One of the things that distinguishes liberals from conservatives, to my way of thinking, is that the former have well-advanced senses of humor and the latter do not. This gives an advantage to single-issue zealots who use a mantra and repeat it. But there seems to be a shift on the horizon, at least in one facet of government, and perhaps it bodes well for all of us for the future.
Naming wines is not like naming babies, or race horses, or yachts. The government has had a hand in approving labels, both the art and the letters, and any government that would drape blue cloth over the bare breasts of a statue inside a government building would strike even more fiercely at a wine label.
Winemakers, having a certain freeness of spirit, always have tested the federal government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau on labels of proprietary wines. Double-entendres in the name of the wine, label art that tested the eyesight and the First Amendment limitations of examiners. Spending time with winemakers over the years has brought wonderful stories of names and pictures that failed to pass muster. This does not deal with grape names. From Chardonnay to Norton, from Syrah to Seyval Blanc, the grape names are sacred, or as sacred as they can be.
A couple of California wineries have pushed the envelope a little. A three-grape blend was named Menage a Trois, and the winery received permission. And there’s a winery named Folie a Deux. And while not at all racy, an Oklahoma winery we knew was called Dos Okies, a fine word play on the ownership of the place and the Mexican beer of similar name.
But the Naked Winery, of Hood River, Ore., which makes wines with both Oregon and Washington grapes, brought some to town for a recent tasting. The wines on display, priced between $7 and $12, with most at the lower end, included Naked Pinot Gris, Foreplay Chardonnay (almost a rhyme), Naughty Chardonnay, Naked Merlot, Vixen Syrah, Missionary Cabernet Sauvignon and Penetration Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines were generally good, especially the Pinot Gris, crisp and with a lot of minerals to balance the citrus. And the Cabernet Sauvignon Missionary, which displayed a great deal of fruit and a long finish for a young wine. While Penetration should have considerable depth, it did not.
A few other out-of-the-ordinary names on display included a nifty word play on fraternity/sorority life, the bottle closure and the famous wine-making county. Screw Kappa Nappa offered Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. And Zen of Zin may leave one thinking while drinking.
Obviously, these names have been okayed by the Tax and Trade Bureau, which seems to have grown up a little. After all, if you expect people to drink not only responsibly but also light-heartedly. They sometimes need a little prodding.