When you open a carton of wine from Okanagan Valley’s Blasted Church winery, the first thing that greets you is a cover sheet showing a chalice with praying hands and text that reads “Sacred wine inside.” You might be forgiven for thinking you had accidentally ordered sacramental wine, but the religious theme is part of Blasted Church’s DNA. It’s on the bottle labels and the names of many of the excellent wines.
The background story starts in 1929, when people in Okanagan Falls set out to dismantle an old wooden church at a deserted mining camp about 25 kilometres away and reassemble it in their town. It proved impossible to pull out the rusty, square nails without damaging the wood, so four sticks of dynamite were set off inside the church to loosen them. It could have had more dramatic results, but although the steeple was destroyed, the blast did loosen the nails. The ‘blasted church’ was taken apart and reassembled in Okanagan Falls, where it is still in use.
Blasted Church Winery was founded about 20 years ago—its first commercial vintage was 2002—and it has gained a reputation (and many awards) for the quality of its wines. Among the religion-themed wines are OMG (a sparkling), Dam Flood (a red blend), Unorthodox Chardonnay, and Bible Thumper Viognier, while the label graphics are variously cartoons or religious scenes in styles reminiscent of Old Masters. Most of Blasted Church’s wines are in the Renaissance Series, limited-production wines are in the Small Blessings Series, and wines reserved for members of the winery’s club are in the Flock Exclusive Series.
Noteworthy among the wines in the Small Blessings Series are four made from Italian red grape varieties: refosco, lagrein, teroldego, and nebbiolo. Blasted Church sources the grapes from a grower in the Similkameen Valley—originally, says Tanya Martin, the winery’s general manager, “because our winemaker thought they were fun and interesting, and we wanted to see what we could do with them.”
Fun and interesting, perhaps, but these grapes have been used to produce excellent wines that are an important part of Blasted Church’s portfolio—so much so that the winery has planted its own nebbiolo. These wines share a common style that brings together in perfect balance natural high acidity with gorgeous fruit. The refosco is high-toned, all red cherries, the lagrein showcases layered red fruit, and the lagrein-teroldego blend is intensely flavoured and well balanced. As for the nebbiolo, one of Italy’s most prestigious varieties, at Blasted Church it delivers well-defined fresh and dried fruit backed by clean, fresh acidity.
Do some people find the religious references off-putting? Martin says complaints were “very common in the early days when the brand was new,” but that there have been only one or two complaints in the past couple of years. “I always respond that our branding is in no way meant to be offensive, rather it is just a fun play on marketing directly related to the history of the United Church in the community of Okanagan Falls.” The church itself now displays a sign saying that it is the “Blasted Church.”
Blasted Church’s wines, whether made from Italian varieties or ones more commonly found in the Okanagan Valley, are quite heavenly. Make it a mission to seek them out.
Blasted Church Syrah Rosé
Blasted Church Small Blessings Refosco
Blasted Church Small Blessings Lagrein
Blasted Church Small Blessings Lagrein Teroldego
Blasted Church Small Blessings Nebbiolo