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Notes from the Back Room
The 2011 SFCWC First Annual Label Contest
By Michael Haran
Well, here we are again back for the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It's kind of like all of us volunteers go into hibernation and then re-emerge during the first week in December. It still amazes me at how efficient this competition is run as over 200 people mesh together creating a seamless event. This year we had a record 5,050 entries from 3,300 wineries up from 4,913 entries last year.
During last year's competition I was in the back-back room looking for a hand-cart when I saw Scott Fraser looking at a label. He said "look at this," and showed me a wine label that had been drawn from ink that had been made from the wine in that very bottle. That was so cool it inspired this year's article.
Unless you've seen it, it's really hard to imagine seeing 5,000 labels in one space. Some are plain, some are clever, some arty, some are witty, and some are classical but what they all are are the heart and soul of the wineries that produce the wines behind the label. As far as I'm concerned they are all works of art.
Last spring I stopped by Bob Fraser's office at SRJC. I mentioned that I was thinking of writing this year's article about labels. He suggested that I research the possibility of doing a label contest at next year's competition. Based on that research he decided to put a "test" entry into this year's application materials without any fan fair. Well, low and behold 85 wineries enter our first, now annual, label contest.
We now had a professional wine label contest as part of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Since we could only have one winner this year we decided to go with three judges and Bob delegated finding those judges to me.
Being in the heart of California's North Coast Wine Country we have access to some of the premier marketers of California's premium wines. The first person I thought of was Elizabeth Slater of "In Short Marketing." I had taken a "Direct to Consumer" wine marketing class from her at the JC. Not only was she happy to participate she also recommended two other wine medium professionals as judges. Joining Elizabeth was Dave Miller of "PackagingArts" a wine label and marketing materials printing company and David Schuemann a wine industry graphic designer. Dave Miller brought one of his sales reps, Rachel Hutchinson, along as a second opinion. This was okay since they only counted as one vote.
Of the eighty-five entries 60 wineries submitted their labels on bottles while 25 submitted just the label. Either way is okay but to get the full impact of the label it should be looked at on the bottle.
Using a 10 point scoring system the judging criteria consisted of "Overall originality and creativity," "Use of typography" and "Use of graphics." The judges made their way around the three tables taking notes and scoring. When complete the totals were tabulated and the top five labels went to a final round where the overall winner would be picked.
We actually had seven finalists as we had a three way tie for the fifth spot in the finals. The finalists were LaMerika (a '09 Pinot Noir), Cift Family Winery ('09 Red Wine), Korbin Kameron ('06 Red Wine), Hudson Vineyards ('08 Red Wine), Thumbprint ('07 Cabernet Sauvignon) and the Hoyt family Vineyards which placed two labels in the finals.
From these finalists Clif Family Winery's label "The Climber" was chosen best label in SFCWC first annual label contest.
Based on the success of this year's label contest we've decided to expand next year's contest to five categories, present gold and double-gold metals, give best of class awards, and award the best overall label, the sweepstakes winner. The categories will include Classical, Artistic, Whimsical and Series. In addition, the judges will be asked to select a label, from all categories, that they feel would sell the most wine.
As more and more wineries enter the label contest it will give us the opportunity to recognize some of the remarkable art work that connects the consumer with the wine.