Art and Fine Wine

Woodward Canyon’s label.

Like peas and carrots and Forrest and Jenny, there are some duos that are perfect together. One of the most ancient and enduring duos is that of truly fine wine and world-class art. This installment of the Tahoe Weekly wine column looks at three of the finest examples of this marriage of masterpieces.

It would be hard to argue that the pairing of the Grand Vin of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and the work of the world’s most revered artists leads the way. The late Baron Philippe de Rothschild was an unquestioned master of promotion and one of his greatest tools was artistic flair. From the art-filled grounds and chateau of his wine estate in Bordeaux, to his extravagant dress, to his efforts to have his chateau promoted to First Growth status, he never saw a splash opportunity he didn’t embrace. His most out-front and enduring flair was having his labels created by famous artists. For almost a century, icons such as Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso have created one-of-a-kind pieces that have graced the labels of, and brought notoriety to, one of the world’s most sought-after wines. These are bold pieces much in the style of the wine inside the bottles they graced.

Another pioneer of amazing bottle art is displayed on Washington State’s Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. Owner Rick Small is a pioneer in Washington’s young wine industry and he created this project featuring the crème de la crème of northwest artists. The art and the wine can accurately be described as subtle when young, turning classically beautiful with age. Both are meant to be appreciated for the long run.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild label.

For a final melding of these arts, we travel to the far west coast of Australia where a few decades back wine explorers discovered a terroir cannily similar to Bordeaux with gravelly soils and a maritime climate. Meet the Leeuwin Estate Art Series led by its Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, but in exceptional vintages including everything from Riesling to Chardonnay to Semillon. The visual art collection, now containing 150 pieces, has its own installment in Australia’s National Gallery of Art. The wine is much in the style of the Woodward Canyon with an understated personality when young, that with a decade of aging, blossoms to reveal its power and complexity.

All are readily available at higher-end wine shops, with the Mouton ranging from $600 to more than $1,000 depending on vintage, clearly placing them in the luxury category. The Woodward Canyon and the Leeuwin can be had for $50 to $80 depending on vintage and store location. At that they are bargains as they compare quite favorably with cult Cabernets especially as they age.