What’s in a name?

Column written by Lorne Eckersley of the Creston Valley Advance – a Black Press newspaper

La Dolce Vita

Being attracted, or repelled, by a winery name is pretty much like judging a book by its cover. But who among us hasn’t done just that?

When I’m standing before a shelf full of wines, or even driving around wine country, I occasionally find myself surprised at the response I feel to the name of the winery. It can be positive or negative, but it is often a strong one, strong enough to influence my shopping or visiting.

Years ago, we had several enjoyable visits at Scherzinger Vineyards near Summerland. Those were in the earlier years of the Okanagan wine industry’s rebirth and like many others, this winery didn’t look like it had much professional input into its marketing and branding. On one visit the owner, whose first name now escapes me, admitted that the Scherzinger name was proving to be a challenge in drawing people to the winery, and in ordering its wines in stores and restaurants.

Why? Most people don’t know how to pronounce the name, he said. Shkare-tsing-ah, Share-tsing-ah would be the likely German pronunciations, but others opted for Sure-zinger and even more creative ones. Eventually the winery was sold. Enter Bernie Hadley-Beauregard (speaking of names!) of the Brandever marketing firm. The winery was rebranded as Dirty Laundry Vineyards and it’s been a popular attraction ever since. Intriguing name and story, great label.

It’s actually quite remarkable, the Hadley-Beauregard influence on winery names and images. A quick scroll through the Brandever website reveals that he has been the marketing guru behind Blasted Church, Moon Curser, Monster Vineyards, Therapy Vineyards, Tantalus, Hard Row to Hoe, Laughing Stock, Megalomaniac and 8th Generation, all Okanagan wineries. Other labels for international contracts include Nauti Buoy, Foreign Affair, Stubborn Fool and Whatamacallit. Do you think this guy has fun at his job?

Of course not all winery names have curb appeal. I purposely used to drive past Golden Beaver, thinking that its amateurish stab at a double entendre wasn’t a good indication of what I might find in the winery. It has since been renamed. Same with Hollywood and Vine, which was just a little silly to me. The Summerland winery was sold earlier this year and renamed Saxon Winery, perhaps not a great name, but a step up, nonetheless.

Not surprisingly, geography and animals dominate BC winery names, the latter likely inspired by the success Australian wines had with their branding efforts. I’m not a great fan of generic geographical names like Lake Breeze, Hillside, Seven Stones and Desert Hills. They seem to lack an effort in their naming, somehow. More specific geographic names like Mission Hills, Mt. Boucherie, Elephant Island, Hester Creek, Kettle Valley and, in Creston, Skimmerhorn, at least evoke a locality.

Birds and animals have been quite successful on labels in this province. Think of Burrowing Owl, Quail’s Gate, Stag’s Hollow, Red Rooster and Wild Goose.

Family names, of course, also remain popular. House of Rose, Meyer Family Vineyards, Nichol Vineyard (although the Nichols are no longer involved), Lang, Herder and D’Angelo, for instance.

My favourite names and labels create a sense of story before one even knows about the history. That’s why Blasted Church was such a success, I think. Who doesn’t want to know the story behind the name? Add to the mix the incredibly innovative and still unique cartoons that appear on each label and the branding has led to prolonged success.

Therapy Vineyards is another that presents a full package of possibilities for marketing. The slogan, “Everybody needs a little Therapy”, is memorable and the use of Rorschach blots is brilliant. More recently, the name and image of Sigmund Freud have been used to great success and there is a sense of humour that abounds in the image. Who doesn’t want to indulge in a bubbly called Fizzio Therapy, for example, or Freudian Sip?

Here in Creston, the name Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery was chose for a historical character, an Austrian adventurer who was the early designer of dikes that allowed Creston Flats farmland to be reclaimed. There is a legend that says that Baillie-Grohman first visited the Kootenays on a mountain goat hunting trip with none other than Teddy Roosevelt. History and marketing can go quite nicely together.

Winery names are endlessly fascinating. And so is each person’s response to them.