In Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet," the heroine pointedly asked, "What's in a name?" There is a universal truth to our moniker, they are our identity, our essence. A quick glance at the wine industry reveals that the majority of wineries are named after their owners. However, amid all those surnames are a few winery names that beg explaination.
Bill Cates, co-owner of Tantara Winery in Santa Maria owned a horse named Tantara when he lived in Virginia. "She lead a charmed life of sorts," Bill said. "When Tantara was quite old I sent her to live out her days with other mares." But after a while Bill realized she wasn't getting around very well and made the difficult decision to put her down. He arranged for a vet to euthanize her. "A month later I went back to visit Tantara's grave site.” As he stood there, tears in his eyes for the loss he felt for his beloved horse, something bumped into him from behind. “It was Tantara. The vet had put down the wrong horse! After that, we let her live out her days on her own terms." Just like the pinot noirs they produce, Bill and co-owner Jeff Fink are making wines on their own terms.
Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi took their name from the many houses built in the1920s that used klinker bricks for construction. Klinkers are mal-formed bricks with dark colors due to overheating and cast aside because of their imperfections. However, klinkers provide buildings with a very unique look, as no two are alike. "These bricks have dark, rich colors, and are heavier in weight," Lynne Barnard, President of Klinker Brick Winery explains. "The real relationship of the name to the wines is not the "clinking" sound when the bricks are banged together, but the dark, rich color and heavier weight, just like our big zinfandel."
For Jill and Kevin Mittan, owners of Midlife Crisis Winery in Paso Robles, they had been home winemakers for years, working regular jobs and making wine on the side. "The name was created as a result of that restless longing to do something entirely our own, not for those we worked for." But starting a winery at middle age can be a risky venture. Jill's brother emailed her asking, "Wouldn't a sports car be cheaper?" But more to the point, Jill's college roommate and friend for over 25 years died suddenly and her own brother died un expectedly at age 56. "All the more reason to chase our dreams as hard as we can," she said.
Kathy Joseph, owner of Fiddlehead Cellars in the Santa Rita Hills had two different vintages aging in barrels but still had no idea what to call her winery. One day, while working in her fern bed, it struck her: fiddlehead, the coiled tip of a fern. "The fiddlehead emerges once a year into a very elegant leaf, just like my vintages," she said. "I thought the name was perfectly playful, and it correctly described my approach to making serious wine." Also, since a fiddlehead is considered a culinary delicacy, Joseph felt her wines reflected that idea.
Goats don't fly, but Norm Yost, owner of Flying Goat Cellars in Santa Maria believes they do and he's seen it with his own eyes. He has pygmy goats on his property. Norm built a little house for them and a few of the goats would climb on top of their domicile and jump off the roof. Apparently the goats thought it was fun. The name stuck in Norm's head; a perfect name for his pinot noirs, he thought. In fact, many people try his wines based solely on the label. "Names are powerful and I wanted to create some levity in the wine business," he said.
And back to Shakespeare, perhaps that's the rub. To not have a care in the world except good wine, good food and good company. If that's the case then it doesn't matter what we call our wines, as long as we enjoy them.