Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wine Blogging Wednesday

Derrick at Obsession With Food gives the challenge for this Wine Blogging Wednesday. I'm very excited about this one because this will be my first WBW. The challenge is to pick a bottle of wine based only on the wine label. The wine that I have chosen comes from a Finger Lakes winery known for its labels and the story behind the winery and its labels is as interesting as the wine itself. I just happened to find myself at Bully Hill winery (see my winery report here) the weekend after this WBW challenge was announced. First I'll tell you about the wine I chose and then (as Paul Harvey says), I 'll tell you the rest of the story.

The way I chose this wine was to stand about 20 feet away from the wall of 40 wines that Bully Hill has for sale and grab the one that caught my eye first. That wine was Ravat 51, also known as Vignoles. The label depicts a pineapple with red flowers blooming out of it in a straw colored background. The red flowers first caught my eye and then the pineapple, and the contrast was intriguing. The wine has a straw or pale yellow color, with floral and citrus scents. The wine starts with a short touch of honey sweetness and quickly erupts into flavors of pineapple (the label does not lie), tangerine, grapefruit, and even ripe peach with a tangy acidity at the finish. It is a sweet wine, but the citrus and acidity cuts the sweetness very quickly. I suppose some would call this a dessert wine, but I think it would be a refreshing summer wine to sip on the deck. I believe that this label was created by the founder of the winery, Walter S. Taylor, a talented artist as well as winemaker. He is responsible for most of the artwork that graces Bully Hill wine labels. Most of you in the Finger Lakes are familiar with it, but for those of you who don't know, here is Walter's very interesting story.

Walter's forebearers started making wine on Bully Hill near Hammondsport NY in the 1880's. Over the next 80 years, the Taylor Wine Company grew to become one of the most successful wine companies in the United States. While employed as an executive at the now huge corporation, Walter bought back the original Bully Hill estate in 1958. This will become important later in the story. Walter did not agree with the direction that the Taylor Wine Co. Board of Directors were taking the company and he made his feelings well-known. Walter, even though he was the grand-son of the founder, was then fired from the company in 1970. So Walter started his own wine company on the original Bully Hill estate that he had bought back in 1958, focusing on French-American hybrid grapes. On the labels of his new wines, he printed that his wines were produced by Walter S. Taylor at the Original Taylor Estate. Well, Taylor Wine Co. objected to this and sued Walter for trademark infringement. Well, Walter used the lawsuit as a publicity opportunity and made a huge outcry that they were preventing him from using his own name. Well, the court ruled in favor of Taylor Wine Co. and ordered Walter to remove his name from his wine labels. But he did not make new labels. Instead, the story goes that he hired several hundred local college kids to come to his winery, gave them all black markers, and had them black out the name Taylor on all the wine labels. This gave Walter even more publicity, but it did not sit well with Taylor Wine Co., who then sued him again for not complying with the spirit of the court order to remove his name. Then, by the time the new lawsuit made it to court, the Coca-Cola company had bought out Taylor Wine Company in 1977 and Walter was David versus Goliath. The legend goes that Walter harnessed a manure spreader to his goat named "Guilt Free" with a banner that said "They Got My Heritage, But They Couldn't Get My Goat" and proceeded to march the several miles into town. Of course Coca-Cola's superior legal power won the battle, but not the war, as Walter continued to make wine and design his own labels (without Taylor on them). Eventually, Coca-Cola sold Taylor Wine Co. to Seagram and Taylor Wine Company faded away. Walter is gone now, but his legacy at Bully Hill is still going strong. Boy, that story is a Hollywood script just waiting to be written. Sideways move over. To see the many other interesting Bully Hill wine labels, click here


WaterintoWino said...

I'll have to check their wines out. Seen them at my "when I'm visiting family" liquor store in western new york. There's just sometthing I love in supporting ny state wines and giving them a chance, even the local varietals.

Jennifer said...

Ah, this was a label worth waiting for! Nice write up too!

Finger Lakes Weekend Wino said...

waterintowino, Definitely check them out. They've got about 40 wines, so they've got something for everyone. And if you get a chance, Bully Hill is a real fun place to visit.

Jenn, I won't tell anyone about you and Lenn's wine label conspiracy. I hope I don't hear about "LabelGate", and you both getting kickbacks from Lucky Country. LOL