A Honda Element & A Sharpie Marker

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
February 3, 2010

Black Dot Label

Martin Brothers Wines & Spirits
2781 Broadway
(107th & 108th Sts)
New York, NY 10025

Nothing tickles me more than finding out that a wine that I love has a great story behind it, too. Black Dot is such a wine.

Story goes: In 2003 when Alexis Pouillon (co-winemaker of Domaine Pouillon) managed a vineyard in Sonoma, he would get together with his buddies and take some of the leftover grapes and bottle a “field blend” of all the different grapes and “vint” a few barrels on their own. When they started to bottle the wines, the guys wanted to make sure that they could recognize which wine came from which barrel, so they used a Sharpie marker and everyone made their own mark. One person drew a “X”, another a star, and Alexis made a black dot on the cork (these basement wines didn’t even have caps).

In 2005, Alexis and his wife Juliet drove in their Honda Element from their new winery in Washington State back to Sonoma to pick up some of the leftover Black Dot wines from his friends’ basement. They loaded 23 cases and started for home towards the Columbia Gorge when the car started acting up. They realized that in order to get over the Mt Shasta pass they would have to part with some bottles. Bottles were left with people along their road trip: gas station attendants, motel owners, restaurant owners, park ranger. The only thing they did was put their phone number on the bottle and asked the people to call with comments once they’d tasted the wine.

Weeks later, calls started to pour in regarding the “Black Dot” wine. At first, the Pouillons were confused about why everyone referred to the wine that way. Until they went into their cellar. Juliet recalls, “[We] saw 100 bottles with black dots on their heads staring back at us and it dawned on us that the simple act of marking the top of the bottles with a Sharpie would have some significance in our personal history.”

I definitely was curious about the name of the wine when I tasted it, but who would have expected such a fabulous tale?

More fun facts on this wine and it’s makers:

  1. Alexis is the son of Nora Pouillon, owner of America’s first certified organic restaurant, the famous Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.
  2. Blend: 33% Syrah, 25% Primitivo, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Grenache.
  3. This non-vintage wine is from the 2007 (100% of the Cab Sauv) and 2008 vintages.
  4. The AVA is Horse Heaven Hills, home to some of Washington’s cult wines.
  5. Each variety is aged individually in neutral oak which explains the clean fruit flavors.

Love the story, love the wine even more. Loads of black fruits (blackberry and blackcurrant), beautiful balance and soft tannins. Black Dot is a star!

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