Winemaker Mark Wendenburg
The terminology, like the labels, is just
different at Blasted Church Vineyards.
What other wineries might call “estate” or
“regular” wines is the “Storytelling series” at Blasted Church.
The reason is simple: each label tells a story.
The reserve tier wines are released as the
The stories began to be created in 2002
when Chris and Evelyn Campbell bought a two-year-old winery near Okanagan Falls that was then called Prpich Hills
(after the founder’s surname).
They asked Vancouver marketer Bernie Hadley-Beauregard
to rebrand the winery with a new name and labels. He built an identity for the
winery around the story of the so-called Blasted
Church in Okanagan Falls.
The church had been moved there in 1929 from Fairfield, a mining ghost town near
It got its nickname because the moving
crew, under a foreman called Harley Hatfield, used a dynamite charge to loosen
nails in the building’s heavy beams – knocking off the steeple but not destroying
Blasted Church (the winery) has been mining
Hatfield lore ever since; perhaps even inventing some of the stories recounted
by the caricature figures on the labels. Over the years, the preacher has
emerged as the star of most labels.
These are effective labels that attract
attention and spark conversation. However, it is the wine in the bottles that
brings the repeat consumers. Here are notes on the winery’s current releases.
Church Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($18.99 for a production
of 600 cases). The figures on this label look like a pair of miners from the
days when Fairview
was a boom town. The wine, made with estate-grown grapes along with some
purchased fruit, is crisp and dry. It begins with aromas of herbs and citrus.
On the palate, the clean and focused flavours show notes of lime, minerals and
grapefruit rind. 89.
Church Pinot Gris 2011 ($19.99 for 3,500 cases).
The preacher makes an appearance on this label, conducting his choir. It seems
apt for a wine with a veritable chorus of aromas and flavours – pear, apple,
citrus and spice on the finish. The wine has good weight and a lingering
finish. 90.Blasted Church Gewürztraminer 2011 ($16.99 for 1,500 cases). Here, a disconsolate preacher is seated on a bench of the dismantled church. He could use a glass of this wine to cheer him up. It begins with appealing aromas of spice and herbs and shows zesty, spicy grapefruit flavours. The finish is dry and the alcohol is a moderate 12.5%. 90.
Church Hatfield’s Fuse 2011 ($17.99 for 11,361
cases). The preacher raises his bible while Harley Hatfield primes the fuse.
Winemaker Mark Wendenburg has put together an exuberant fruit basket, blending
no less than nine white varieties: Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Pinot
Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Optima and Ehrenfelser. On
the nose and the palate, you get peaches, pears, apples, limes and apricots,
balanced to finish dry but with just enough residual sugar to give the wine
some flesh. 90.
Church Mixed Blessings 2011 ($17.99 for 400 cases).
The preacher officiates at a wedding of a black man and a white woman. The wine
is a blend of 80% Viognier and 20% Chardonnay Musqué; both are white varieties
but the Viognier is one of those rare white varieties with a little tannin.
Perhaps that inspired the label? The
Viognier gives the wine flavours of stone fruit and pineapple while the
Chardonnay contributes appealingly perfumed aromas. 90.
Church Unorthodox Chardonnay 2011 ($17.99 for 600
cases). This label recalls Michelangelo’s famed Creation of Adam on the ceiling
of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican,
where God extends his finger toward Adam. The Blasted Church
take has God (one assumes) extending a finger toward a tumbling preacher. I am
not sure what that has to do with this wine; perhaps that this is an unoaked
Chardonnay, with all the aromas and flavours as naked as Adam in Michelangelo’s
Never mind the speculation. This may be the
best unoaked Chardonnay in the Okanagan this year, beginning with aromas of
spice and citrus and delivering citrus and apple flavours that seem almost
sweet, although the wine is balanced to dryness. The wine is marvellously pure
and focussed. 92.
Church Big Bang Theory 2010 ($18.99 for 1,500
cases). Harley’s explosion is about to happen, a precursor to the explosion of
flavour in this wine. This red is another complex blend: Pinot Noir (42%),
Merlot (32%), Lemberger (8%), Cabernet Franc (3%), Malbec (7%) and Syrah (2%). This
is a juicy, medium-bodied red with flavours of black cherry and blackberry,
along with a hint of strawberry. 88.