posted by JohnSchreiner at Goodgrog
We are honoured that Mr Schreiner, a fine gentleman and true supporter of Canada's wines, allows use to use his articles.
By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission
Skip and Judy Stothert
One of the hardest Okanagan wines to get is the elegant Chardonnay from Coolshanagh Vineyard. You might find it in a handful of private wine stores, including the Naramata General Store. Or you could order it directly from the winery, where the minimum order is a case. It is well worth searching the winery’s website for the restaurants and stores that may have it. It is not that Skip and Judy Stothert, who own this Naramata Road winery, are being difficult. It is just that this is a small producer with no ambition to be large – just to farm their vineyard to yield premium wines. Here is an excerpt from the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide, the 2019 book I wrote with Luke Whittall.
Skip and Judy Stothert do not plan a winery at Coolshanagh Vineyard. By leaving the winemaking and distribution with professionals at Okanagan Crush Pad Winery, they are able to winter in a warmer climate. Each spring, however, they return to the vineyard that has become a consuming passion since they began planting vines in 2004. The vineyard and winery began when Skip decided to retire and turn over his business, Green Roads Recycling, to his sons. “We moved here in 2003,” Skip says, referring to the 21 hectares (52 acres) of forest that he and his wife bought at the north end Naramata Road, attracted by the seclusion and the stunning views over Okanagan Lake. “My sons were taking over the business, and I got bored,” Skip admits. “I researched grape varieties.” He settled on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Burgundian varieties that suited his calcium-rich soil as well as his palate. “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 (2½ acres) of Chardonnay was planted in 2004. Since then, the vineyard has been quadrupled with the planting of more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 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. Even without a tasting room, the hospitable Stotherts welcome visitors by appointment to the vineyard. After all, Coolshanagh is a Celtic word that translates as “a meeting place of friends.” The name has been used by Judy’s family, which has roots in Scotland and Ireland, for several generations to identify various homes. “When we decided on a name, we just liked ‘meeting place of friends,’” Judy says.
Coolshanagh began selling its wine in 2014. The Chardonnay was well-received until COVID-19 disrupted business in 2020. “A lot of my sales were to hospitality,” Skip says, referring to restaurants. “I lost 80% of those sales for over a year. Hawksworth, for example, was getting rid of inventory and not buying anything – especially when they were shut down. Wickaninnish Inn had been selling 12 cases a month of our product. Then the inn was closed for about a year.” Sales have since recovered now restaurants have re-opened. In any event, the Coolshanagh Chardonnay also ages well. “A fan sent me a picture and said he was crying and laughing at the same time,” Skip relates. “The 2012, he said, was so good he could not believe it … and he was on his last bottle. That was a year ago. We just opened a 2013. It has the same characteristics. It has not turned flabby. It is still unbelievably good.
The winery also produces about 150 cases of Pinot Noir, sold primarily to the Coolshanagh wine club, and a few hundred cases of Chardonnay Reserve. The winery’s following also can look forward to the release, probably in 2023, of a traditional method Chardonnay sparkling wine. The equivalent of 550 cases was laid down in 2019. Here is a note on the 2018 Chardonnay
Coolshanagh Chardonnay 2018 ($30 for 1,300 cases). This is a polished fruit-forward wine fermented and aged in a combination of French oak and concrete. It begins with aromas of citrus and apple leading to lightly buttery flavours of apple and peach with a hint of vanilla. The refreshing finish lingers. 92.
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