Like a fine wine, a local farmer’s vineyard gets better with age.
SOAHC Estate Wines is in its first year of full harvest and owners Jamie Fochuk and Kim McLaughlin were in the fields picking plump white grapes from heavily laden vines at the crack of dawn Friday morning.
“Today is called a flower day, “said Fochuk, referring to the philosophy of biodynamic farming. “It’s a perfect day to plant bulbs for next year, harvest anything that is flower, and a really good day to pick wine grapes.”
With the help of family and friends, Fochuk and McLaughlin planted a 6.7 acre bench of vines in 2010, growing chardonnay and riesling varietals, with a goal to harvest the mature vines this year.
“Last year we had 50 cases,” he said. “This year so far we have four times that already and hoping for 500 to 800 cases.”
After full days of planting, pruning and harvesting, Fochuk transports the grapes to a site in Okanagan Falls where he is growing his hand in oenology, the art of winemaking.
He has worked at five wineries across the country in the last two decades, and now has enough grapes to produce white wines under the SOAHC label, which is expected to hit store shelves next year.
“Grapes don’t make money,” he said. “We can’t sell grapes to make wine, we would literally starve if I didn’t make the wine.”
Fochuk and his wife settled into 150 acres of Columbia Gardens land in 2006, after seven years of studying the weather and astronomy in the region before digging into the soil using the art of biodynamic viticulture (grape growing).
Biodynamics refers to the practise of organic farming, astronomy, and a philosophy called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
“This really is old farming,” said Fochuk. “Biodynamics is organics done consciously,” he explained. “The farming uses astronomy and historically was used in Europe until the First World War.”
The name of the vineyard also came about organically and embraces his farming philosophy.
One of the key principles of biodynamics is to harvest energy from nature.
“SOAHC is chaos spelled backward,” he said. “Chaos is a big part of our mixing. “In biodynamics you stir, for example, a barrel compost for one hour in one direction to create a vortex,” explained Fochuk, adding, “then we create chaos by stirring very fast in the other direction, to mix the molecules very hard (create energy).”
A second 12 acre bench of red wine grapes, including Pinot noir and Gamay noir varietals was sowed last year with harvest expected next fall, said Fochuk.
“Next year we should have some Pinot noir and the year after, a full crop.”