Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Synesthesia: Behind the Alcantara Wine Label

Mourvedre-label-USE“Our taste can relate to color, art and movement,” Barbara Predmore, owner of Alcantara Vineyards & Winery, tells me.  This synesthesia, this union of the senses, is expressed through Alcantara’s labels via artist Smokin’ Joe McWilliams.

Smokin’ Joe, a Nevada-based visual artist, has conceptualized pieces for many of Las Vegas’ most prominent casinos, including Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and The Venetian.  For Alcantara’s labels, Smokin’ Joe weaves employee wine tasting notes, varietal characteristics and the colors of the Verde Valley into a synesthetic graphic representation of each wine.  And just as every wine is open to interpretation, so too are the pieces of art adorning each label.

Visitors to the stone-dotted hills along the Verde River at Alcantara Vineyards & Winery are invited to Viognier-label-USEcome back each year, as the labels change with each wine and each vintage, expressing a new identity in a place still establishing its own.  Barbara shows me some of the labels of past vintages.  The Viognier label bursts with bright yellow and oranges, circumscribed within deeper hues of green.  “Viognier likes light, and this shows minerality,” she tells me, pointing to a darker portion of the label.  The Mourvedre and Syrah labels show deep red hues, which convey the intensity of the fruit, as dark curls and swirls tell the story of intermingling spices and berries.  These labels are much like Rorschach tests, as there are many more hidden meanings for each individual to discover, discuss, and enjoy—this is part of Alcantara’s mission.

Syrah-label-USE“We all have different palates; we all take different things out of life,” says Barbara. “[Wine] allows us to be real, to experience, to show ourselves and not be afraid that we will be criticized.  It allows people to expose themselves and be proud of who they are and find the joy that is within… using all the senses.”

Within every label each person is invited to slow down, take in subtle nuances and connect to the sensual experience of tasting the wine, to find the truth of that moment: in vino veritas. Barbara tells me each label is an extension of Alcantara’s mission: expanding upon identity and individuality while hopefully allowing you to expand upon yours.  The evolution of the label reflects the evolution of the “land, community, flavor and identity… of Arizona, Yavapai County and the Verde Valley.”

Learn more about Alcantara’s wine and labels at their vineyard, winery, and tasting room from 11am – 5pm at 3445 South Grapevine Way, Cottonwood, AZ 86326.

smokin-joe-header-USESmokin’ Joe says… The images I create for Alcantara’s wine labels and event posters are glimpses of landscapes and nature spirits who occupy a dreamy space between our world and the next. It is a world filled with vibrant colored skylines and swirling liquid vortexes. A place where one might catch a glimpse of Mother Gaia as she floats through the landscape or a jack in the green, peeking out from the safety of his grapevines.

When I visit Alcantara I can feel the energy of those nature spirits all around me. They are wild and unpredictable and are guardians of the land. This is where they live, and play… and if my vibrations are just right, I may get a glimpse of their world and a chance to bottle up just a little bit of it for everyone else to see.

About Smokin’ Joe… 

Smokin’ Joe is a painter, illustrator, sculptor, and industrial designer living and working in the American southwest. He was born 1965 in Southfield, Michigan where he was raised on Bob Seger and vintage muscle cars. At age 10, he headed out for K-K-K-Katmandu, but only made it as far as A-A-A-Arizona, where he attended college and received a degree in art. In the 1980s he began working as a designer and art director in the themed construction industry, creating giant sculptures and ornate architecture for casinos, theme parks, and museums. He currently splits his time between his Nevada studio where he continues to create giant sculptures, and his Arizona studio where he paints and draws and meditates… and occasionally enjoys a bottle of wine. You can visit his artwork and contact him at

Article By Nathan Brugnone. Photos Courtesy of Alcantara Vineyards & Winery.
Article Originally Published in Arizona Vines and Wines Spring 2013 Issue

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