What do you get when you combine a team of creatives, engineers and entrepreneurs who share a common passion for wine? A company that thinks outside the box - or barrel as the case may be! Barrel + Ink was conceived of in 2011 by MD/PhD student turned winemaker Corey Miller who describes this innovative upstart as a place where "wine meets design."Based in San Francisco, Barrel + Ink provides a unique canvas on which iconic, award-winning winemakers, designers and artists can connect and produce something special. The wines produced are not bound by a vineyard, label, region or style and are intended to showcase the winemaker's artistic license. In the same manner, each featured artist is entrusted with interpreting the wine through its label art, using his or her preferred medium. Now on their fourth release, the company has already featured collaborations between such well-known winemakers as Pax Mahle (Wind Gap, Pax), Helen Keplinger (Keplinger Wines) and Aaron Pott (Pott Wine) paired with artists including Lab Partners, Erik Marinovich and Invisible Creature. Each monthly collaboration is featured on the Barrel + Ink website where it can be purchased until each limited release sells out.I recently had the pleasure of sampling Barrel + Ink's latest release, the 2014 Interessante White Blend ($28) from California, a collaboration between winemaker Andy Erickson and lettering artist, Jessica Hische named for its complex and "interesting" aromas and flavors. Erickson is best known for his work on iconic California wines including Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Staglin in addition to consulting and producing his own wine labels, Favia and Leviathan which he co-founded with his wife, viticulturalist Annie Favia. Hische counts Director Wes Anderson and Writer Dave Eggers among her clients in addition to well-known household brands including Penguin Books, American Express, Target and Nike.My wine shipment arrived in a smart-looking box, embellished with the Barrel + Ink logo. The stylishly packed contents included two 750mL bottles of the 2014 Interessante White Blend (respectively labeled "Cheers Now" and "Cheers Later") as well as artfully printed note cards featuring information on the winemaker, artist and wine tucked neatly into a black sleeve. Hische's vivid green label, intended to represent the natural, rustic vineyard terrain and vibrancy of the wine, beckoned from the box, featuring the wine's name elaborately illustrated in vibrant tones of green and gold with beautiful metallic accents. But while the presentation was impressive, would the wine hold up in the glass?
“The Viognier gives you that honeysuckle, beeswax character. The Sauvignon Blanc–lifted floral notes, lime zest, and citrus. The Chardonnay gives you that nuttiness, and golden character. The Roussanne gives you earthiness.” - Andy Erickson, Winemaker
I'm happy to report this bright, citrusy, complex white is delightful! Fermented in a combination of stainless steel, French oak and concrete eggs, this unique blend of 35% Viognier, 34% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Semillon, 7% Chardonnay and 2% Roussanne displayed fragrant aromas of white flowers, honey, pear and citrus which followed through on the palate along with a lovely, lush mouthfeel, bright acidity and lengthy vanilla and spice-tinged finish. While best known for his iconic reds, Erickson's prowess with white wines is clearly evident and the synergy between winemaker and artist is also spot on. The label is a beautiful and accurate visual representation of the wine in the bottle.Barrel + Ink represents a unique approach to enjoying wine by bringing talented winemakers and artists together and incorporating visual aesthetics as part of the vinous experience. The 2014 Interessante White Blend is a wonderful representation of this process and a thoroughly enjoyable wine. I look forward to future collaborations from this creative team and for more information on Barrel + Ink, please click here.