Photo: Coolshanagh owners Skip and Judy Stothert
RR1, S16, C47 Naramata, BC V0H 1N0
Whether or not there is minerality in wine was at the centre
of the most contentious session last summer at the Cool Climate Chardonnay
Conference in Niagara
Several scientists made presentations insisting there is no
such thing as minerals in wine. After listening to this for 45 minutes, Matt
Kramer, a wine writer from Portland,
erupted. “The only problem with scientists,” he said, “is that they don’t know
a goddamn thing they are talking about!”
Even if you can’t measure minerality in wine, you can taste
it, he argued.
The Coolshanagh Vineyard Chardonnay from a new winery on the
Naramata Bench would support him. A tasting of the three vintages so far from
this property suggests this might be one of the most mineral-driven and
Burgundian-inspired Chardonnays in British Columbia.
Coolshanagh is a so-called “virtual” winery. It is based on
a very real vineyard but the owners, Skip and Judy Stothert, leave the
winemaking to Okanagan Crush Pad Winery
The wines are also sold under the OCP license since the Stotherts have not yet
Even when they do, there is unlikely to be a tasting room.
The vineyard, seven kilometres north of Naramata
, is at the north end of Naramata Road
past the Chute Lake
turnoff. Few wine tourists would
drive that far even if the Stotherts did not value their privacy.
Skip is a retired businessman. The company he founded is now
called Green Roads Recycling. It is a road paving company with a difference: it
renews paving with a moving train of equipment that scoops up the old pavement
and melts it and mixes that with the new pavement that is laid down
“We moved here in 2003,” Skip says. “My sons were taking
over the business and I got bored. I researched grape varieties. I knew I
wanted to do Chardonnay and I wanted to do Pinot Noir.”
He had grown up in a household with wine on the table. His
father, Win Stothert, ran an international engineering company.
“My dad was in the Opimian Society, so I grew up drinking
Burgundian Chardonnays right from the get-go, when I was about 10 or 11,” Skip
says. “And there also was Burgundian Pinot Noir.”
The vineyard is
between the road and Okanagan
. “We bought the
property just to retire,” Skip says. The
property, about 52 acres in size, still is mostly raw land and forest with
spectacular views over the lake.
He planted the first block of Chardonnay, about 2 ½ acres,
in 2004. The vineyard has since been expanded to just over eight acres, most of
it four different Dijon
clones of Chardonnay.
The winery describes the vineyard in this manner: “The site
offers distinct regional flavours that emerge from the fertile, calcium
carbonate-loaded silt, gravel, clay and fractured glacial bedrock.”
When the vines began producing in 2008, Skip and Judy began
selling the fruit to Foxtrot Vineyards. In 2010 and 2011, Foxtrot put
Coolshanagh Vineyard on the label of its Chardonnay.
“In 2011 or 2012, we ran into Okanagan Crush Pad and got
pretty excited about the ability to go somewhere and not having to build your
own winery,” Skip recounts. Since the
2012 vintage, Okanagan Crush Pad’s winemakers have been making the Chardonnay
that is released under the Coolshanagh label.
The Celtic name on the label resonates with the owners
because there is a family connection.
“Coolshanagh came from my side of the family, the
McConnans,” Judy says. “My grandmother always used to have Coolshanagh, with
the address underneath, on her letterhead. It means a meeting place of friends.
My cousins continued with Coolshanagh and named their houses or their summer
homes with it. It has continued with our family. When we tried to decide on a
name, we just liked meeting place of friends.”
The name might have originated in Ireland
. “McConnan was grandfather,” Judy recounts.
“When my grandmother married him, she picked up all of the family traditions.
We are not absolutely positive where they came from. We think it might have
and it might have been Connan at that time. We know that they spent 100, 150
years in Scotland
came to Canada
They actually landed in Newfoundland
came across to Victoria
The Stotherts got a modest restaurant distribution of their
first wine, from the 2012 vintage, in 2014. Perhaps the winery might be called
“Class of 2014” but the profile has become greater this year.
Here are notes on the three vintages made prior to this
year. The first was made by Michael Bartier and the next two have been made by
Matt Dumayne, his successor at Okanagan Crush Pad.
Note that the largest portion of these wines was fermented
in a concrete egg; and the final blends were aged in concrete.
If Alberto Antonini, Okanagan Crush Pad’s consultant, had
his way, no oak would come near these wines. “To me, Burgundy without barrels would be much
better,” he said this summer. “I need oak only if the fruit is coming from an
Pedro Parra, the Chilean viticulture consultant employed by
OCP, thinks the Coolshanagh terroir is
anything but average.
“This is the kind of site the Okanagan needs to make world
class wine,” he said during a vineyard visit this summer. “This is a mix of
limestone, stones. It has good water-holding capacity. That is why the vigour
of the vines here is pretty good. If we go down, we have more limestone, more
gravel but the soil is more shallow and the fertility is lower. And the vines
have low vigour.”
Chardonnay 2012 ($36.90). A third of this was fermented in new French oak.
The remainder was fermented in stainless steel. The wine was then blended and
aged on the lees in a concrete egg until bottling in 2013. The wine shows notes
of citrus on the nose and the palate. The bright acidity and the spine of
minerality give this elegant wine good ageability. 91.
Chardonnay 2013 (current release). A third of this was fermented in new
French oak and the rest was fermented in a concrete egg. The wine begins with
intense aromas of citrus with a hint of hazelnut, leading to flavours of citrus
and pineapple. Once again, the wine has bright acidity and a spine of
Chardonnay 2014 (not yet released.) A portion of this was fermented in new
oak puncheons, lightly toasted so that oak notes are minimal. The rest was
fermented in a concrete egg. This wine has the textural richness that seems an
attribute of concrete aging. It has rich flavours and aromas of tangerine and
pineapple, with a hint of hazelnut. The bright acidity gives the wine a crisp
and lingering finish. 92.