With all the odd flavored vodkas on the market these days, including Smoked Salmon vodka, it was only a matter of time before wine makers followed a similar path. I recently found myself in the wine aisle at the local grocery store—a place where I am neither comfortable nor familiar.  Surrounded by a daunting number of brands, a confusing array of different wine types, and serious looking people who appear to be right at home, the wine aisle is a scary place. I’m much more at ease in the beer section. The far end of the beer section to be sure, where Pabst Blue Ribbon and Bud Light reign superior. When I’m feeling all mature and grown-up I’ll spring for some Kokanee because it’s a bit more substantial and well, it’s named after fish.

When I do happen to buy a bottle of red wine on occasion, I generally shop by price. If it’s under $8 a bottle it captures my interest. But I am also influenced by wine bottle labels.  As an artist/graphic designer type, I appreciate a label that sets the brand apart from others. One of my favorites, for example, is Red Table Wine, which hails from the same winemaker as House Wine,  Steak House, and Fish House. I like a wine maker that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

Aside from fancying a unique label I’m also a person inclined toward the sport of angling, so a bottle of wine with a fish reference on the label will grab my attention like the strands of flash in a marabou streamer. I pondered picking up a bottle of Coho, but it felt a bit out of season in the sense that the silvers have long since spawned; their carcasses by now completely decomposed and returned to the sediment of the river banks and bottoms. However, it is the heart of winter steelhead season, so one can imagine my delight when I happened upon Steelhead Red. It’s a Zinfandel, which means absolutely nothing to me. I called my sister-in-law to ask her what a Zinfandel is (it’s a red wine, apparently). Frankly I don’t I don’t even care how it tastes—it’s got a steelhead on the label. There were only two bottle left, so I grabbed them both. They were fin-clipped so I put a couple notches in my catch card and proceeded toward the checkout.

According to the website for Quivira Vineyards, makers of Steelhead wines:

“Steelhead is the first wine brand dedicated to fisheries conservation. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle of Steelhead Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and Steelhead Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc sold help fund Trout Unlimited’s creek restoration projects. Enjoy these delicious wines and raise your glass to healthier creeks throughout North America!”

Clearly I’m not one to judge whether a wine is any good or not, but after popping the cork, letting it breath, sloshing it around the glass and holding my nose over it before ultimately taking a swig, I can honestly say that I enjoyed Steelhead Red. Surprisingly, it tasted nothing like fish. More like red wine.

Actually, another reason I bought the Steelhead Red is so I could say I caught a couple steelhead today—a heroic if not completely impossible task on a wet, miserable day when our rivers are actually blown out and at or above flood stage. It seemed the right thing to do.