A sticky situation: Labeling our Chardonnay

January 7, 2009 | By | Comments (4)

My mom once told me that hanging wallpaper is the ultimate test of a marriage. So I’ve stuck to paint.

But then I tried my hand at labeling Team Wine’s Chardonnay. And I feel like I need some counseling: Home winemakers, homebrewers, paper crafters, scrapbookers, and bookmakers, what am I doing wrong?


One of the magazine’s designers used Adobe Illustrator to create labels for all of our One-Block “products” (here’s a beauty shot of them). For our 2007 Chardonnay, she used our lovely, scripty Sunset logo, a solo grape leaf, and the grapes’ place of origin: Thomas Fogarty Estate Vineyards in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Santa Cruz Mountains (practically in Sunset’s backyard). And then she printed them on Avery 5265 labels, which she, being the crafty type, expertly, neatly, and evenly sliced with an X-Acto knife on a self-healing mat. She was so confident, I was sure I could replicate her motions without trouble.

Wrong. First I learned that my own craft mat is too compact to accommodate an 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheet of labels. And then I discovered that my craft knife is a little dull. So I of course mucked up the first sheet of labels.

Cutting my losses, I decided to switch to the trusty industrial paper cutter in our office. It’s old but reliable—so much so that we collectively scoffed at a new paper cutter that was positioned next to it for months, collecting dust and scraps of trimmed paper from our favored cutter. (Someone finally took pity on the younger one and found it a new home.)

But I didn’t think about what the adhesive hidden beneath each label would do to our beloved paper cutter. It wasn’t pretty. The first slice wasn’t bad, but just that one exposure to the labels’ gummy glue noticeably dulled the slicing blade, and suddenly a sticky scrap was flapping around on the blade edge. From there on out, my cuts weren’t straight. And, then through my frustration, I realized that I’d potentially wrecked Old Reliable.

So I ran away from the paper cutter with my one somewhat decent label
and tried positioning it on an empty bottle that I’d practiced my
corking on. (It was my job to guide Team Wine in bottling and corking,
and I studied up.) There’s no drawing a straight line with a ruler on a
rounded bottle, so I figured that unsticking one corner of the label,
affixing it to the clean glass surface, and then reaching under the
label and continuing to unfurl the paper backing was the way to go. I’d
(seemingly) figured out the where and how, so I decided to go for it.
And … sigh.

At least when I’ve crookedly stuck an address label on a holiday card or birth announcement, I’ve been able to mail it away. But a wine bottle lingers on. A wine bottle you (should be able to) proudly display. Not only is my label slightly askew, it has a crease and a bubble in it.

So I humbly ask for your help: If you have experience with beer or wine labels, or if you’ve worked with adhesives and learned how to apply paper straight and pretty, please post any and all advice in our Comments section. I’ll report back with what managed to straighten me out.


  1. Steve Balgrosky

    Wow, this is something I could get behind. We have a dedicated herb garden in our backyard that is aching for the appropriate planting.

    February 12, 2009 at 12:19 am
  2. Anne Wurts

    Love the idea of the one-block diet and blog. Great for the enviroment!

    February 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm
  3. Lelo

    I would most likely recommend going for the homemade look, and design and embrace a label that may look differently each time it is applied, celebrating the differences between each one as an aspect of uniqueness, locality, and personality. I would ask that the design need not rely on exact placement. There is beauty in this approach, exactly the way there is beauty in the development of the product. Therefore they should embrace each other. Hope this helps!

    January 11, 2009 at 6:29 am
  4. Tracy Osborn

    I would probably go back to the craft knife, if it’s an x-acto – it’s really easy to get replacement blades, and combining an x-acto knife with a straight edge (http://www.amazon.com/Westcott-Stainless-Steel-Ruler-ACM10417/dp/B000LNHTFA) you can get a nice clean line.

    As for putting the labels on… I have no idea! I would probably remove the backing and try to carefully apply evenly.

    Good luck!

    January 8, 2009 at 6:13 am

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