Thursday, October 4, 2018

Coolshanagh releases its fifth Chardonnay

Photo: Coolshanagh proprietors Skip and Judy Stothert

With its fifth vintage of Chardonnay, tiny Coolshanagh Vineyard confirms it is one of the premier Chardonnay producers in the Okanagan.

The release of 750 cases of the 2016 vintage is the largest release so far from this Naramata Bench producer. There will never be much because Coolshanagh has just 10 acres of vineyard, almost a quarter of which is more recently planted Pinot Noir. The first vintage of Pinot Noir was 2015 – a miniscule 27 cases. Production of that doubled in 2016.

Coolshanagh is a boutique winery operated by Skip and Judy Stothert. The wines are available on the Coolshanagh website (and in some high-end restaurants). There is no tasting room of wine shop. The vineyard, seven kilometres north of Naramata Village, is at the north end of Naramata Road, just past the Chute Lake turnoff.

The Stotherts bought the 52-acre property in 2003 because they wanted acreage with views of Okanagan Lake and also with privacy. There was no intention to plant vines initially. “We bought the property just to retire,” Skip says. 

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 immediately.

“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.”

Trees were felled, land was prepared, and the first hectare of Chardonnay was planted in 2004. Since then, the vineyard has been quadrupled with the planting of more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  For viticulture advice, Skip has tapped the experience of Okanagan Crush Pad vineyard managers as well as Pedro Parra, the Chilean terroir consultant used extensively by OCP.

Between 2008 and 2011, Coolshanagh Chardonnay grapes were sold to Foxtrot Vineyards. Then in 2012, Skip and Judy decided to launch their own label. The target, when Coolshanagh is at full production, is to release about 1,500 cases of Chardonnay and 300 cases of Pinot Noir annually.

The wines are made for Coolshanagh by OCP’s winemakers, with input from Skip, who has a clear idea of the style he wants for Coolshanagh. He does not want to make a California-style Chardonnay. He wants an age-worthy wine in the style of a white Burgundy.

The 2016 Coolshanagh Chardonnay began by picking on advice from Pedro Parra. “Each block of Chardonnay is hand-picked at a different time, with the first picking taking place in mid-September and the last in early October, 2016,” according to the technical notes for the wine. “Each section was treated differently to optimally express each vineyard location.” The lots were ultimately blended and bottled without fining or filtration.

While OCP ages most of its wines entirely in concrete, about one-third of each Coolshanagh Chardonnay spends about 11 months in oak (mostly neutral). “To me, Burgundian wine has oak in it,” Skip says. “Even Chablis is moving into using some oak.”

The Stotherts are content with OCP and are not planning to build their own winery. “Maybe if one of the granddaughters wants to build it,” Skip says. “I have a wine building down here and it could be done. But that means we could not do all of the travelling we want to do.  That is what it comes down to.”

A note on the winery name. Coolshanagh is a Celtic word that translates as “a meeting place of friends.” For the Stotherts, it had an excellent ring to it for their property. The name has been used by Judy’s family, which has roots in Scotland and Ireland, for several generations to identify their various homes.

A note on the wine.

Coolshanagh Chardonnay 2016 ($36.90). This elegant wine has aromas and flavours of citrus and apple with very subtle oak, bright acidity and a spine of minerality. The flavours are fresh and focused, supported with good texture. 93.


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