You may have heard the analogy that wine is an art form and the winemaker, very much like an artist, creates a work of art by blending. Instead of colors, though, the winemaker uses the different flavor profiles of grapes.
This is the philosophy of Artiste Winery and its winemaker, Bion Rice.The Santa Ynez, California winery has created aniche by combining art and wine. The tasting room itself is a miniature artist’s gallery and customers can even create their own label which will be affixed to the wines they purchase.
But Bion, emulating Mouton Rothschild, commissions art works from a variety of contemporary impressionist artists, which he then uses as an inspiration to craft a wine based on the work of art.
Mind you, it won’t be easy to find these wines in your local wine store. There are only 500 cases made of each artist wine, so going online may be your only way.
I was fortunate to receive 2 bottles from Mary Stubblefield, the winery’s Membership Coordinator, who was also a participant in our Provence Wine Tour 2 years ago. Both wines are no longer available but my following description is indicative of what to expect from current and future bottles.First, the labels are gorgeous. I happen to love Impressionist art but I remember my own advice to never buy a wine because of the label.So you’ll have to trust me here. The first wine I tasted was called Entrée, because the artist, James Paul Brown, depicted a doorway on the label. The wine was a blend of 4 grapes: Cabernet Franc (34%), Tempranillo (33%), Syrah (17%) and Grenache (16%). Those last 3 grapes gave the wine a fruit-forward juiciness which, according to the winemaker, will be optimal until 2020.
The 2nd wine, Il Giardino, was based on a painting by Steven Quartly.The name of the painting inspired winemaker Bion to craft a Chianti-themed wine with a 60/40 blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also from the 2015 vintage, this wine was more austere than Entrée. Both were aggressively fruit-forward, with a deep red color.
Although I haven’t visited the winery, it seems very popular with those who have been there, both because of the ambiance and the wines. Among otherattractions, the winery offers a waxing party where you can rewax the bottles you have opened.
One final note: Bion is a big proponent of blending. All his wines are blends since he believes that the winemaker’s artistry can create a wine that surpasses its component grapes. He seems to be on a winning path.