Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where Wine Meets Art

  If you like wine and art, San Francisco is the place for you. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a show called How Wine Became Modern—Design and Wine 1976 to Now.  It runs through April 17 and has a little bit of everything for everyone.
One of the most striking pieces early on in the exhibit is a large photo mural which depicts the 1976 blind wine tasting in France, called the Judgment of Paris that catapulted California wines into wine history. In particular a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon were voted the best in their class, shocking the French wine world and the wine world in general. “Bottle Shock” is a 2008 movie about that event and the California wine industry of the 70’s. 
Another fascinating part of the show focuses on terroir that important wine word that means the combination of soil and climate that influences the taste of grapes, and thus wine, of a certain area. The terroir exhibit contains soil samples from 17 vineyards around the world, with detailed information about each locale, including the current temperature. Another room highlights the architecture of wineries. Imagine tasting wine in a stunning building designed by one of the world’s finest architects, like Bodega Ysios in Alava, Spain, designed by Santiago Calatrava, or Napa Valley’s Clos Pegase Winery, designed by Michael Graves.  Now that’s an enticing blend of art and wine.
Wine bottles with their art labels take up a whole wall of another room, with the labels separated into whimsical and fun categories like "Cheeky” and  "Good and Evil." In the same room is a collection of wine glasses, decanters, and carafes of all different shapes and design, including many by Riedel Wine Glass Company, one of the major supporters of the exhibit. 
There are videos, an enormous piece showing 200 wine-inspired home paint colors—think “Wine Stain,” “Wine Bottle,” “Bacchus”—and an interactive “smell wall” where you can squeeze little rubber bulbs on decanters and get whiffs of different kinds of wines, with descriptive words to help you identify the aromas.  Here’s one to try at your next wine tasting—“Hamster Cage.”
Also, there are displays dealing with the art of wine making itself, including one of bottles with varying amounts of oak chips which show how oak changes a wine’s color. 
In all, the show creatively explores the interface between design and wine.  It’s definitely worth a visit.  But you’ll need to do it soon because the show closes April 17.  For more information, check out the museum’s website at

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