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Top 10 Most Frequently Confused Domestic Wine Brands

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coming up with a name for a wine brand has got to be tough.  At this point it must seem like every good name is taken, and even if you go with your family name it too might be taken.  Or confusingly similar to another wine brand.

Most of the time when I confuse two or more wine brands it happens when I hear the name spoken -or- in writing without a logo.  It's a temporary bit of confusion as I try to think "is that the wine so and so said to try?".

In more extreme cases I wonder whether the similarity was an intentional way to get consumers to associate a new brand with a more prestigious existing label.

The domestic brands listed below are one I've confused myself from time to time for one reason or another.  Here's my Top 10 Most Frequently Confused Wine Brands:

Landmark/Larkmead

Landmark and Larkmead- the words are nearly an anagram and they sound alike too.

Landmark Vineyards produces highly-rated Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.


Larkmead Vineyards is also well-regarded Napa producer of Cab, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. David Ramey produces wines from the Larkmead vineyard.

Honig/Hogue

Honig and Hogue- the first time you hear them the names are just too similar not to confuse.

Honig is a Napa winery focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Hogue Cellars is a Washington state producer of a wide variety of red and white wines at a variety of price points.
Sonoma-Cutrer/Ferrari-Carano

Something about the two-word combination of these Sonoma wineries always trips me up.

Ferrari-Carano has a very popular tasting room in Dry Creek Valley and is known for their Fume Blanc.  They produce a wide range of other wines as well.
Sonoma-Cutrer is one of the most popular restaurant wine brands in the country known primarily for their Chardonnay.  Until just recently they didn't have a tasting room.
Benziger/Beringer

Another case where I think the names are just too similar to not be confused.

All of the wines from Benziger Family Winery are certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic.  They have a tasting room in Glenn Ellen, CA (Sonoma County).  While they're not a small production winery, they're not quite as ubiquitous as Beringer.
Beringer Vineyards covers a wide range of price points.  From their $7/bottle California Collection wines including a White Zinfandel through their Knight's Valley wines (a well-regarded Sonoma Cab that can be had for less than $20 retail if you look around) to their over-$100 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay.  Beringer's tasting room is right along Highway 29 in Napa Valley- just north of St. Helena.
Shafer/Joseph Phelps

The inclusion of this one on the list might be surprising.  I mention it here because I've gotten their upper-end bottlings confused from time to time.  Both produce entry-level wines that can be had in the $40s, and both produce highly sought elite Napa Cabs.

Shafer Vineyards offers a $48 release price Merlot.  Their One Point Five Cabernet competes with the Caymuses, Cakebreads, and Silver Oaks of the world (see this steakhouse cab blind tasting we did a while back).  Their Hillside Select Cabernet takes it to another level at $215 and is a definitive Napa Cab.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards' entry-level Cab is $54.  Their well-known Insignia brand lists for $200 and has been prominently featured in Sub-Zero wine refrigerator ads.  A pricey wine considering more than 16,000 cases are produced annually.  I saw the 2006 vintage on sale at Total Wine in Georgia for $125.  They also offer a $250 Backus Vineyard Cab.

Hall/Whitehall Lane/Robert Hall/Patz & Hall

Here's a case where the confusion results in meaningful noise when trying to perform a Wine-Searcher.com search.  Here's a link to a search for "hall" wines from the "2006" vintage.  Look at all of the different wines listed!

Hall Wines made the QPR-bending 2006 Hall Cabernet that received 94 points from Wine Spectator and costs just over $30 retail in Massachusetts.  They also make some higher end wines that were especially well received in 2006.  They're a Napa producer of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, but they also produce other red and white wines as well.
Whitehall Lane is a well-regarded Napa Cab producer.  Robert Hall is located in Paso Robles.  Patz & Hall makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a variety of locations in Napa, Sonoma and beyond.

Robert Foley/Foley Family Wines

Every time I've heard that Foley Wines has acquired a new label I immediately think of Robert Foley.  But then I recall there's another Foley in the wine business: William P. Foley II.  In addition to their namesake Foley Estates wines out of Santa Barbara County they also own brands like Lincourt, Merus, Firestone and Sebastiani.
Robert Foley's eponymous label is known for big Napa reds- especially their Claret which is usually actually usually a 100% Cabernet although they're now making a small production wine labeled as a Cabernet as well.  The wines aren't ashamed of being big, rich, and super-ripe.  Robert Foley has also been involved with Pride Mountain, Switchback Ridge, and Hourglass.
 Cakebread/Layer Cake/Cupcake

Okay, I'd never mistake Cakebread for another wine.  It's one of my favorite brands.  But a lot of other wines with the name "cake" in the name have come to market over the past decade and I can imagine there's some confusion when someone goes into a wine shop seeking "that wine with the cake on the label". 

Cakebread Cellars is a Napa producer of premium Cabernet and Chardonnay.  It's the wine that got me into wine.  Cakebread Cellars was founded by Jack Cakebread over 30 years ago.
Layer Cake and Cupcake have something else in common besides a similar name: Although they employ slightly different models they both make wines from different regions all over the world.  Layer Cake makes wines in Australia, Argentina, Italy, and Napa.  Cupcake makes their wines in Monterrey, California though they produce a wide variety of wines from other regions.
Orin Swift/Owen Row

Here's a more obscure one.  Orin Swift Cellars makes The Prisoner- a hearty, highly rated red blend from Napa available for $29.99 retail.   Owen Roe Winery makes wines from Oregon and Washington.  Neither Orin Swift nor Owen Roe are real people who work at the respective wineries.

Lewelling/Leeuwin

Lewelling is a Napa grower and winemaker of premium Cabernet Sauvignon.  Here's a review I wrote of an excellent visit to their propertyLeeuwin Estate is a well-regarded producer of a wide range of wines from Australia.
I asked on Twitter and got some more great ones.  Follow these people if you're on Twitter:

@voxinferior
@TWHolliston
@rmacomb
What do you think?  Did I get the big ones?  What are some other domestic wine brands that trip you up until you see the logos?

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