In 2005 the von Teichman family sold its interest in Canada’s largest VQA winery, Pelee Island. In 2006 Allan Jackson sold his interest in Jackson Triggs. Jackson and winemaker Andrew von Teichman (who had grown up working at the family-owned business) teamed up to create Generations Wine Company in 2009.
Generations Wine Company is a virtual winery that sells wine under the Union Wines label. This virtual concept is one with no vineyards, no winery, and no equipment. Grapes are sourced from Ontario growers and the wine is produced at an existing winery. This allows Jackson and von Teichman to offer premium wines without all the costly equipment. Their vision for Union Wines is in the art of blending multiple grape varieties to create consistent, reliable, award winning wines.
Allan Jackson and Andrew von Teichman were tossing around an idea of creating another label with a wine that is truly Canadian, said von Teichman. “A wine that captures who we are: polite until poked, proud, humble, fiery when called upon, yet cheeky, playful and down-to-earth. A bear signifies so much of who we are as Canadians, and was the ideal icon for our new wine.”
The new wine branding is called “D’Ont Poke the Bear.” The bear on the labels is wearing an eye patch. Andrew von Teichman wore a patch in grade one because of a medical condition. As a result, he was bullied — a victim of name-calling, physical threats and exclusion from games in the schoolyard. The bullying has had a life-long effect. The pestering ended the day young von Teichman was jumped from behind, but ended up getting the upper-hand in the scuffle. This was his own D’Ont Poke the Bear experience.
Andrew von Teichman said, “In retrospect, being the youngest kid in the class as well a nerd put a target on my back for bullying, until I had my own D’Ont Poke the Bear experience!” This happened circa 1960, before bullying was generally condemned as unacceptable behaviour.
While working on the project, Allan Jackson mentioned that he too had been a victim of bullying. When they discovered their mutual interest in discouraging bullying, the cause became a natural one to link to the new brand of wines.
The name came about by accident. They were discussing the label with their designer, who is French, lives in Spain and uses English as his third language. They used the expression “don’t poke the bear” during the meeting. Once they explained it to the designer, they agreed to use the name.
The spelling “D’Ont Poke the Bear” was originally a spelling mistake printed on the concept art that they were sent, with the apostrophe in the wrong spot. Andrew explains “We thought it was a brilliant, disruptive mistake that called out Ontario” and they decided to keep the spelling. “When we decided on anti-bullying awareness as our social responsibility goal for D’Ont Poke the Bear wines, we searched for charities to support, but couldn’t find one that was a slam dunk. So we created Friends First to act as an extension of our brand and [to promote] anti-bullying awareness.”
Von Teichman states “we are raising money and awareness for anti-bullying, with proceeds from every bottle we sell going to Friends First.” (www.friendsfirst.ca)
The first two wines were released to the LCBO last summer and within the first seven weeks they had sold out of what was supposed to be a year’s worth of wine. To keep up with demand, more wine is being bottled, with plans to have a good supply of each available in most LCBO stores in January.
We’ve all been involved in or witnessed bullying. Allan Jackson and Andrew von Teichman invite you to speak out against bullying and share your story on your social platform, and help others build the courage to do the same using the hashtag #dontpokebears. You can also find hats and shirts on the website (www.dontpokethebear.com) with the proceeds going to Friends First Foundation.
D’Ont Poke The Bear VQA White Blend (LCBO#: 518753, $14.95) — A refreshing blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and 5% riesling. Dry, aromatic and tropical fruit notes, lively and refreshing. An affordable go-to wine that will please most white wine drinkers.
D’Ont Poke The Bear VQA Red Blend (LCBO #518746, $14.95) — A smooth red blend of cabernet sauvignon and baco noir. This dry, medium bodied wine offers ripe, fresh red and blue fruit notes. It’s an easy-going blend, unpretentious, a perfect partner with fireplaces, friends, and will enhance anything on the grill.