Friday, March 4, 2011

Camelot releases two for your (round) table

Photo: Robert Young, Denise Brass

A recent dinner party have me the opportunity to open three different Chardonnays, including a new release from Camelot Vineyards, a boutique winery in East Kelowna.

I was particularly interested in that wine because the owners of Camelot had expressed some trepidation at entering two new releases for VQA certification, to which I suggested that the wines would breeze through. After all, the consulting winemaker is the legendary Ann Sperling.

Of course the wines sailed through – both at VQA and at my dinner party. I am not going to reveal what the other two Chardonnays were to save those wineries the embarrassment. Camelot simply blew the competition away.

Camelot was opened in 2009 by Robert Young and Denise Brass, two Air Canada flight attendants. In 2007 they planted six acres of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir, replacing an apple orchard on the family farm operated for 40 years by Robert’s father. The apples came out when the price of the fruit no longer covered even the cost of delivering them to the packing house.

They built a compact winery in 2008, purchasing grapes for the initial vintages because of the youth of their vines. The flavours of the 2009 Chardonnay and the 2009 Syrah just released show that they managed to line up good vineyard sources.

The previous vintages of these varietals sold out quickly and I would not expect these two to be around for too long either. That’s the disadvantage of finding favourites from small wineries.

Serendipity enabled them to line up Ann Sperling as their launch winemaker. The Sperling family, veteran Kelowna grape growers, had decided to start a winery of their own but, at the time, had no licensed winery in which to make the first vintages for Sperling Vineyards.

However, Camelot had just licensed its new winery, just down the road from the Sperling vineyard, and had capacity to spare. It was a no-brainer for Ann to make both her family’s wines and those for Robert and Denise at Camelot.

Robert’s father once called a family home “Camelot.” Robert and Denise not only applied that name to the winery; they have added elements to the tasting room to echo the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table. A massive sword is embedded in a big stone at the tasting room entrance. There is a round table in the tasting room, along with suit of armour, a German-crafted replica because the price of genuine armour is out of sight.

The total portfolio of Camelot wines is tightly focussed. In addition to the Syrah and the Chardonnay, the winery offers Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Camelot Chardonnay 2009 ($22.95). This is a barrel-fermented wine, with the oak very well integrated and not dominating from rich fruit. There is a hint of toast on the nose and the flavour, an echo of the barrels. The aroma is rich with notes of butterscotch and tangerine and that carries through in the ripe flavours. There is a lingering finish with a classic hint of cloves. 90.

Camelot Syrah 2009 ($20.95). This well-priced Syrah is a delicious and warming red on these cold winter days. It begins with aromas of cherries and plums, leading to flavours of plum, leather and pepper. The rich and generous fruit is big enough that the bold alcohol level (14.9%) is not evident. The soft, ripe tannins add to the wine’s juicy appeal. 88.


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