Written by: Philip Walker and Kori Blacker

How many of you are familiar with the idiom “bells and whistles?”

Urban Dictionary describes “Bells and Whistles” as features or extras to make something more unique and flavorful without necessarily adding to the utility of the primary function.

Usually this refers to cars that are loaded with added features or computer software that has the latest technology.  But does this have anything to do with the quality of the product?  No.

This reads true in more than one industry, but we are writing to discus its relation to the wine industry.   In shopping retail wine it is quite common to purchase by the label and price.

Producers will use the labels as the added “bells and whistles” to help distinguish their bottle from others on the shelf of the super mega warehouse wine store.

But If you are looking to enjoy a good value wine, here is some insight for when you go to select your next bottle.

With over 1,700 wineries in the state of California alone you can imagine the competition.  There are several large companies that purchase grapes or bulk juice from all over the state of California.

The juice is blended and package with a cool/cute/sexy or whatever the market analysis dictates type of label with the goal in mind to get you to put it in the cart.

It’s easy, cheap and mostly convenient –this my friends, is what we like to call the dark side. Be warned and be careful as you have no idea what you are about to consume.

When the dark clouds part and the sun rays break through to the bright side, you will find there are also fantastic wines that have very creatively designed labels!

A couple easy ways to know the difference is to read the label and see if it has a winery associated with the name of the wine.  Also, if it is labeled as “California” without a particular region, well that indicates that the grapes can be from anywhere throughout the state- not one particular region such as the winery we are featuring today.

When it comes to cool, stand out, catchy, imaginative, and innovative labels there’s one particular California winery that comes to mind.

With six generations of grape growing heritage the family has managed to transform a small boutique winery to a big time producer without sacrificing the integrity or quality or their wine; they have produced iconic wines equipped with cult followings vintage after vintage (year after year).  This winery manages to draw your attention to some very fine wines with their clever names and labels.

Ladies and Gentleman, without further adieu I give you: Michael and David Winery.

Michael and David Phillips are two brothers with a sense of humor, knack for growing grapes, and wine making lineage in Lodi, California the stretches back for nearly a century. They are known for their outlandish labels and over the top, extracted, full flavors that helped make the region famous.

Of course these wines aren’t for everyone but, grilling a steak would be the perfect timing for Michael David’s 2010 Freakshow Cab ($18.99-20.99)!  The label looks like a 1920s side show poster that has been cross bread with the Beatles Sgt Peppers Album.  The name “Freakshow” comes from the name of the “Super Freak” Vineyard (the original Michael David Vineyard) about a stones throw away from their winery. This particular wine sells out every vintage so get it while you can

Probably appearing as the class clowns of Lodi, their wines are no joke. Look for other labels by these guys: Earthquake, 7 Deadly Zins, Petite Petit, The Inkblot series, the Sin series (lust, gluttony, sloth, rage.) and many others.

You may already be familiar with several of these wines but had no idea they were all related as they have their own image and different names. These wines are big and bold with rich flavors make them approachable and will keep the dude that always has the “biggest cab story” at bay.

Most of the wine is a good bang for the buck so it won’t break the bank.  And fellas, if you run out of pickup lines, the label (bells and whistles!) will make a good conversation starter.