Salt Spring Siren

Design Surprise in the Pacific Northwest    ooh175

I just returned from a sailing trip in the Canadian Gulf Islands, one of my favorite places in the world. This time, we took the bus to see some of Salt Spring Island by land. There were a couple of wineries I wanted to visit. The driver let us off at a wide spot on a hilly road. We walked up the hill to Salt Spring Vineyards. Dev McIntyre, the winery owner, and his crew were busy loading a truck with their goods. Turns out the entire island had converted to winter hours the day before, and being Friday, the winery was closed. But Dev was affable and went to get his wife, Joanne, to open up the tasting room for us.

We knew good things were in store by the sign on the gate where she met us. A gracious hostess, Joanne began pulling out the vintages they had left at the end of the season. We snacked on locally made brie and crackers imported from France. I was pretty much expecting the trip to be a bust in the design department. Instead I found an unexpectedly delightful label design that graces all of their wines.

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It’s an imaginatively illustrated map of Salt Spring Island, whimsically dotting current and historic land (and sea) marks. Much to my hubby Lowell’s consternation, it just sharpened my keening for the Gulf Island life. With the label as visual aid, Joanne took us on a virtual tour of the island.


The focal point is Eartha. Their website claims her to be the earth goddess, but Joanne divulged a different story. Eartha represents a caricature of the brassy community member who, legend tells, donned nothing more than red boots and a blonde wig and stormed the local government seat to protest a plan for massive clear cutting on the island.  She pretty much shows it all. I doubt this label would have been approved by TTB had it been a U.S. vintage. Eartha and her cadre of activists must have been effective because the forests are still intact with a great deal owned by the Salt Spring Island Conservancy. I love it when the good earth wins.

The Salt Spring label wraps almost all the way around the bottle, requiring hand application to all 2200 cases they make per year. Joanne says it’s worth it because the design is so effective. She admitted some say it’s too playful for the winery’s more expensive vintages, but who cares? It’s charming, fanciful and memorable. It works.

In a corner of the tasting room I spied an empty bottle that once held the vineyard’s sparkling wine. This was a fun label too, but all that was left was this one empty.  I’ll save that for another blog if I can get Joanne to send a photo of a full bottle.

We left loaded down with visions of another great label design, tasty wines, t-shirts and a deepened lust for the lifestyle of the Gulf Islands.


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