On the one hand, the story of Okanagan Falls, BC, winery Blasted Church Vineyards is similar to many others in the region. In 2002, Vancouver expats Evelyn and Chris Campbell were through with their urban careers and figured owning a winery would be fun. But on the other hand, Blasted Church is the story of a brand—and this story is like few others in the Okanagan.
When the Campbell’s purchased their vineyard, it was named Prpich Hills. One of the first orders of business was to create a unique new brand. They hired the marketing company Brandever and began deep diving into the history of Okanagan Falls.
“Soon, they discovered a story that opened up a whole concept for full colourful wraparound labels,” says Tanya Martin, Blasted Church’s General Manager. “And in 2002, there was nothing like our labels in the Okanagan, with their cartoonishness and silliness.”
The story that inspired such a bold concept was, of course, that of Okanagan Falls’ real-life “blasted church”. In 1929, a small crew dismantled a church 16 miles away from town. They were on a mission to bring it back to Okanagan Falls for the community’s use. When simply pulling it apart proved impossible because the rusty nails holding it together damaged the building as they were removed, they moved to dynamite. Incredibly, the plan worked, and only the steeple was destroyed. The church is still providing Sunday services every week in Okanagan Falls.
Depicting this fascinating bit of local history demanded a colourful approach. The team hired artist Monica Melnychuk to create cartoons based on the legend, and these images were featured on the labels. These were the perfect retail labels because their striking visual presence easily jumped off the shelves, with sales soaring right away. The labels attracted plenty of attention—most of it positive, and some negative. In fact, a few people “from the more religious side of life”, as Tanya puts it, were ruffled by the tongue-in-cheek reference to a church.
“The truth is, we’re just celebrating the history of our community. And although we have no affiliation with religion, we have enjoyed years of a solid relationship with this church.”
While they worked on the brand, Blasted Church forged ahead with winemaking. With a 70-acre property —42 acres of which could be planted—they had a lot of production potential. Plus, with good drainage and slopes that were west facing, the conditions were right. They uprooted old varietals like Pearl of Csaba that weren’t in alignment with the modern market. They planted new varietals that suited the three soil types on the property. Finally, they prepared for harvest.
“That was when one of the biggest early challenges for the winery occurred: the winemaker passed away in the middle of the harvest. It was a tragic situation. Fortunately, other local winemakers stepped in to complete the work. This is a small, connected community, and people support each other here.”
Nowadays, Blasted Church is an award-winning outfit that puts out between 15,000 – 18,000 cases of wine each year. And the company that manufactures the shipping cartons for all of that wine is fellow BC-based business Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).
“GLBC is the best company to work with. Their communication skills are top-level. Our rep there never says no to me, ever. They always accommodate us with our last-minute changes.”
In the near future, Blasted Church is hoping to have more people than ever visit them. To prepare, they’re always “growing the on-site customer experience. New food offerings. Vineyard walks. Special events. We can’t wait to host people this spring and summer.”
We hope you get the chance to be one of these visitors. We’re proud of partnering with this uniquely colourful winery.