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Francis Sanders
February 26, 2010 | Francis Sanders

When a “Corked” bottle is a good thing…

The first two Mira Luna bottlings totally integrated with our comic strip are now available, and they’re both drinking and looking fine. Creative Director Dave Griffin, (Basement Boy to the cognoscenti), and myself have been regularly polluting cyberspace since 2008, but started the current continuity, in embryonic form, back in 2006. While poking fun at the wine industry – easy enough to do - the strip chronicles the staff adventures of fictitious Russian River Valley cult winery, Isinglas Cellars.


CAL914, $12.99 Mira Luna, Crusher & Stemmer Red, California, is a field blend that features the Isinglas dogs on the label. We bottled this in Western Sonoma after we modified-for-the-better an existing bottle blend. My mid-June notes on the base wine, originally a Bordeaux blend follow: “looks less than attractive; over-ripe red/brown berry, pepper, leathery, stewed vegetables - some dimension in the nose; lots in the mouth - tangy nose berries from nose - sort of cranberry, herbaceous, pepper, black tea; almost OK weight, almost OK structure, too alcoholic, nice texture”

By mid-September, our version, at the time about 13% Syrah to improve color and temper the herbaceous and over-ripe elements, was on its way:” bit murky deep red; touch of oxidation, stewed fruit, leather, vanilla, plums and red berry nose - pretty complex! pleasant, some acid-driven vif, adequate tannins, light-to-medium-bodied brown and red berry fruit, short finish though”
The final January release, buttressed with other material like Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Primitivo, improved the color, unearthed more ripe fruit aromas and flavors, added structure, balance, and lengthened the finish. All of these different vintage and varietal components throughout the process eliminated any legal appellation beyond California and vintage on the label, so Crusher & Stemmer Red evolved from a Bordeaux blend to a field blend. Since 1997 I have been bottling a successful non-vintage field blend as Backyard Red for a partner wine company, for G&W we required a new name. The “field blendish” name came since the Isinglas dogs were already named for winemaking equipment, so the strip tie-in was perfect for this new red.

Using our Mira Luna label allowed us to take advantage of our cast’s full-moon-crazy behavior.

Originally the dogs were to function as a Greek chorus in the strip, but they developed personalities of their own. Crusher, the Chihuahua, drawn in a Ren Hoek less realistic style (I served my Spumco time) feels he’s the baddest banger on the planet, and thinks in Cheech Marin’s voice. Stemmer, the French poodle, thinks he’s Cary Grant in “To Catch a Thief”, with Maurice Chevalier’s voice.

SON573, $17.99 2009 Mira Luna, Tough Day Chardonnay, features Isinglas Tasting Room Manager and all around Uber-Babe (sorry KP, you’ve been relegated to Garbo status), Chenin Meunier. Again, we used our Mira Luna label, but hedged our bets – we wanted a more timeless label concept - one that would not live and die only with the strip. We continued to work in black and white as essentially we’re producing a variation on a newspaper strip.

Chenin and her twin sister Rose (no fan boy fantasies from this creative team) are clearly the favorite characters of the straight male demographic, as BB has spent plenty of research time with Gil Elvgren and Alberto Vargas. Originally the Chenin label was a 100% swipe from, episode 2, but, strictly in the name of culture, we homaged the still of Jean Peters in the bathtub from Sam Fuller’s classic “Pickup on South Street”, coincidentally enough, screened at January’s Noir City 8, program 3. Anticipating potential label approval difficulties and delays if we drew a prude as a clerk at the TTB, we changed the image to a profile.

The bottling occurred at one of the greatest estates in Carneros, tweaking Sonoma Carneros Chardonnay fruit with a touch of Muscat for more accessibility. My mid -

October notes follow: “tank-sample needs-to-settle look, light copper; difficult to identify aromas and flavors at this stage; difficult-to-find tropical fruits, figs/dates/nuts, toast, under the yeast nose”.
By late October, we felt we had nailed it “same visual; finally, a nose! floral golden delicious apple, tropical fruits; adequate apples, acidity and heft, tropical fruit notes - mango & kiwi.”

By the February release we had a Chardonnay exhibiting pristine varietal fruit proudly framed in Sonoma Carneros terroir, accessible to a rank beginner while providing value to the most jaded connoisseur.

Geerlings & Wade’s Mira Luna, “Corked” the comic wines – so delicious they don’t need to take themselves seriously.

Time Posted: Feb 26, 2010 at 11:31 AM
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