The vines at Blasted Church grow on sloping plateau above the eastern shore of Skaha Lake. From the windswept hilltop where the wineshop is situated, there are picture postcard views across the lake to the village of Kaleden on the western shore. The vines grow on sandy loam; the good mix of sand and clay give the soils good water-holding capacity. The winery makes its own compost, adding it to give the vineyard more organic matter.
Vines were first planted here in the 1970s by Croatian-born Dragan (Dan) Prpich who came to the Okanagan in 1973 after working as a millwright in a Hamilton steel mill. Having grown up in a winemaking culture, Prpich decided in 1995 to add a winery to the vineyard. He opened the winery in 2000 but, as a consequence of family tragedies, sold it in 2002.
Evelyn and Chris Campbell, the new and current owners, made a dramatic career change after being financial executives in Vancouver. Evelyn was a certified general accountant who had an independent practise; Chris was an administrator with an international brokerage house. Wanting to run a business of their own, they identified Okanagan wineries as the opportunity and investigated seven wineries during two and a half years before buying Prpich Vineyards.
To put their own stamp on the winery, they changed the name in consultation with Brandever Strategy Inc., a Vancouver company specializing in branding wineries. The name, Blasted Church, was inspired by a colourful chapter in the history of Okanagan Falls.
In 1929 an Okanagan Falls congregation sent a crew under foreman Harley Hatfield to dismantle and move a Presbyterian church from Fairview, the mining ghost town near modern-day Oliver. Hatfield used a small dynamite charge inside the building to loosen the nails. The steeple fell down but the rest of the church was dismantled successfully and rebuilt in Okanagan Falls. It came to be referred to as “the blasted church,” and served Presbyterian, Anglican and United congregations well into the current century. The stained glass windows in the church were a gift of Major Hugh Fraser, who owned the property that became See Ya Later Ranch Vineyards.
The story of the church, along with other vignettes of Okanagan Falls history, has been memorialized through the colourful caricature figures that populate the Blasted Church labels. Original art was commissioned for the initial family of labels and again in 2010 when the labels were refreshed. The labels have won numerous international design awards. More to the point, the labels have powered a more than 10-fold growth in the sales of Blasted Church wines in the decade since the Campbells acquired the winery.
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