If, reading through the list of winning wines in the recent second annual Great Northwest Wine Competition, you came across a double-gold red blend from Columbia Gorge winery AniChe Cellars called Moth Love, you likely raised an eyebrow.
That is, unless you’re a fan of Barbara Kingsolver and have read “Prodigal Summer,” her tale of three women and their fateful loves.
“Our wines are all named after literary characters in novels,” explained AniChe winemaker Rachael Horn. “There’s something in the wine that reminds me of a particular character.”
Moth Love, a GSM blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre from the Elephant Mountain Vineyard in Washington’s Rattlesnake Hills, recalled for Horn the character of Lusa in “Prodigal Summer.”
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Lusa, “an entomologist, falls for a farmer, but she gets more out of the relationship than he does. They’re ill-fitted. It’s not a good match. But there’s a chemical attraction there, a draw of nature,” Horn said.
Lusa is particularly interested in luna moths.
“The males are gorgeous, but they live their entire lives to find a mate,” she said.
And like the luna moth, once the farmer fulfills his duty, he dies.
Horn found that same earthy chemical attraction in her GSM blend and named it Moth Love.
The literary naming convention started serendipitously. As happens for more than a few winemakers looking for a name, the inspiration started as Horn and friends and co-workers were tasting a new wine and talking about what to call it.
The wine, a blend predominantly of Syrah with a little Viognier, “was judicious and balanced, not a lot of mystery, very high-brow,” Horn said.
“And very male. My wines have gender,” she said.
And someone in the group said it reminded them of Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The idea has carried on with all of AniChe’s wines. Sirius from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Be Holden for Holden Caulfield in J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye.” Goat Boy for John Barth’s “Giles Goat-Boy.” And Three Witches for the weird sisters in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” among others.
The names carry on through successive vintages. Though percentages can change, the basic blend of grapes is the same, she said, so each wine’s character stays true to its name.
Horn calls herself a failed writer. But that’s harsh. And premature. At worst, she’s an interrupted writer.
Horn said she was trying to write the great American novel when she shelved the effort to make wine. She went through Washington State University’s enology program and started AniChe in 2009 with her husband, Todd Mera, who runs the cellar and is referred to as CFO, chief forklift operator. The two met while working in a wine restaurant.
Horn recently returned to writing to pen a mystery, “The Tainted Finish,” set appropriately in the wine industry, in which winemaker Clarence Blackwell dies an untimely death. Horn is finishing the final chapter and hopes to self-publish the book this fall.
Naming AniChe’s wines after literary characters has prompted great conversations with wine lovers. More than a few people have said they’ve gone back to the classics that her wines refer to.
“It’s fun watching people trying to remember their AP English from high school,” Horn said. Just as with great novels, “the wine speaks to us,” she said.
-- Jon Bauer is Wine Press Northwest’s Salish Sea correspondent. The longtime newspaperman lives near La Conner, Wash.