Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Serendipity rolls out its big reds

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Photo: Serendipity Winery's Judy Kingston

Changing careers to enter the wine business has a romantic appeal to many – but it is not a walk in the park. Just ask Judy Kingston, who operates Serendipity Winery at Naramata.

For 25 years, she practised computer law with a big Toronto law firm. But in 2006 she left that career for personal reasons and bought a Naramata orchard which has since been replanted with 7 ½ acres of vines. A winery was built on the property in 2010, opening its tasting room in the spring of 2011.

Along the way, she has had to acquire a whole new set of skills, from planting and growing grapes to cellar management. Just before the 2011 vintage, Jason Parkes, her winemaker, suffered an injury which kept him out of the cellar during crush. She was largely on her own in managing the 2011 harvest.

No doubt that was daunting; but it is not the first daunting challenge she has mastered. The first may have been when she started hand-selling Serendipity’s first wines in 2011.

“I have never sold anything in my life because I’ve been a lawyer,” she told me last spring, after her first visit with samples to sommeliers in Vancouver. “I never had to.”

Her attachment to the wines is understandably possessive. “Because I planted the grapes, I have seen them all the way through and then helped put them in the bottle,” she explained. “For me, it was like I was in the bottle. It was a real funny thing for me. It was the first time I had ever done it, offering myself in a bottle to somebody.”

After running a tasting room last summer, she undoubtedly learned the art of letting go what she once referred to as her children because Serendipity has now released several new wines.

These include four ultra-premium reds made in such limited production that you need to belong to Serendipity’s wine club for a first crack at them. The reds are aggressively priced but, in my judgment, the quality is such that they don’t disappoint. These are all bold, ripe wines with alcohol levels between 14.5% and 15% but with so much substance that one is not aware of the alcohol.

Here are notes on the current releases.

Serendipity White Lie 2010 ($18). The varieties in this white blend are not disclosed on the label but my guess is that the wine is anchored with Viognier. Crisp and tangy, the wine begins with aromas of pear and pineapple. On the palate, there are flavours of green apples, green melon and apricot. The spine of minerality in the backbone is what makes me think there is Viognier here. The finish is lingering. 90.

Serendipity Private Reserve Estate Cabernet Franc 2009 ($50). Dark in colour, this wine begins with aromas of figs, plums and vanilla. It delivers layers of flavour – black currants, black cherry, coffee, chocolate and liquorice. The structure is still firm, suggesting the wine has even more to give with several years of cellaring. Hence, a point score suggesting the wine’s upside. 90-92.

Serendipity Private Reserve Estate Merlot 2009 ($50). This wine begins with aromas of blueberry and boysenberry and goes on to deliver bold, ripe flavours of black currants, blackberries and figs. The wine combines both power and elegance; it also deserves a few more years of cellaring. 90-92.

Serendipity Private Reserve Estate Syrah 2009 ($50). Only 40 cases of this Syrah were produced. Once again, this confirms the house style of Serendipity reds – big and bold. This wine has aromas and flavours of plum, black cherry, cola and vanilla, with a hint of chocolate and spice on the finish. The tannins are long and ripe, giving the wine a muscular texture. 90.

Serendipity Private Reserve Serenata 2009 ($50). This is the winery’s flagship Bordeaux blend, a complex wine with aromas of vanilla, plum and fig and with flavours of plum, figs and chocolate. The firm but ripe tannins frame a lovely core of sweet fruit flavours. The structure of this wine suggests it is a keeper with plenty of upside. 91-93.


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