Would you drink blue wine? Or would it depend on the shade — azure, navy, turquoise?
Does a wine with flakes of gold floating in the bottle appeal to you? How about a wine in a red glass bottle?
Wine is such a tradition-ridden beverage that toying with convention can be seen as anathema to “serious” wine lovers. So pastel-colored wines are instantly seen as gimmicks.
Traditional young reds range from dark pink (Beaujolais) to burgundy to Bing cherry; young whites are pale yellow/straw, occasionally with a slight green hue.
Aberrant colors can be clues to a spoiled wine.
If a young white wine looks bronze, it may be a sign that it has begun to oxidize prematurely or was aged in oak barrels a bit too long.
A young red wine that’s a bit brown or amber may be starting to oxidize or has spent too long in oak barrels. A “rusty red” color is rarely a good thing.
Often the color of a red wine is hard to see when it’s still in the bottle because dark brown, “dead leaf green” or smoke-colored glass bottles are used.
Color also means something in the marketing of fine wine. The colors used on wine labels and capsules can determine how it’s viewed.
Decades ago, wine packaging experts preached that impulse purchases relate to “bright” label colors like red, yellow, and light green. (But not orange, they said.) They advised wineries to avoid blue and gray labels, which they said were too cool to promote impulse sales.
Lately, some adventuresome wine brands targeting younger consumers have used black and Gothic images, or designs that are supposed to conjure up cannabis or other substances.
Bottle colors can affect sales too. Decades ago, I was asked to assist in selecting wine for an international airline. At one blind tasting, the winning white wine was a superb German Riesling. When we pulled the bottle out of the brown bag, we were all shocked: The bottle was flame red!
I told the airline’s purchasing manager. He replied, “I don’t care how good it is, we’re not going to serve wine from a red bottle.” We chose another wine.
As for blue wine, there is a California sparkling wine called Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux. It’s pale blue. The producer says blueberries were added. It’s festive-looking because it’s in a clear-glass bottle.
One thing you may see in white wine is rare: a haze, sort of like floating white clouds. In most cases, the wine is perfectly fine to drink. Here’s what’s up:
Some extremely particular winemakers test white wines to determine if a pristine-looking wine is as good as it was before any in-house tactic is employed to remove the harmless clouds should they develop.
Making a wine completely haze-free requires a tactic some winemakers say harms the aroma or taste. Some avoid the treatment, even though the wine may wind up cloudy. Normally this is a marketing no-no.
I know of winemakers who do very minimal processing on wines that are sold only at their tasting rooms, so they can explain the cloudy issue to buyers.
Napa Valley Wine Train’s packages
Quattro Vino Journeys ($332 to $392 per person.)
The Famiglia Tour. The six-hour trip from Napa to Rutherford features a four-course meal and tours of Silverado Vineyards, Whitehall Lane Winery and Grgich Hills Estate.
The Estate Tour. The six-hour trip from Napa to St. Helena features a four-course meal and tours of Domain Chandon, HALL Wines and Inglenook.
The Collective Tour. The six-hour trip from Napa to St. Helena features a four-course meal and tours of St. Supery Estate Vineyards, Beringer Winery and Raymond Vineyards.
The Legacy Tour. The six-hour trip from Napa to St. Helena, features a four-course meal and tours of Robert Mondavi Winery, Charles Krug Winery and V. Sattui Winery.
Castle Winery Tour. The one-and-a-half hour trip from Napa to Calistoga features a gourmet lunch and an exclusive tour and tasting at Castello di Amorosa. ($269 to $334 per person.)
Raymond Winery Tour. The one-and-a-half hour trip from Napa to St. Helena features a gourmet lunch and an exclusive tour and tasting at Raymond Vineyards. ($209 to $229 per person.)
Grgich Hills Winery Tour. The two-hour trip from Napa to Rutherford features a gourmet lunch and an intimate tour and tasting at Grgich Hills Estate. ($209 to $229per person.)
Ambassador Winery Tour. The one-and-a-half hour trip from Napa to St. Helena features a gourmet lunch and exclusive tours and tastings at Charles Krug Winery and Raymond Vineyards. ($269 to $334 per person.)
Hop Train. The two-hour tour of Napa Valley in the Open Air car every Monday features tastes of local craft beers and bites from Palisades Beer Co. (Begins at $75 per person.)
The Vista Dome. The three-hour tour of Napa Valley, offered at lunch and dinner in the two-story Vista Dome, an elevated dining car, features a gourmet meal with a glass of sparkling wine. ($214 to $244 per person.)
The Gourmet Express. The three-hour tour of Napa Valley, offered at lunch and dinner in the refurbished antique Pullman rail cars, features a gourmet meal and a glass of wine. ($139 to $169 per person.)
Murder Mystery. The three-hour tour of Napa Valley features dining on a gourmet meal with a glass of wine while figuring out who-done-it in the murder mystery dinner theatre. ($195 to $215 per person.)
Meet the Maker. The three-hour evening rail tour of Napa Valley features a four-course gourmet dinner with a selection of wine from the featured winery, tasting notes from the winemaker, and food pairings. (Begins at $272 per person.)
Blue Note Express Music & Dinner Train. The four-hour tour of Napa Valley, offered every Thursday night, features a glass of sparkling wine and appetizers onboard the new Open Air rail car with a Napa-style meal, a live performance from the “Wine Train Quartet” and a ticket to the 9:30 p.m. show at Blue Note Napa. (Begins at $213 per person.)
Santa Trains: The annual Santa Trains, from Napa to Yountville, feature an interactive adventure and offer its passengers holiday bites and beverages, along with games, sing-alongs, and a fun cast of holiday-inspired characters. (Prices not yet set.)