Saturday, October 11, 2014

Class of 2014: SOAHC Estate Wines

Photo: SOAHC's Kim McLaughlin and Jamie Fochuk, with the next generation. Courtesy SOAHC Estate Wines

SOAHC is the first winery in British Columbia to be biodynamic from its inception.

Proprietor Jamie Fochuk, in developing the vineyard at Fruitvale (southeast of Trail), tapped the expertise of two French consultants: Philippe Armenier, a biodynamic farming consultant, and Alain Sutre, a Bordeaux winemaking consultant. The mineral spine in the winery’s debut releases, as well as the winemaking, reflects that expertise.

Here is the profile of the winery from my recently published John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.

Let’s clear up the name first: it is nothing more than “chaos” spelled backwards. Proprietor Jamie Fochuk explains that it is an allusion to the biodynamic viticultural practices in his vineyard.

Born in Edmonton in 1973, Jamie grew up in a farming family. After a post high school stint on the ski hills at Lake Louise, he decided to get “a real job,” and moved to Ontario wine country (his father was living in St. Catherines). When a basic viticulture course at the University of Guelph revealed an aptitude for grape growing, Jamie found a job in 1996 with Klaus Reif, a leading Niagara vintner.

Eventually, Jamie was torn between a desire to continue studies at Brock University, where he was doing well, or moving to the Okanagan. The practical-minded Klaus advised that “you will learn more behind a press than at school” and recommended him to Harry McWatters. Jamie immersed himself in viticulture at a succession of Okanagan wineries including Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards, Stag’s Hollow Winery and Black Hills Estate Winery.

He began his search for suitable vineyard land with several years of climate study. A property near Fairview Cellars was appealing but too expensive. Then his research led him to the Columbia Valley southeast of Trail. The Columbia Gardens Vineyard had opened here in 2001, giving credibility to growing grapes in the valley. In 2006, Jamie and his partner, Kim McLaughlin, bought a nearby hillside property with excellent climate and soil properties. Detailed soil analysis revealed, as Jamie expected, no negative impact from the Trail refinery. “I know that giant molecules of heavy metals can’t float in the air,” he says. “We are a long way away. The one question would be the Columbia River, but our water comes off the mountains.”

After clearing the trees and making biodynamic amendments to the soil, Jamie in 2010 planted Chardonnay and Riesling on the vineyard’s 2.7 hectare (6.7 acre) lower terrace. He followed that by planting Pinot Noir, Gamay and Siegerrebe on the 4.85 hectare (12 acre) middle terrace. A three hectare upper terrace remains to be planted. In his planting decisions, he has taken advice from Alain Sutre, the Bordeaux consultant who works with leading Okanagan wineries.

With no farm building yet converted to a winery, Jamie began making his wines at the Synchromesh Winery in Okanagan Falls, producing about 30 cases in 2012 and 400 cases in 2013. When a winery opens here, Jamie says the tasting room likely will resemble the original Black Hills wine shop – a plank across two barrels.

SOAHC Estate Winery
392 Columbia Gardens Road
Fruitvale BC V1R 4W6
T 250.367.7594

Here are notes on the two wines just released.

SOAHC Riesling 2013 ($23.50). Here is a tingling Riesling with laser focussed acidity and 9.5% alcohol. The wine starts with aromas of lemon and herbs and delivers flavours of lime, green apples and herbs with a backbone of minerals. This wine really should be cellared for another two to three years to let the acidity settle down and to allow the nascent complexity emerge. 88.

SOAHC Chardonnay 2013 ($26.50). This wine begins with good aromas of citrus and green apples subtly supported by French oak. On the palate, the wine has the brightness of Chablis, with flavours of grapefruit and apple wrapped around a spine of minerals. 89.


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