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A Small Fortune: Naming a Winery

Everyone in wine country has at least some grapes in the ground and the term “vintner” covers a broad range. One vintner I know in St. Helena has a vineyard that in total is comprised of six zinfandel vines in pots.

Our vineyard is small but I am sure will one day compete with Grace Family, Harlan or Screaming Eagle. In the meantime we are trying to learn more about wine than drinking it. Planting, pruning and harvesting grapes all sounds romantic but is a lot more like work than people think. But we are finding that working in the field is still easier than the biggest challenge faced by all great winemakers - naming the vineyard.

The family name is the first place to go in the naming activity but some names are better than others when it comes to creating a wine brand. Some vintners are lucky because the family name just sounds like wine. Names like Gallo, Sebastiani, Beringer and Clos du Bois come to mind. The names that match things that don’t necessarily go together are fun. Cakebread and Duckhorn are the leaders in this category. Someone told me that these are real family names but I don’t believe it. The names are too good. Next thing someone will tell me that Mondavi was really someone’s name.

For our winery, like Cakebread, we tried to mix words that don’t usually go together to conjure up a name that would mean nothing but sound like a great wine. Burning Eyebrow Vineyards? Gravel Candy Cellars? Chateau Yellow Stickies? Digital Oaks Winery? We just couldn’t make it work.

All the creek names and anything to do with oak seem to be taken. We could make up a creek or a kind of oak but there’s probably a rule against it. The whimsical names are great if they are not too cute. Pulling in higher powers through the use of a saint would be good and could protect us if Prohibition comes back. However, using a Saint’s name might make me feel guilty for not going to church.

The name of our wine will create the brand that will allow us to change conventional wisdom! We will turn our small fortune into a large fortune through wine. Not the converse. Since we make a blend, how about something like Symphony or Tapestry? Aaaaargh, they are all taken. Wait, Moran Manor are two words with the same five letters – the letters are blended, just like our wine. Moran Manor is an anagram, just like Elvis Lives. How about Anagram? A good name for a good wine.