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Creature wine labels

I'm a birder, so friends are always bringing me wines with birds on the label. Most have been awful, i.e., the Little Penguin. The latest is a bottle of Smoking Loon Cabernet. I'm afraid to open it - has anyone tried it?

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  1. Have not tried the Smoking Loon. However, for a birder, you might want to look for Hellacious Acres, Howell Mtn. Zinfandel. There is a buzzard on the label. BTW, it's a very good Zin - I'm just finishing up the last of my '97 now.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Also check out Viansa. They have several labels dedicated to birds.

      1. re: TonyO

        True, but the problem is one is left with the wine inside the bottle.

        1. re: zin1953

          I've had a few bottles from Vianasa that were quite good (albeit, they were not emblazoned with our feathered friends). Their Samuele Cab Franc is a noce wine if a bit overpriced.

      2. re: Bill Hunt

        Oh, Bill . . . what about Screaming Eagle?!?!? ;^)

        1. re: zin1953

          Would guess that's *better* than "Smoking Loon!" At least the few, that I have had have been better, than I would expect SL to be. Who knows, though, I have yet to try SL.


      3. Your friends would go mad if they had access to Pelee Island Winery here in Ontario (Canada). I think every one of their labels has birds (maybe a few with other creatures).


        I doubt it's easily available outside of Ontario however. It's a decent winery.

        1 Reply
        1. re: PaulV

          We here in BC also have lots of labels and wineries dedicated to birds, some of the most wonderful wines inside the bottle too :)
          Wild Goose
          Quail's Gate
          Red Rooster (although that one has gone down in quality recently)

        2. The 2001 Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet is the one you want!

          We've got about half a case left and are going to be so so sad when it's gone.

          1. Smoking Loon is solid, inexpensive wine ($5.99-6.99 range, less at Costco). Nothing wrong with it whatsoever, but there are certainly a lot better options out there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zin1953

              Check out a great litle winery in Paos Robles called Zeniada Cellars. No birds on the new labels, but Zenaida is the name of a breed of doves.

            2. In Marlborough, New Zealand there is Huia, named after an extinct land bird (one of many there, unfortunately). They make a great Sauvignon Blanc.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Megiac

                one of my favorite wine:

                paloma merlot!

              2. Smoking Loon--not good.
                La Vielle Ferme wines are OK, with chickens on the label...in general, creatures on the label = proven marketing strategy = needs heavy marketing because it's not very good wine

                4 Replies
                1. re: kenito799

                  "in general, creatures on the label = proven marketing strategy = needs heavy marketing because it's not very good wine"

                  You're probably right though I'd be tempted to modify "creatures" with the word "cute." There are many worthy estates that feature uncute critters, in particular birds, on their lables for historical, nominal or esthetic reasons. For example,

                  - France's Domaine de la Mordorée features a woodcock on most of its labels and/or capsules (the bird migrates over the vineyards at harvest time). www.domaine-mordoree.com

                  - A partridge (*perdrix* in French) figures prominently on the labels of Burdgundy's Domaine des Perdrix. www.rodet.com (click on Our Wines > Domaine des Perdrix > one of the listed cuvées).

                  - Torresella has had gorgeous but not cute birds on their labels for decades, long before it became a fad www.terlatowines.com/imglib/lib.asp?b...

                  1. re: kenito799

                    Forgot to add that my favourite cute critter label also graces a pretty good wine (believe it or not): Émotion Sauvage ("wild emotion") by Swiss winemaker Françoise Berguer. As you might guess from the "unnatural acts" illustration, the wine is made from hybrid grapes (Seibel 7053).

                    www.artisanes-vigne-vin.ch/en/fb/vins... (scroll down to the second label)

                    1. re: carswell

                      That is great! The Swiss wine is good? Thanks for letting me know about the other wines. How is that CdP? Woodcocks are migrating into NY now, one of my favorite birds...I think this would be the go-to wine for a birder if it's any good.

                      1. re: kenito799

                        The Émotions Sauvages was fresh, fruity and sappy. Wouldn't run out to buy another bottle (not likely anyway, since ours was purchased in Switzerland) but the wine was good enough to make me wonder why no one in these parts is working with Seibel.

                        The Mordorée reds I've tried are dense, rich and quite oaky but not very refreshing. Parker loves them, of course. Young, they're not my cup of tea, though I'm cellaring a few in the hope that they'll eventually digest the oak and gain some of the elegance and suppleness I currently find lacking. Connoisseurs of Tavel rosé view the estate as the appellation's leader.

