The label: Wanting to give the wine industry "a good kick in the teeth," owner Charles Bieler and his partners sell their wine (shown, left) in the most unpretentious bottle possible: a screw-cap jug adorned with gunslingers on horseback, blasting away at tradition. The taste: Light bodied, with touches of berries and spices. Drink it with: Duck, turkey, pork, or hearty fish, such as tuna and salmon.
2007 Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad Dry Pinot Noir Rosé, $11
The label: Inspired by the beloved story The Wind in the Willows, the owners of Toad Hollow Vineyards gave themselves nicknames―Dr. Toad and the Dancing Badger―and put their namesakes on the label (shown, top right). The taste: Dry, elegant, and loaded with the flavor of strawberries. Drink it with: Light dishes, such as grilled shrimp and vegetable salad.
2006 The Magnificent Wine Co. House Wine, $12
The label: The cheeky "homemade" design (shown, bottom right) is a flip expression of the belief of winemaker Charles Smith that people should concentrate more on what goes in a bottle than what goes on it. The taste: An easy-drinking, medium-bodied red with hints of cherry, plum, and currant. Drink it with: Substantial meat dishes, such as spice-rubbed flank steak.
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Reds and Rosés
2006 Pure Love Wines Layer Cake Shiraz, $16
The label: A towering pastry―with one slice tantalizingly missing―decorates this luscious value (shown, bottom) from Australia's Barossa Valley. As the grandfather of winery owner Jayson Woodbridge once told him: "A really good wine is like a delicious cake: It's layered with fruit, mocha, chocolate, hints of spice. And it's rich." The taste: A jammy, dark-chocolaty mouthful balanced by a soft, earthy finish. Drink it with: Grilled steak or barbecued ribs.
2005 La Mancha Mano a Mano Tempranillo, $11
The label: Mano a Mano ("hand to hand" in Spanish) describes anything that is handcrafted, like the block-print unicorn and dog pictures by the children of winemaker Jorge Ordonez on the label of this bottle (shown, top left)―not to mention the Spanish wine inside. The taste: Seductive, spicy, fruity, and smoky. Drink it with: Rich, hearty foods, like an intense blue cheese, grilled rack of lamb, or a juicy cheeseburger.
2003 Nine Stones McLaren Vale Shiraz, $11
The label: The makers of this Australian Shiraz (shown, top right) put a ring of stones around its label, evoking the great Celtic monolithic monuments built by their ancestors. The taste: A meaty, spicy Shiraz with pronounced cherry and berry flavors. Drink it with: Grilled lamb chops or slow-braised short ribs.
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2006 Big House Wine Co. Big House White, $10
The label: The rebellious creators of this beautifully aromatic wine (shown, left) took a Soledad, California, prison―just a stone's throw from the vineyard―as the unlikely subject of its label. The taste: Lovely and crisp, with scents of pineapple and pink grapefruit. Drink it with: Fresh citrus salad or grilled seafood kebabs.
2007 Red Truck Wines White Truck Chardonnay, $8.50
The label: The iconic American imagery on the White Truck label (shown, center) reflects the pleasures of relaxing on a gorgeous blue-sky day. The taste: A crisp, bright California Chardonnay. Flavors of ripe Granny Smith apples and green pears, with a hint of fresh pineapple. Drink it with: Chicken salad with chunks of apple or shrimp and avocado salad with a citrus vinaigrette.
2007 Francis Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blancs, $20
The label: The feminine, grapevine-wreath label and the pink-cellophane wrapper perfectly mirror the personality of this flirty little sparkler (shown, right), named for the daughter of filmmaker Coppola. The taste: Splashes of melon and apricot, with a touch of lemon. Drink it with: Asian foods―sushi, Vietnamese spring rolls, Thai salads―or hors d'oeuvres at a party.
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2007 Bodegas Naia Naia Verdejo, $11
The label: Inspired by a painting by Spanish artist Toni Ibírco, the labyrinthine label represents the ancient riverbeds furrowed into the plateaus that lie just outside Castile, Spain, where this wine (shown, left) is made. The taste: Refreshing, light, and reminiscent of peaches, delicate florals, and green herbs. Drink it with: Light seafood dishes, such as grilled scallops and marinated calamari.
11th Edition Sokol Blosser Winery Evolution, $18
The label: The designers of this graphic label (shown, center) used a mix of collage and powerful typefaces to evoke the passion and the creativity of the early-20th-century Russian and Italian avant-garde. The taste: Strong flavors of mango and peach and a hint of citrus. Drink it with: A spicy pad thai or a zingy lemon chicken.
2006 Thierry and Guy Fat Bastard Chardonnay, $10
The label: After tasting a new Chardonnay, the winemaker jokingly called it a "fat bastard," by which he meant a full-bodied wine. A friend then doodled a sketch of the rotund little hippo that became the company's logo (shown, right). The taste: Rich, with toasty vanilla and tropical fruits. Drink it with: Creamy pasta or roast chicken.