Label Love

Nothing says ‘drink me’ like a puppy or pony

I’m no oenephile. Don’t get me wrong, I like wine, but its niceties are lost on me, perhaps because in my college years my idea of “good wine” was strawberry Boones Farm, preferably after it had sat in the freezer long enough to give it a certain Slurpee-like texture.

I’m still that chick who, when asked what I’d like to drink at an elegant restaurant, responds, “Give me your cheap red.”

Still, there are some occasions when I’m in charge of the beverages, and I recognize my go-to drink of whiskey is not what others want to imbibe. So I resort to my mental wine-buying flow chart: Is it under $15? Does it have a cute label? And finally, does the description make it sound drinkable? Extra points if the wine is actually under $10 and more points for a screw cap because it’s likely I will forget a corkscrew.

My logic goes something like this: I’m not going to spend a bunch of money on something I don’t appreciate, so let’s keep it cheap. I like puppies. I like ponies. Clearly the winemaker who put a cute horse or a cartoon dog on the label and I have something in common. Ergo, I will like the wine.

As it turns out, I’m not that far off: Research by Cornell University professor Brian Wansink shows that wine drinkers are influenced by the labels. For example, drinkers rated a Charles Shaw (aka Two-Buck Chuck) wine higher when they were told it was from Noah’s Winery in California than they did when told that same winery was in North Dakota.

Speaking of Two-Buck Chuck, let’s add to my flowchart the caveat that I also rate “independent” and “buy local(ish)” high on my wine scale. I say local(ish) because our area wines aren’t as focused on puppies and ponies as I am. Don’t get me wrong — my more wine-oriented friends love King Estate, and Sweet Cheeks gets the Portlandia award for putting a bird on it, but my default wine, despite its lack of screwtop, is 14 Hands Hot to Trot red blend  ($14) from Washington’s Columbia Valley — it’s got wild horses on the label, a clever name and I can afford it. The wine is described as “aromas of cherry, red currant and tea. Flavors of ripe berries and stone fruits.” Maybe it’s my Boones Farm thing, or maybe it’s actually a good wine, but it had me at berries and cherries.

On the puppy side of things, Salem’s Honeywood Winery has a line of Dog Gone Wines with names like “Retriever Riesling” ($14) and “Basset Hound Blackberry” ($12).

I’m more of a pitbull than a poodle girl, but when the “Poodle Pinot Noir” ($24) has a “snobby taste and a furry flavor,” I get a little tempted to exceed my price limit, especially since the Dog Gone Wines sales are donated to animal rescues. F