I am a word nut. I love the sound of certain words and names and the images they create. I was part of the team that put together the 2010 Canadian Wine Annual and in the process, I learned that there are some great names in Canadian wine (and no, I’m not talking about Mike Weir Wine or Wayne Gretzky Estate Wines).
Some wineries, like Niagara’s Malivoire (make sure no one’s around and try saying it out loud) and the Similkameen’s Young & Wyse Collection Wines, are blessed with fabulously named proprietors who lent their monikers to the business. And then there are names like Dirty Laundry and Organized Crime that just make you wonder how they came about.
Next week at the Canadian Wine Awards, our judges will be assessing some great Canadian wine — and when you get right down to it, that’s what matters. But for now, I’d like to call attention to some wonderful Canadian winery names and the stories behind them. Information has been either gleaned from winery websites or provided by helpful staff/owners.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard (Summerland, BC)
Once upon a time (in the late 19th century), an enterprising Chinese gentleman ran away from his place working on the Canadian Pacific Railway and ended up in Summerland. He first opened a laundry business, but quickly discovered that there was another open niche in the market. He expanded operations to the second floor of his business, opening a brothel and a gambling den. “Needless to say,” Dirty Laundry’s website claims, “Summerland's early settlers and visitors had some of the cleanest garments in the Valley... not to mention the widest grins."
Church & State Wines (Brentwood Bay, BC and Oliver, BC)
Proprietor Kim Pullen says the name “Church & State” reflects the concept of balance that he strives to keep in mind when running the winery. When he purchased the property on Vancouver Island, then called Victoria Estate, it consisted of a four-acre vineyard and a 24,000-square-foot winery, devoted mainly to public space. It struck him, he says, as being hugely out of balance, with the business side receiving far more attention than the winemaking. To Pullen, the “State” represents the head, or the business side of a winery. The “Church” represents the heart, or the wine itself. He tries to keep this balance of head and heart in making and selling his wine.
8th Generation Vineyards (Summerland, BC)
Owner and winemaker Bernd Schales represents the eighth generation of winemakers in his family, who have been making wine in Germany since 1783. Stefanie Schales’ family (with the surname “Frank”) have been winegrowers for 10 generations, with both families passing their vineyards down from generation to generation. The Schales moved to the Okanagan in 2003 and brought the family tradition with them (you can, if you’re interested, view both lineages on the winery website). Generation nine is currently growing up in and around the vineyard.
Organized Crime Winery (Beamsville, ON)
There’s something hugely appealing about a good double entendre — particularly when you don’t know it’s a double entendre until you ask. The story behind Organized Crime begins not with the Mafia or with motorcycle gangs, but with Mennonites – two congregations of Mennonites, to be precise, who were in a heated disagreement over an organ. Tensions reached a climax when one congregation broke into the other’s church and took the organ, which they then threw down an embankment.
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery (St. Catharines, ON)
I was originally going to pass over Henry of Pelham on the grounds that I wanted to focus on wineries that weren’t using either a location or a proprietor’s name — and HOP is located on Pelham Rd. A quick glance at my Wine Annual, though, reminded me that, in fact, the winery is run by the three Speck brothers: Paul, Matthew and Daniel, to be precise. So who’s Henry?
Henry, it turns out, was Henry Smith, the son of Nicholas Smith, the great-great-great-grandfather of the current proprietors and the man to whom the land the winery sits on was originally deeded back in the late 18th or early 19th century.
In 1842, Henry built an inn, tavern and carriage house on the site. According to information from the winery, “When signing for the tavern’s liquor license, Henry Smith dropped his last name, choosing the moniker Henry of Pelham to both recognize his ownership of the toll road he lived along and what must have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to the recent British Prime Minister, Sir Henry Pelham.” The name, it turns out, caught hold — Henry of Pelham was from then on referred to in documents as Henry of Pelham.