I have been known to select wines because I liked the label, although that is not my only criterion. This process began because when I first started drinking wine, I would study the label information to learn a bit about the wine. However, as time passed, I found that the art on a label also conveyed something to me about what the producer wanted to say about her or his wine. I have found–more often than not–that there is a connection with that process and the wines I like.
Take Toad Hollow’s Katrina Recovery Merlot for example. Todd Williams co-founded the winery along with Rod Strong. Williams had previously lived in New Orleans, and Biloxi and had friends on the Gulf Coast across Mississippi and Louisiana. I found this bottle of 2001 merlot with its surprisingly current (in 2005) label in Oxford’s best wine store: Star Wine and Spirits. The story goes that Williams and his partner took almost 2,000 cases of merlot from 2001 and created a label of the famous ‘toad’ on the bottles, standing in water wearing a tool belt, hard hat, and hammer with the words PROCEEDS TO GULF COAST SURVIVOR RELIEF on the front. On the back, it read:
From Plaquemines Parish to New Orleans and from Kenner to Biloxi – devastation! But three hundred years of history and culture cannot be wiped out by one hurricane. Please help the Gulf Coast recover. All winery proceeds to be donated to Gulf Coast Charities.WWW.TOADHOLLOW.COM
Hurricane Katrina was my baptism into living in hurricane territory. While we had some side effects up here in the form of high wind and heavy rain, primarily our role as a community was to provide relief. So yes, I was one of those fortunate people who scored a bottle of Recovery Merlot–which was indeed good–before they sold out all cases in less than 2 weeks. Williams and Strong sold it at cost and distributed $120,000 to school districts in St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans and Waveland and Bay St. Louis in Mississippi–those areas with the greatest devastation. In October 2005, I would go spend a week on the Mississippi Gulf Coast working disaster relief at the recovery centers from Poplarville, Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs. This empty bottle. has been sitting on a little blue shelf attached to the old cabinets since 2005. Right now, it is perched on the shelf in my bedroom with 3 empty bottles of South African wines I loved.
Phil Galatas, Slidell, LA artist, painted Resurrection at some point after Hurricane Katrina. It was printed as limited edition posters in 2007 and placed as the label on a 2005 Reserve Merlot from Sonoma County, vinted and bottled by Granite Ridge, Healdsburg, CA. A portion of the proceeds went to local charities. Partly, I was intrigued by the artwork of the label, partly by it is merlot, which I typically prefer although of late I have become a pinot noir fan and nothing beats Bear Flag Zinfandel.
The label has faded a bit, but it, too, perched on that little blue shelf on the old cabinet side. During the pack-up for the Great 2021 Kitchen Make-Over, I vowed to clear out, as I have been doing since retirement. There were a few wine bottles that have adorned a shelf here and there–they make great book-ends!–but I have also tossed plenty of them…even when I liked the label. I think it might have something to do with cleaning out Mom and Dad’s house, and of late, asking myself “Now why have I kept this all these years?”
These will not be going back up in the new kitchen. Rather like the resurrection post-Katrina, my new kitchen will reflect new realities and changes. It has been 16 years this month since Katrina introduced me to a different reality. Time to see what is next.