walked like a woman and rode like a man,” says winery lore. The blend of grenache, pinot noir, syrah, and malbec is a far cry from beer, but the queen of the ranchers probably wouldn’t quibble.