David Weinschel, co-owner of Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery is an avid art collector. He owns a couple of Picassos and has occasionally brought them out to play at the winery, displaying them in the tasting room. So, perhaps it was no surprise that when it came time to designing and selecting labels for Bluemont Station wine in 2022, he took the creative route.
“Ten years earlier I had commissioned an oil painting by the then Waterford-based Loudoun artist Kevin Chadwick. It was an Art Deco portrait of a woman with red grapes for hair, done in the style of the great Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka.”
Weinschel loved the painting so much he took it down from the wall, had it scanned to label size and it now graces the bottle of Bluemont Station’s superb Vidal Blanc, adding a flamboyant Art Deco flourish to the bottle that seems to give the wine itself an extra zing.
“If there is an art to winemaking, why not let the label be the canvas,” Weinschel said, adding that sales of the Vidal Blanc had increased because of the label.
“People love buying it for gifts.”
While no one likes to think they judge a book by the cover, the label on a bottle of wine is hugely important to selling and branding the product. In Loudoun we are fortunate that art, such an important part of the culture of the county, is incorporated into the wine labels at several vineyards.
“I’ve been a collector of fine wines my whole life and I used to think I don’t care what the label looks like,” said Jennifer McCloud, owner of Chrysalis Vineyards at the Ag District in Middleburg. “But who am I kidding? A label can be an attractive and engaging visual cue to help customers make a decision.”
McCloud took a unique route when she recently revamped the distinctive Chrysalis fairy butterfly logo the winery is known for: she crowd-sourced designs via the website Design Crowd.
“I was amazed. I sent out what I was looking for and had about 300 responses,” she said. “They were incredible.”
Over in Hillsboro, 868 Estate Vineyards has combined the art of wine with actual art in two separate projects. The sweet wine series, Canvas White, Canvas Pink and Canvas Red, comes with a blank label on which anyone who buys a bottle can paint or draw their own design.
The tasting room meanwhile has a rotating art show every three months and any artist whose work appears in that show is eligible to submit a design for one of the winery’s Reserve labels.
“We do between two and three Reserve wines a year and the art we have selected for those labels over the past 12 years when the concept began is quite extraordinary,” said Nancy Deliso, one of the owners of 868.
Just minutes from 868, Breaux Vineyards is known for the red crawfish and subtle fleur-de-lis logo on its labels. The Breaux family, pioneers of the Loudoun wine industry, have Cajun roots and the crawfish and fleur-de-lis are iconic representations of Cajun, Louisiana and New Orleans culture. But not all Breaux bottles have crawfish or fleur-de-lis on them.
One of the most iconic labels in Loudoun’s wine history is the extraordinary pencil illustration of a bearded old man on the bottle of Breaux’s award-winning Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo was the wine of kings and noblemen in Italy, drunk as far back as the 13th Century, and the name comes from the Italian word for fog – Nebbia – since the grape grows best just above where a fog might gather in a valley.
“We discussed the history of what Nebbiolo meant to us and the man on the label is the artist’s interpretation of royalty and nobility,” said President and General Manager Jennifer Breaux. “The grey color and background is a hat-tip to the fog – Nebbia.”
To come full circle, the artist who created the classic Nebbiolo design for Breaux is the same Kevin Chadwick who did the very different Art Deco painting that graces the Bluemont Station Vidal Blanc.
Which perhaps goes to show: you can’t judge a book – or a wine – by its cover.