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Wine At The Museum?

Paul Einbund is the wine director of the Slanted Door restaurant group including Out the Door Bush Street and Westfield Centre as well as Heaven's Dog. He also runs the beverage program at Frances, and has worked at Coi and more. Look for him here every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @pauleinbund.

It took me a while to write about the wine exhibit at the SFMOMA "How Wine Became Modern:  Design + Wine 1976 to Now." I look at wine all day, I think about it in my sleep—taste it in my dreams.  So what could an exhibit in a museum do for me?

But a few weeks after the preview that I was invited to attend, I've been finding myself thinking about parts of the exhibit all the time. The wall of over 200 bottles, organized by type of label: The animal labels, the sex labels, the gambling labels. There's nothing that hasn't been made into a wine label. There’s also a giant wall that lists out all of the commonly referenced colors that come from wine; it's formed like a family tree stemming (no pun intended) from the grape and moving out from there to vineyard green, Burgundy, Madeira and the like.

In one section, the walls are supposed to smell like the great 1976 Penfold’s Grange. This was the first wine the famous critic Robert Parker ever scored 100 points. The artist infused the paint with the ‘scent’ of the 1976 Grange.  You are instructed to rub the walls to release the aroma. I’ve had this wine; it doesn’t smell like the walls. The idea is really cool but the execution is terrible. It smelled more like chemicals then anything you would find in a wine worth drinking.

There is another scent area of the exhibition that is more successful. You're instructed to squeeze the bladder then inhale the scent of common wine descriptors. For the most part these smell as they should, though I’m sure they are synthetic versions of the originals. The rest of the exhibit shows photos of architecture, exotic decanters and wine glasses etc.

I mentioned the exhibit to a wine class I was teaching and I found myself telling my students they really should go and see it. OK, so maybe I am the right person to talk about this exhibit. I didn’t discover anything new but I can recommend it to others, and I’m a wine guy so maybe someone will listen to me? The exhibit will be at the SFMOMA until April 17th, 2011.