Interview with Phil Soo of Dirty Laundry
The consulting winemaker discusses new varietals, new techniques and making wine fun
Phil Soo has been a man about the B.C. wine industry for more than 18 years. A consultant for Dirty Laundry Vineyard, Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery, Ruby Tuesday Winery and Casini Cellars, Soo helps wineries produce great wine.
Soo began his career in wine at a corporate winery, André's Wines (now Andrew Peller), as a lab technician. He rose through the ranks to the role of winemaker and quality control. Soo says that he received most of the training that he uses in his job today at André's Wines.
He arrived at Dirty Laundry in 2006, the same year that the current owners, Fort McMurray lawyer Bob Campbell and a partnership group, purchased the winery from Ron and Cher Watkins. Under the Watkins' ownership, Dirty Laundry (formerly Scherziner Vineyards) produced Germanic-style wines and the current owners have maintained this winemaking approach.
“They kept the same Germanic style of winemaking, making very fruit forward [wines], using sweet reserve and resting fermentation to really enhance the fruit and keeping that true varietal character in tact," says Soo, “That’s what I’ve inherited and have been able to maintain and keep.”
Under Soo's guidance, Dirty Laundry has expanded beyond the traditional Germanic wines. They plant chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and pinot gris, and source grapes from as far west as the Similkameen Valley and as far north as Vernon, B.C.
Dirty Laundry is also experimenting with new techniques such as micro-oxygenation. Micro-oxygenation inserts a measured amount of oxygen into the wine at the molecular level, which creates the effect of barrel-aged wine in the tank.
Soo is optimistic about the future of new plantings and winemaking techniques for the winery, "So far everything we’ve tried seems to be working well and so far the sky’s the limit.”
However, nothing can replace time spent in the vineyards examining the existing vines. "Half of the battle of winemaking is right in the vineyard here. Getting the right amount of sun exposure, right amount of watering, the right amount of canopy, growth, you know, disease management, that all affects the wine quality," says Soo. He checks on the vines approximately every two weeks.
As the winery experiments with new varietals and techniques, neither Soo nor the proprietors forget the original motto — wine is fun.
“The wines speak really loudly for themselves. It’s geared towards a clientele that really enjoys wines, not just with food or any kind of social setting…that’s why I see Dirty Laundry being a leader…breaking those barriers of people being afraid of wines," says Soo, "We want to be the ambassador to introduce a lot of Canadians to more wines and have fun.”