May 28, 2013 – Black Cloud Winery
Not all of our wineries in British Columbia are businesses with tasting rooms that you can visit. Bradley Cooper and wife Audralee Daum own and operate Black Cloud Winery, which has been described as a “virtual winery”.
When I look up the definition of the word “virtual” in such resources as my trusty old tattered Oxford Dictionary or The Free Dictionary online, it’s not a perfect fit because you can “actually” taste the wine. And when you do get that opportunity, its quality is truly tangible.
While you can’t travel to Black Cloud Winery as a destination, you can purchase the exquisite pinot noir wines online and join the Cloudy Day Wine Club. Just the other night we enjoyed a lovely bottle of Altostratus which paired heavenly with a hearty smoked salmon dish. You’ll also find Black Cloud selections on the wine list in a number of fine restaurants and stocked in some of British Columbia’s specialty wine stores.
Despite all of this virtuality and cloudy references, the story of how Black Cloud Winery emerged in the Okanagan atmosphere is an authentic industry story. Brad is the winemaker at Township 7 Vineyards & Winery. With a background in journalism and restaurants, his journey to become a world-class winemaker over almost two decades is an interesting read on his LinkedIn profile. As described by him, he went from cellar monkey to cellar technician at Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (1998-2002) now See Ya Later Ranch, and took Okanagan College’s first winery assistant course. He honed his skills in New Zealand and Washington State, USA, before becoming winemaker at Stag’s Hollow Winery (2003-2005), consulting winemaker Stone Mountain Vineyards Canada (2005-2008), consulting winemaker at Hijas Bonitas Family Estate Winery (2006-2008), and consulting cider maker at Daum Cooper Winery Services Ltd (2010-2011) working with the team at Raven Ridge. His profile also includes chief imaginist, winemaker, writer, speaker and traveler since January 2010 with Churnbucket, a creative umbrella organization for concept development. It was through his consulting work that Black Cloud surfaced.
The story goes that an Okanagan Falls winery project for which he was consulting collapsed financially and he was paid with 80 cases of pinot noir he had made in 2006. When he informed wife Audralee, he recalls her reaction as saying that just when things were looking great, another black cloud comes over. Thus, the name became Black Cloud Winery and partners Audralee and Brad bought additional inventory and began marketing the label. Township 7 owner Mike Raffan agreed to license Black Cloud under Township 7. Pinot Noir grapes are sourced from other vineyards to make the wine. This way, Brad remains winemaker for Township 7 and consults on its projects while he and Audralee build the Black Cloud brand. Everybody wins. Pinot Noir was not a focus at Township 7 while it is a passion for Brad and Audralee so there’s no conflict of interest. And from the beginning, Brad had great success making wines for Township 7 such as his 2006 Reserve Chardonnay Harmony One, which won Best Chardonnay in Canada 2008 at the All Canadian Wine Awards. (Note: Township 7 was subject of my post February 26, 2013.)
Mike and Brad giving a media session at Township 7
As a former journalist, Brad is a great writer so rather than me telling you my version of the daily trials and tribulations in starting your own winery, I urge you to follow Brad’s blog http://blackcloudpinotnoir.wordpress.com/.
I will add that I’m proud to know Audralee and Brad. Here’s wishing them silver linings in all the clouds that they encounter – and hopefully, some gold as well! These are engaged citizens who have a dream and are incredibly down-to-earth people. Audralee balances another career while supporting the Black Cloud initiative. You’ll see them out supporting charities, community events, local farmers and chefs, other wineries, breweries and distilleries at every opportunity. Oh, yes, and did I mention they like to have fun? Brad was founder of our Okanagan Burger Tour, an open group on Facebook. Most burger tour stops you’ll find them both in attendance – sometimes with son Ben, expounding on the virtues of a fine burger and sharing a few laughs.
Okanagan Burger Tour
Brad is a social media marvel so you’re probably already following him @Blackcloudwine or @Bradinator and if you haven’t had a chance to meet him in real time, watch for him at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Don’t leave Penticton without snagging a bottle or two, or at least a taste, of Black Cloud!
1450 McMillan Avenue, Penticton, BC V2A 8T4