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Name That Brand: Now That's an Odd Bird

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jul 17, 2008 1:51pm ET

You might think it’s easy to name a wine brand. I know many people right now who are wrestling with what to call their new wine. Some have common last names already in use, and therefore can't use them. Others are seeking a deeper, more meaningful expression or extension of their ego, passion or mission, and that makes finding the perfect name a challenge.

Some of the names that are used on labels are head scratchers (and I’m hoping you’ll share some of your favorites in the comments). They make you wonder, "How on earth did they decide on that name?" I wondered about the choice of Orogeny, when it was recently introduced as a Pinot Noir label. Opus One seemed to come out of nowhere years ago, but it works. Some are more awkward to pronounce (at least for me), such as Phifer Pavitt (a new Napa Cabernet, which I like, named after the owners, Suzanne Phifer Pavitt and her husband Shane Pavitt). And I always wanted to pronounce "Plam" as "Palm." But with time the names grow on you.

One reason choosing the ideal name can be a headache is that so many names are already owned and registered.

The other day I ran across a list of new fictitious business names listed in the local newspaper: What do Azin, Candelaria, Kaleidoscope, Salamander, Baco, Dancing River, Osprey Glen, Stallion Cellars, Broken Barrel, Foggy Ridge and Red Bird have in common? They are all owned by one wine company (I suspect it might be Fred Franzia), based in Napa, Calif., and we can expect to see these names on labels sooner if not later.

Larry Schaffer
Central Coast —  July 17, 2008 6:26pm ET

It's certainly not an easy decision to come up with a namer - that's for sure! It's kind of like coming up with names for your kids . . . but like coming up with a name for your third born, not your first (which, in my case, was chosen 10 years prior to having her!).

The challenge for me was to come up with a name that not only I was happy with, but that my wife was as well . . . not always an easy task! Luckily, we finally agreed on something that really seems to work for us!

Curious to hear what others have to say.

Cheers and happy tasting!

Larry Schaffer

tercero wines
J J Gallagher
Near Napa, Ca —  July 17, 2008 7:21pm ET
We have a group making a barrel of wine at Crushpad in the City. When we met our rep he told us the toughest decision we would face as a group would be naming our wine and label design! I can believe it.
Jordan Harris
Niagara, Ontario —  July 17, 2008 8:17pm ET
In Virginia there is Tarara Winery. Tarara is Ararat backwards as in Mount Ararat because the year the owners bought the farm there was a flood off the Potomac and the farm overlooks Sugarloaf Mountain. One of the children said that Sugarloaf reminded them of Mount Ararat and the great flood and the ark should come. Anyway, the winery is not Tarara.
Mary Constant
Calistoga —  July 17, 2008 10:17pm ET
We love to describe our wine in terms of constant climate, constant consistancy, constant quality, etc. Someone always asks if that is why we named our wine Constant... Our last name...Pronounced a little differently in France...is a French name.
Phil Telgenhoff
El Dorado Hills, CA —  July 17, 2008 11:56pm ET
JJ, I'm part of a Crushpad group as well. The group was together recently in New York and we selected our wine label and name. Of course we consumed a little Shafer One Point Five to get the creative juices flowing. Our name? "First Crush". I like our name a lot better than Salamander.
Hugh L Sutherland Jr-m
miramar beach, fl —  July 18, 2008 11:42am ET
I ran a cross a New Zealand Sav Blanc with the name of "Cat's Pea on a Gooseberry Bush". It wasn't all bad for about $10/bottle. Can anyone top that name?
Randy Sloan
St. Helena, CA —  July 18, 2008 1:14pm ET
We were lucky in that my wife's last name, Match, also turned out to be a catchy brand name. It ended up sounding much better, in my opinion, than Match Sloan which was our first choice. The folks across the Valley probably would not have appreciated that anyway. Vineyard naming was fun as each has a story and as one of the WS bloggers once pointed out: stories personalize the wine for the customer.

Randy Sloan
Match Vineyards
James Laube
Napa, CA —  July 18, 2008 2:42pm ET
Randy, I like 'Perfect Match' too.
Tom Keith
Sonoma, CA —  July 18, 2008 2:43pm ET
My son in law, Jim McMahon, came up with the name ATHAIR, which is Gaelic for FATHER as our winery name. It is on our Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Jim wanted to honor his late father, step father and father in law. Our dilemma was to come up with a moniker that said more than McMahon or Keith. Our motto is to pay tribute to the powerful influence that all of our father's have had in preparing us for life's journey. Raise your glass in a toast to your father!Tom KeithAthair Wines, Inc.
Matthew Slywka
Seymour, CT —  July 18, 2008 4:51pm ET
James,Off topic but I wanted to bring to your attention.Did you review this wine?http://www.2020wines.com/?content=store&product=1030153553
James Laube
Napa, CA —  July 18, 2008 5:05pm ET
This is the tasting note for the 2005 Mad Hatter, not 2004 (which appeared in WS's Insider June 25, 2008 issue). Mad Hatter is affiliated with Dancing Hares, but is its own label.
Ryan Leeman
Lodi, CA —  July 18, 2008 6:04pm ET
The best name for a wine I have seen recently is Big Pecker. They make a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is very good and has a great label.
Suzanne Phifer Pavitt
Calistoga, CA —  July 18, 2008 7:50pm ET
Jim, couldn't resist chiming in.. if folks are stumbling over Phifer Pavitt, they can remember us by the name of our (one) wine, 'Date Night'.
Matthew Slywka
Seymour, CT —  July 18, 2008 9:49pm ET
Thanks for clearing that up James. I checked the site and only found the one note for the 2004 so I thought this review was a fake. I have seen websites before putting in scores that were higher than what they were actually reviewed.
Angela Bortugno
Napa, CA —  July 21, 2008 8:10pm ET
In today¿s blog you bring up the wine called Orogeny. You¿re not alone wondering about the decision to go with this name. Coming up with a new compelling name is difficult; we spent several months brainstorming. Chalone Wine Group had historically used place names for our brands (Chalone Vineyard, Edna Valley Vineyard), we wanted to continue that tradition when choosing a name for our new Pinot Noir. After exhausting all of the possibilities we could come up with for the Russian River area, and after numerous rejections from the U.S Trademarks office, we decided to look at geologic words. Many of the popular names were already taken (Alluvial, Talus,). My husband is a geologist and I had memory of a geologic term he used once. When Orogeny was launched, Pinot was on the rise. Numerous articles described it as sensual, finicky and mysterious. When I got to the ¿Os¿ in the geological glossary I saw "orogeny." That's it, the word I heard my husband use. The definition read "the process of mountain building." Russian River area is surrounded by mountains and the word orogeny had a provocative sound, which suited Pinot Noir's sensuous, mysterious style. It's also a great California word, our entire landscape is formed by orogenic episodes (earthquakes, subductions).First there were some giggles about the name, but over time people have come to embrace it and its meaning. I do meet people who don't know how to pronounce it but they are never afraid to try or ask how it is pronounced. They also ask the meaning of the word (except for the many geologists who love to tell me the meaning). There are jokes about orogeny's resemblance to another provocative word. Consumers really have fun with this and I believe it helps them remember the wine. The great thing about all of this is that the wine is really good. Once someone tastes it they usually become loyal fans of Orogeny wines and we've had great success with it since the launch in 2002, in spite of its unusual name.
Roy Piper
July 22, 2008 6:26pm ET
Randy, in a recent Wines & Vines, they had an article that showed all your label ideas for Match. That must be the SECOND hardest decision! I think you picked the best option!

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