Since joining in 2014, the Isaacs simply started by getting their wine allocation. But their curiosity soon led them to get more involved. Not too long after joining, they took the leap into blending their own wine and creating their own label. Brian says, “The label is more of a commitment, and we didn’t want to rush into it. Wine is a generational thing, so we spent some time thinking of what our label would be.”
There are so many interesting things about the Isaac’s label—from the quirky name to the blend of abstract and impressionist qualities of the art. The sketch has a relatable and endearing quality to it—reminiscent of a sweet painting that your child brings home to you from school, and you hang on the refrigerator.
But, before we get into the art, let’s detail the name first. Napping Dog Estate is a playful moniker that’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek. The Isaacs live in Canada, and have a second home in a humble cottage on a lake in northern Canada. While the cottage plays an important part in the Isaac family tradition, it’s by no means an “estate” by anyone’s standards. However, for labeling purposes, this cottage is their estate. “Napping Dog” refers to the reality that the Isaacs have always owned dogs—since Brian and Dawn were married. And Brian and Dawn each had their own dogs before they met. So, “home” to the Isaac family is where the dogs are. It follows that their dogs are usually napping. Hence, Napping Dog Estate.
Now back to the label. It turns out that simplicity reigns here. The tree and the moon dominate. Next, you probably notice the waves. Up at their cottage on the lake, when the full moon is out, it casts a silvery light over the lake and all of the evergreens—and this is the scene you see.
Fittingly, Brian, who has been coming to this cottage since he was 8 years old, painted the scene. Originally this sketch was meant to be the starting point, because the plan was to commission a professional artist for the final product. However, after shopping it around, the family couldn’t find anything better than the version that Brian (who, by the way, is a radiologist) painted that authentically came close. This bring us to another aspect of this label that’s much more personal to the family.
They opted to keep it black and white for its simple elegance. “It’s straightforward, simple and clean. That’s how we try to live our lives,” says Brian. “Sometimes less is more,” he says. Even though the wine is called Napping Dog Estate, there is noticeably no picture of a dog anywhere to be seen. Again, that was by design. The family believed that if you put a dog on the label, it has to be an artistic rendition of a specific dog (and they couldn’t land on just one dog) or it had to be really playful—which was not the approach they were going for.
Instead, they commemorate the napping dog by name—and each vintage highlights a different dog. They ultimately plan to expand to include their two sons, acknowledge their 25th wedding anniversary and keep the convention fluid enough so they can include future dogs in the mix, or daughter-in-laws, too (no pressure, Jordy or Ben). The labels are printed until 2017. The premier vintage started with Roofus (one of their first family dogs) in 2012, Ollie (the older of their two current dogs) for 2013, Flori (the puppy) for 2014, Jordy (their youngest son) for 2015, Ben (their eldest son) for 2016, Brian and Dawn (to celebrate their 25th anniversary) for 2017. Then it will repeat.
They blend their own wine and have their own row of vines at The Reserve, and they try to get as involved as possible. According to Brian, this is the best of all worlds. Solid experts are growing the grapes and handling the wine, and you get to get involved and blend (which, he notes, is quite an intricate process). The experiential factor is a big one for the Isaacs. The wines in their cellar are 99% from small producer wineries that they’ve personally had the pleasure to visit. From these intimate visits, they get an appreciation of what went into the wine they’re drinking. According to Brian, “Taste is important, but the experience is equally as important.”
“We love the wine, and the role we get to play in blending and creating the label makes it that much more meaningful to me, which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about,” says Brian.