                  2. For a white I'd suggest the viognier/che.blc. Guinea Fowl from Saxenburg. Not a whole bird on there, just a feather. And the stuff inside is a nice, crisp drink.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: A Train

                      For a critter wine that not only has a cute label, but a good wine in the bottle, I would suggest you try a new French wine brand on sale in the US, Elephant on a Tightrope (www.elephantonatightrope.com) . The label features an elephant (in a beret) casually sipping a glass of wine while balancing on a tightrope. The brand's two wines from an estate in the Languedoc region, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay are a good value. The Cabernet is a robust, but easy-to-drink wine with the flavors of blackberries and cassis. The Chardonnay is fruity and floral. They both retail at under $10 a bottle and are well worth it.

                    2. critter wines are a major marketing success. you can check out renwood, which has a bird on the bottle, and also clos la chance hummingbird series. both reasonably priced and decent drinking. covey run isn't bad either. paraduxx (from duckhorn) isn't my cup of tea, but is popular. as is duckhorn, but considerably more expensive.

                      i'd re-gift the smoking loon. :)

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        You know, when I first commented on this thread, I had not thought of the bird on Renwood, even though I've been drinking most of their wines for many vintages. Of course there is a bird on the label, but why did I not think of it?!?

                        Good call,

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          And for "critters," I have not seen mention of Toad Hollow, or Frog's Leap. Nor, Stag's Leap... the list gets longer.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            i was sticking with the bird theme.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              And I support that, as it was the OP's original theme, being a "birder."


                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                i know i mention paloma already but has anyone meniton:

                                screaming eagle :)
                                whispering dove
                                huia (new zealand)

                          2. Was corresponding with a wino friend today, and he mentioned one. I looked back over this thread, just to make sure that someone had not already mentioned it, and I had forgotten. Doesn't seem so: Rex Goliath-47 lb. Rooster (Rooster on the label). They did a nice PN, and a decent Cab and Chard, all for less than US$12/btl. Haven't seen it recently, but wino friend just bought some in clearance in TX, so it's still, or was, out there.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Marquis Philips has what I think they call a "roogle" (some sort of fantasy creature); have not had any since the break up between the ownership but always found these wines to be of very good quaffing-type value. Renwood used to be a favorite of mine although I've not had any for quite a while.

                            2. The Wall Street Journal wine couple did a little piece on Critter wines a couple of years ago, and it's kind of a running joke. Their conclusion was...critter=bad or at least simple.

                              Of course there are exceptions to every rule. But in this case...maybe poached pears?

                              1. What about Ravenswood? They make a few good Zins.

                                1. I liked Smoking Loon just fine--and Rex Goliath, too, the wine of the godzilla rooster. Also Mionetto vino novello (baby chicks) and several others.
                                  As for the WSJ's "critter = bad"--if that is the conclusion the writer reached, some perspective--lots, actually--is required. First, they write for WSJ readers--and theirselections show it. Rarely do they mention anything under $50 a bottle. And not long ago they discoursed rapturously about a bottle that provided a much-longed-for moment of incandescence. Fine--but it vost $1700 a bottle.

                                  There are lots of labels out now that seemed to have been created to jump on the critter bandwagon, and here the sweeping "critter = bad" is a safer conclusion, because crittrs have been on labels since long before "critter WINES" were dreamt of. I've enjoyed Frog's Leap, ancho Zabaco (with its dancing bull) ,Toasted Head (fire-breathing bear), Wild Horse, Firesteed and Duckhorn, among others.

                                  In short "critter = bad" belongs with "French = good."

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: billmarsano

                                    Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule, and that was made quite clear by WSJ, but if you stroll down the grocery aisle, starting w/ Yellow Tail, you'll find that steering clear of the critters is a reasonable strategy.

                                    As to your $50 comment, you are absolutely not paying attention. The most common WSJ wine review article would be something like "American Chard under $20". Most of the wines they review are in that price range, with only the occasional foray into vintage champagne or first growths.

                                    Although it is always dangerous to make generalizations, because you can always be proved wrong, generalizations can be very helpful to casual wine drinkers. Frankly, I just can't remember the name of the fabulous Burgundy I read about 6 minutes ago. However, I CAN remember generalizations like "Spanish reds are good values" , "American Chardonnay is unlikely to be good in my price range" and "avoid the critters".