The Name Game

By / Magazine / December 26th, 2007 / 1

Flying winemakers, move over! There’s a new wine celebrity in town: the flying image-maker. His name is Bernie Hadley-Beauregard and he has an MBA in Marketing and International Business, a degree that’s taken him to Calona Wines, Purdy’s Chocolates and Starbucks Coffee, among others. In 2001, he started his own design and marketing company, Brandever Strategies. One of his first clients was a long-standing Okanagan winery with an unpronounceable name: Prpich Hills. The new owners had come to him for a makeover.

Hadley-Beauregard researched the history of the area and unearthed the following local lore. In 1929, an old wooden church had to be dismantled in its original mining encampment site in Fairview and reassembled in Okanagan Falls, thirty kilometres away. In order to loosen the wooden nails that held the rafters together, the miners used four sticks of dynamite. The parish priest was given the honour of lighting the fuse. The controlled blast loosened the nails but it also toppled the steeple.

The story of the “destruction” of the church and its resurrection in Okanagan Falls thus came to be depicted in a series of the winery’s labels, along with other satirical images that poke gentle fun at local wine writers (caricatured on the Pinot Gris 2003 label as members of a church choir — this writer included) and oenological celebrities such as wine guru Robert Parker and Wine Spectator publisher Marvin Shanken). The labels are rapidly becoming collectors’ items.

Sales of Blasted Church wines jumped from 1,000 cases under the old name to 10,000 cases at double the price per bottle! Since then, Bernie Hadley-Beauregard has gone on to redesign the image and marketing strategy of wineries around the world. Notable examples are BC’s Dirty Laundry Vineyard, renamed from Scherzinger Vineyards. The reference is to a Chinese laundry in Lower Summerland that was a front for a bordello in the early 1900s. The label depicts a flatiron and, in the plume of rising steam, you can make out (if you’re looking for them) several subliminal nudes. A far cry from the Old World Bavarian charm of the previous owners.

Then there is Megalomaniac, the small Ontario winery started by John Howard (a previous owner of Vineland Estates) whose labels have a Dada-like quality with names such as Son of a Bitch Pinot Noir, Pink Slip Rosé, Contrarian Sauvignon Blanc and Coldhearted Icewine.

The newest Ontario winery to receive the Brandever treatment is the Organized Crime Winery, not a Mafia-backed enterprise but a reference to a religious feud between two Mennonite communities in 1930s Ontario: one of the groups stole the other’s pipe organ and threw it in the river.

Bernie, how many wineries have you actually created or recreated?

We’re probably around the high twenties now. There are a lot of them in mid-stride. There are some wineries we just do superficial things for.

What’s the first thing you look for when you start thinking about remaking a winery?

I look for a couple of things. The most important one for me is the meeting of the minds in terms of what you need to do in the marketplace right now to get where you want to go and if they’re willing to take the leap with us. We’ve had several clients who have chuckled when we’ve presented the names and all that, but they took eleven months to agree to it. It took a lot of hand-holding.

I’ve tried to find ways to say, “Look if we’re going to work together, I will give you sleepless nights. I guarantee this, and, if I don’t give you sleepless nights, I’m not doing my job.” The biggest problem historically has been that the owner looks at his winery in the way they want the consumer to.

How important is the label?

We always say that the last thing the world needs is another winery. Even ones selling millions of cases a year, if they were to just disappear overnight, the very next day another bottle would take over. With that in mind, I consider that the label is one tool that will get you the first date with wine lovers. Then it’s the job of the winemaker to produce the wine that will get the second date.

You seem to have a sense of history. Do you research the background of the wineries, looking for that hook?

I do enjoy unearthing a quirky little story and I feel very giddy when I discover them. I guess the first level is finding the unique story and then it’s the word crafting that really excites me a great deal. I always try to envision what a name will look like on a wine list in a white-linen restaurant and I know that many of these names are just arresting. You stop and talk to the sommelier about the name. Most people in the trade will say, “Dirty Laundry, what a terrible name for a winery.” But damn, it’s selling a lot of wine and that’s fine by me.

Whom do you have in mind when you design a new label?

I don’t believe so much in the demographics of wine consumption. I believe in the psychographics of it. More so, I’m looking for people who don’t want attitude with their wines. I’ve heard this time and time again. People think, you know, Blasted Church, Dirty Laundry, Laughing Stock, what a perfect wine for the target market of the under-35s. If they were just to stand in one of the stores of these wineries and look at who comes in… There are as many sixty-year-olds as twenty-five-year-olds and the only common denominator isn’t age: they just don’t want attitude or snobbishness with their wine.

What projects do you have on the burner at the moment?

We’ve got a project called Plate Licker in Australia. They said, “We’ve got some wines that go very well with food in the affordable category.” We’ve got a winery in Paso Robles in California called Stage Left. We’re doing some really interesting graphics for them. We’ve got Karma Vineyards in Washington. We’ve convinced them that they should have a line of wines called Bad Karma. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also a bit of a quality statement. The Karma label we’re producing for them has about fifty icons of things you can do to create good karma. Like giving a flower or fixing something, feeding a bird — all very gentle, soft things.

What is your own predilection for wine?

I’ll be candid: I’m not the world’s biggest drinker. My wife and I will open up a bottle and I may only have a glass. I tend to favour quality above all else and I really do enjoy a lovely red.

This article was orginally published in the December/January 2007/2008 issue of Tidings, Canada’s Food & Wine Magazine. Tony Aspler is the author of twelve wine books, including the new The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook (co-authored with chef Gurth Pretty). He has also written three wine murder mysteries, featuring wine writer-detective Ezra Brant. Check out his website at www.tonyaspler.com .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Aspler has been writing about wine for over 30 years. He was the wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 21 years and has authored sixteen books on wine and food, including The Wine Atlas of Canada, Vintage Canada, The Wine Lover's Companion, The Wine Lover Cooks and Travels With My Corkscrew. Tony's latest book is Tony Aspler's Cellar Book.

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