I was recently contacted by the folks over at Etching Expressions, a service that provides custom etched wine bottles and personalized wine labels, complete with vino in bottle.
They wanted to send me a sample, but not for the usual reason of hoping that it might turn into a formal review. No, this was to potentially counter a review of their products that I penned back in June… of 2009.
In that post, I gave high marks the top-notch bottle etching that EE pulled off (a custom job, by the way, using one of the 1WD t-shirt logos). I gave not-so-high marks to the generic plonk of a wine that they used to fill that sample bottle.
And there, my friends, was the rub.
It seems that on the Global Interwebs (and no, I will NOT stop using that dorky phrase anytime soon), reviews can get to be sticky matters. Which is one of the reasons, I think, that wine and product producers of all stripes clamor to get folks on the web with half-decent following to cover their products: these things live virtually (in both senses of the word) forever. Of course, the double-edge of the sword that cuts you is the negative review that happens to get published, which is probably why most people steer clear of the negative stuff (I myself have just found too much good shiz to tell you about lately, making the potential negative coverage a lot more difficult to justify in terms of taking up virtual real estate here on 1WD). In this case, EE couldn’t seem to get a Google search result without my less-than-stellar 2009 review popping up front-and-center; not great for brand perception on-line, I suppose.
And so I gave EE the okay to send me another product sample for possible review, and told them I’d amend the previous review to account for the fact that their vino selection had been substantially upgraded in the years between my visits. And I can tell you that I was more than pleasantly surprised by what I found both outside and inside that new sample…
You can see the face-rocking results in the embedded pics (click to embiggen), but I’d call the hand-etched job they sent me downright incredible.
The work is nearly flawless, and the pics do it little justice, actually. Well, I suppose you could include the cartoon version of me looking a bit too much like the Scooby-Doo version of Don Knotts as a flaw, though that’s certainly more my flaw than it is theirs. The choice of image was a total surprise to me, but they could have etched a picture of Mary Had A Little Lamb and if it was done half as well as my caricature I’d still be saying that it was an incredible job. Maybe just a little more Brad Pitt and a little less Don Knotts next time (nothing against the Don, he was awesome!).
Similar etchings on their website are listed as “Call for price” which where I come from always meant “expensive.” So I called, and ending up speaking to Jules Lavallee (who had initally contacted me about the 2009 review). Turns out that the wine in the bottle they can get for slightly under the SRP, and the hand-etching job they’d sent to me runs about $85; not cheap, but certainly not ridiculous, either, especially considering the artfulness that obviously went into it.
“The best part is that it’s hand etched right here in San Diego,” Jules told me. You’re not limited to picking the wines available on their website, either; “we basically can source any type of wine,” she added, “We sell the mostly our ‘house’ wine, but we can source pretty much anything, provided we can obtain the bottle that you want.” So you might not have much luck ordering up any La Tache, but being able to etch anything they can legally get their etching-glove-wearing hands on certainly opens up holiday gift idea possibilities.
Inside the bottle I received was a substantially better vino than the one they’d sent over to me in 2009:
2009 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
Price: $50 (filling up a standard 750ml etched bottle will cost around $42 at etchingexpressions.com)
Okay, I’m guessing the choice of vintage might have been a nod to the publication date of the previous not-so-stellar EE review (but maybe I’m reading a bit too much into it). Anyway, this is a Cab that’s definitely more bling than zing, I that I found myself wishing it had a bit more acidic backbone to give it structure, pop, and the tarter red plummy fruits that (in my experience) Cabs need to promise cellaring potential. But the 2009 Artemis tastes great now, full of black cherry and jammy blackberry fruit, and sporting nice aromatic complexity by way of violets, sweet oak spices, vanilla, leather, cocoa, and a heap of fresh mint and dried sage for good measure. The palate is über-sexy, a silky, textural treat with finely-grained tannins. The experience feels more like a guilty pleasure than anything else, since this wine’s leaning a tad towards the flabby side, but even though it stumbles slightly, it thankfully never quite falls over that railing.
So there you have it, a dead-sexy wine, in an artfully-designed package, hopefully rectifying three years of Internet “stickiness.” I suppose there’s a lesson here for both on-line wine critics and off-line wine brands in terms of courting the right people to whom samples should be sent, keeping in mind the fact that some SEO material can stick to you and your brand like tar (and that goes for both critics and the critiqued). But I suppose I’m just too bust taking pictures and drinking sexy Cab to overly explore that theme…