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harvey steiman at large

What’s Missing from this Label?

Let’s see, it’s Oregon, uses only one grape variety …
If you want to know what Tendril's single variety is in 2010, you've got to turn the bottle around … to the front.

Posted: Sep 11, 2013 10:24am ET

Tendril's front label for its TightRope 2010 says "single varietal," but it doesn't says exactly what that grape might be. If this were the official front label, it would be illegal. It may look like the official label, but it's not. Confused? It's a fairly common occurrence, and there's nothing wrong with it, but it can be puzzling.

Wineries are allowed to present all of the required information in the required format. And this one does, but it's on what looks like a back label. Atop all the small type explaining what the wine is all about, it identifies the variety as Pinot Noir.

This trick of using the back label as the actual front label frees up one side of the bottle for wineries to get really creative with striking images, for example, or a graphic design showing off the winery's logo or proprietary name for the wine. Technically, this is what the TightRope label does, but when I asked proprietor Tony Rynders, he initially joked, "I just like to see if people are paying attention."

Then he basically said, oops.

"During the label design, I inadvertently omitted Pinot Noir from the front label," he said. "We made that addition in 2011 when we discovered this. The label design thing is still a bit new to me."

The back label also notes that the wine is a selection of his best barrels, in this case coming from two vineyard sources in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Although most wineries would call it a reserve bottling, Rynders doesn't like the term. "It has very little real meaning," he said. So he came up with TightRope, because, the label explains, making PInot Noir is "like walking a tightrope, as it ultimately comes down to one's sense of balance."

Rynders is good at making wines with balance. Once Domaine Serene's winemaker, he has been out on his for several years, consulting with several high-profile new operations (including Swiftwater, making wines in Washington as well as Oregon), and hanging out his own shingle with Tendril.

Like many of the Oregon 2010 Pinots, the wine has beautiful balance, lovely clarity and length. It's not a brawny style, but lacks nothing in richness either. I liked it. (More details when the review is published.)

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