Field Report

Labels for champion wines

July 7, 2009

"I look at the labels on our wine bottles as silent salesmen," says Christopher Cornett, owner of CMD Marketing Communications and also the designer/marketing consultant for Casa Larga Vineyards, located in Fairport, NY, USA. Cornett is a believer in the concept that a wine bottle must stand out, that getting the bottle into the consumer's hands is the preeminent step to making the sale. From that point on, the quality and consistency of the wine itself must carry the day, but initially, the label is the thing.

Casa Larga Vineyards started as a hobby by an Italian immigrant, Andrew Colaruotolo, in 1974.
Known as Mr. C, his first three wines were produced in 1978 and earned gold and silver medals in the first competition in which they were entered. Now, Casa Larga Vineyards is one of New York State's Finger Lakes Region premier wine producers, with six lines of wines – Casa Larga Varietals, Barrel Reserves, Fiori, Gallery 155, Artistic Series and Vineyard Hill. The success of these wines as well as other New York State vintners has contributed to the movement of the state to second place in wine production, according to the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for 2008, leapfrogging Washington and Oregon.

The wines of Casa Larga, from upstate New York, are award winners. Its labels are made by Label World, another award winner.
Fiori Vidal Ice Wine is one of Casa Larga's highest quality lines, borne out by a 2008 Gold Medal for Best in Class and Best Dessert Wine at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London. The same wine took two Double Golds in international competitions in 2008, as well as a Gold and Best in Class Dessert Wine at the 2008 New York Wine and Food Classic show. Cornett's label designs evolved with a goal of having them holding their own at a national level – and for a while they were alone among their northeast peers and competitors. "That's all changed now," Cornett says, "because in the past few years many other vineyards have played catch up. Just last year we began tweaking many of our designs to refresh them, but not abandon the overall image that our consumers now know."

Cornett is quick to point out the value of a strong label partner, Label World of nearby Rochester, saying, "I've worked with them for years and they excel at the one thing designers love: flexibility. They sit down with me and they never say 'We can't do that'. Those words just aren't in their vocabulary. They are willing to run tests so that we can check out various design ideas and their effect on substrates," he adds, "and Label World has really supported our end goal through the quality production of our brand redesigns. They can figure out ways to achieve that quality image we strive for."

Casa Larga tries to use different manufacturing technologies for each product line, and Label World has provided a host of options: hot and cold foils, embossing, different varnishes and other topcoatings, metalized labels, clear labels with foil, and so on. "I wanted to try to have a label produced with a raised texture," Cornett says, "and Label World went so far as to get a die with embossing texture so we could produce labels on non-premium paper that had the classic look of elegance. They even ran tests to ensure that we could keep the label from splitting when it was affixed to the bottles," he adds.

There's a lot of give and take between this designer and Label World. Both Cornett and Skylar Rote, Label World's VP sales and marketing, credit Karen Street, a customer service representative for Label World, with carrying the ball both for the winery and the label manufacturer. Label World proved that it belongs among the best of the best label manufacturers in North America recently by winning Best of Show at the 2008 TLMI competition, which had 310 entries from 53 converters around the world. The award was the first for a digitally produced label.

When it comes to Casa Larga's eiswein, or ice wine, obviously the bar is set high, since the wine has won a number of prestigious international awards. But, as Cornett notes, once the label has done its job by persuading a consumer to pick up the bottle, then it's up to the wine to garner return customers. This wine is a real labor of love – the grapes are allowed to freeze on the vines and are handpicked in late January or February. (Average temperature at that time in the Finger Lakes Region is in the low to mid-20° F range.) As a result of staying on the vine much longer than other grapes, these frozen grapes produce considerably less wine per acre, and the pressing process is much slower. But no shortcuts are taken by Casa Larga, and the adherence to the traditional process produces a sweet and full-bodied ice wine.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Lilac Festival held annually in Rochester's Highland Park, which features this fragrant late-spring bush, with some 500 varieties growing on 22 of the park's 155 acres. There is now a full fledged nine-day Lilac Festival each year in mid-May, celebrating the harbinger of summer. Casa Larga requested and received permission to develop an official Lilac Festival wine named Lilac Hill, and it is packaged in a cobalt blue bottle with a spectacular label that mirrors the Lilac Festival's posters, providing festival attendees with a memorable bottle and wine. With hundreds of thousands of festival goers, the limited edition bottling goes fast!

To learn more about Casa Larga Vineyards and their wine, visit Label World's online address is

Larry Arway worked in sales, marketing and product management at Standard Register for 35 years. He was involved in product design and development, and has worked with major consumer and industrial products companies in North America. He can be reached at