July 30, 2019
You’ve got to respect a person who’s not afraid to air their own dirty laundry. Chatting with Bob Campbell, he’s quick to let you know that being in the wine business isn’t all sunsets and rosé.
As proprietor of Dirty Laundry Vineyard in Summerland, B.C., Campbell and his partners have seen their share of difficulties.
“We had a series of what we call the five F’s,” recalls Campbell. “We had a very rainy year in 2007 and dealt with severe flooding that washed away a lot of our topsoil. Then we had a major grass fire. Not long after that, the vineyard battled a disease called the black foot fungus.”
And then came the fourth ‘F’. Campbell recounts the time two of his employees got into a fight and got arrested. Campbell could only shake his head. A former lawyer, he dubbed the incident ‘the felony’.
After dealing with that long list of setbacks, Campbell says the winery decided to claim a fifth F-word for themselves: fun.
“We had to remind ourselves about why we got into this business, and it was to have fun and enjoy ourselves. We tallied up that list, capped it with the reminder and moved forward. Fortunately we can laugh about it all today.”
Dirty Laundry Vineyard produces numerous wines from their property in Summerland including Dirty Laundry Bordello red, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Hush Rosé, Woo Woo Gewürztraminer and Dirty Laundry Say Yes Pinot Gris, and all are available at Calgary-area Co-op Wine Spirits Beer Stores.
Naming your winery after the stuff piled in the bottom of your clothes basket may seem like a bad idea. Campbell admits that he and his partners weren’t sure buying a winery named for soiled clothing was the right way to go.
“We liked that the name was memorable, that it would shock and surprise people,” remembers Campbell. “But there was also an element of history tied to that name too.”
Back in the 1800’s a former railway builder named Sam Suey decided he’d had enough of the hard labour pounding spikes and laying track, and opened a laundry in Summerland where the labourers could bring their work clothes for washing. While they sat around waiting for the clothes to air dry, the men would play cards and gamble. Soon Suey spotted another opportunity. He converted the floor above the laundry into a gaming hall and bordello.
“There was a secret password and everything to access the upstairs. Sam’s laundry had a dirty secret, and that’s the story we like to share about his ‘dirty laundry’ and how we got our name too.”
Dirty Laundry Vineyards doesn’t shy away from Summerland’s colourful, rough-and-tumble history. The vineyard’s wines are all named for an illicit aspect of the laundry’s operations; bordello, hush, madame and so on.
So how is Dirty Laundry’s wine being received across Canada? To answer that question we could employ two more F-words: the financial future is bright.
“”When we bought the winery they were selling about 1,800 cases per year,” Campbell says. “We’re now doing about 35,000.”
Find Dirty Laundry Vineyard wines at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer Stores.
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