Who hasn’t chosen a bottle of vino based largely on the label design?? When faced with a wall of wine at the local liquor store and not much of a clue – I certainly have.
This past weekend Sir James and I took a leisurely drive to the U.S.-Canada border to witness the thundering cascades of Niagara Falls. While planning our sojourn to the watery natural wonder, we were recommended a visit to the beautiful wine region just beyond the Canadian side of the Falls. Our only quandary was which of the plethora of wineries to visit during our stay!
Fortunately we were just in time to enjoy Sip and Sizzle, an initiative by the Wineries of Niagara On The Lake that provided the perfect introduction to many of the local wineries, offering a taste of their tipple enhanced with a flavorful bite as part of the month long event.
Sitting back, sipping a sauv blanc overlooking the vines I found inspiration and a chance to indulge my love of design through winery logos and wine label designs. I got to thinking about how each reflected the overall experience of the winery I was in and not just the glass in my hand. I contemplated how the logo, the label and even the bottle itself captured the winemaker and the property too. Here are a selection of the weekend’s winery experiences and the wine label designs to match.
An Italian experience
Looking down the tree lined driveway of Two Sisters Estate there is no doubting that the brand is all about grandeur and luxury. The modern, traditional Italianate stylings of their vineyard is echoed through the architecture and interiors, right down to the wine labels and their Sip and Sizzle pairing: a 2012 Cabernet Franc accompanied by Sicilian sausage with chickpea and farro salad. The front doors are embellished with gold door handles featuring the Two Sisters’ logo, a modern mark illustrating two elegant women, whose flowing tresses are entwined in a grape vine. The wine labels are decorated with similar organic flourishes that echo rococo motifs in classic combinations of black, white and gold. Two Sisters receive a gold star from me when it comes to creating an all round experience.
Icewine, a regional signature
Icewine is a dessert wine produced by allowing grapes to freeze on the vine at a sustained temperature of -8°C or below. Grapes are hand-picked and pressed during the frigid night so the water in the grapes remains ice and small batches of sugary juices can be extracted. Germany and Canada are the two largest icewine producers in the world, with Canada’s share coming mostly from Ontario. It is interesting to compare icewine packaging between wineries and how one idea can be expressed different ways. Lailey represent their cold weather product lines with subtle, matt textured bottles evoking the appearance of a frosted grape. The wine labels feature the Lailey signature orange flower, and are consistent with the modern, minimalist aesthetic of the tasting room architecture and interiors.
Charmed I was not
Chateau Des Charmes chose the jagged white look of a snow capped peak or iceberg to set the scene for their icewine. This packaging perfectly befits the product. I didn’t need to get close enough to read the text, I knew I was looking at their icewine range from across the room. It is a shame that “icey” is also the term I would use to describe the property that felt cold and commercial, exacerbated by the fact it seemed to be all but empty when we arrived. A highly commended to the icewine packaging, however overall there was no consistency in experience or in the labeling of countless product lines, albeit a logo that depicts the property with mountains in the background. What mountains??
Ravine Vineyard is awarded the trendiest winery for its rustic modern vibe. It is obvious that this farming family have their finger on the pulse with their simple and contemporary, yet warm, homey style. It begins with the old truck elegantly rusting in a neat garden bed at the entrance to the vineyard, right down to their restaurant and event space, which is sure to be a hit with brides and grooms-to-be. Here we sipped 2014 Sand and Gravel York Road, and nibbled pork souvlaki with red pepper tzatziki, while nestled on an intimate brick terrace with a vineyard outlook. Their logo reflects the trendy-country atmosphere with one clean, consistent san serif type. Contrast between un-spaced words is provided by varying the weight of the typeface, and a worn texture reflects the rustic feel.
A sense of humour
Unfortunately you will need one at Maleta. This was one of our last experiences of the day and coming into view of the tasting room I can say we almost aborted the mission. Except that I really had a hankering for the Laotian Spring Roll they were pairing with their 2008 Riesling, we might have moved on. Presentation isn’t Maleta’s strong suit. It is obvious from our first view of the winery that it’s a family business with considerably less budget than others in the region. From the variations of the logo I saw around the property, I would say it has exchanged hands a few times as well. While I wouldn’t recommend or return to Maleta Winery, I was impressed enough by their riesling to bring home a bottle, and not just because of their witty, cubist inspired “Grape Brain” label.
If you are heading Niagara way, I recommend taking a look at Wineries of Niagara on the Lake for touring pass events like Sip and Sizzle.