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
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
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
He began his search
for suitable vineyard land with several years of climate study. A property near
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.
392 Columbia Gardens Road
Here are notes on the two wines just released.
SOAHC Riesling 2013
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