Monday, May 5, 2014

Quails' Gate's 2013 whites are a touch drier






 Photo: Winemaker Nikki Callaway (courtesy Quails' Gate)

The latest releases from Quails’ Gate – whites and a rosé from the 2013 vintage – are the first from Nikki Callaway since she became the new winemaker last summer.

It seems she has a drier style of winemaking than Grant Stanley, her predecessor. The difference is slight, but not imperceptible. After tasting these wines, I confirmed my impression by comparing the specifications of the same wines from the previous vintage.

Perhaps it is just an academic exercise. Quails’ Gate consumers might not even notice. The wines still taste very good.

Here is the winery’s biography of Nikki:


Nikki Callaway was born in Calgary, but she lived and travelled in Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa before coming home to Canada and joining BC’s Quails’ Gate as winemaker.

Callaway’s father was a physician who worked in various countries, which gave his daughter a taste for diverse cultures. She says that an appreciation for wine was always encouraged when she was growing up, despite the fact that it was sometimes more than a little difficult to obtain.

Callaway attended high school in Dubai, but returned to Canada to earn a degree in Biology at the University of Victoria. Until this point she had been considering following in her father’s footsteps and studying medicine. He advised her to find her passion, and she decided to pursue winemaking instead.

Once she had chosen her path, she got on the fast track for a top-quality education and corresponding experience. She worked harvests and was a cellar master in Bordeaux and Southern France, and completed a Diplôme National d’Oenologue at Université Bordeaux II. She followed her work into South Africa with a position at Waterford Estate winery, where she learned about southern hemisphere winemaking. Along the way she developed a reputation for having an excellent work ethic, and repeatedly proved that she had the talent and the drive to become a world-class winemaker.

Nikki returned to Canada in 2009, accepting a position at Mission Hill Family Estate. She made the move to Quails’ Gate in 2013, eager to be part of a small, family-owned winery producing premium BC wines. She says that BC has huge winemaking potential, and that it is raising the bar for food, wine, and culture. As the winemaker for Quails’ Gate, she wants to “work with every grape from start to finish”, crafting quality wines that embody the potential of the Okanagan.

In her spare time, Nikki loves to get out and enjoy the spectacular BC countryside. She is an avid sailor, swimmer, hiker, and camper, and is often accompanied by her dog, Olli, who is a rescue dog from the Kelowna SPCA.

The wine that tipped me off to Nikki’s drier style was the 2013 Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris, one of the largest brands at Quails’ Gate. I thought it tasted drier than I remembered the previous vintage tasting. And it is, with 3.9 grams of residual sugar per litre compared with 15 grams in the 2012. The acidity was close: 6 grams in 2013 and 7 grams in 2012.

What about the others?

The 2013 Gewürztraminer has 11 grams of residual sweetness and 7 grams acidity. The 2012 had 15 grams of sweetness with six grams of acid. Nikki’s 2013 is balanced a touch drier, better suited with food than as an aperitif.

The 2013 Chenin Blanc has 2.6 grams of sugar and 7.2 grams of acidity while the 2012 had five grams of sugar and 7.6 grams of acidity - minor but interesting tweaks.

The rosé is a wine that Quails’ Gate (along with other wineries) has been drying out gradually over several vintages, adjusting to the evolving public palate for serious rosé wines. The 2013 has 4.6 grams of sugar with 6.2 grams of acid, compared with the 2012’s six grams of sweetness and 7.8 grams of acidity. However, the sugar/acid balance is such that both vintages would have tasted equally dry.

The Dry Riesling stands apart, with the 2013 having nine grams of sugar and nine grams of acidity compared with the 2012’s eight grams of sugar and 9.7 grams of acidity. The only notable difference is that the 2013 has 11.5% alcohol while the 2012 had 12%. Both wines have the classic structure of a Riesling that will benefit further aging in your cellar.

Here are notes on the wines.

Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer 2013 ($16.99 for 6,080 cases). The wine begins with lovely aromas of rose petals, spice and lychee, leading to flavours of lychee and white peach lifted by an early imperceptible sweetness. The texture is juicy and the finish is refreshing. 91.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 ($16.99 for 4,260 cases). Made with grapes from 29-year-old vines, this Riesling has a terrific future ahead of it. Currently, it is still youthfully tight and undeveloped, with citrus aromas and flavours of lemon and lime and green apple. The racy acidity is balanced with a dash of natural sweetness. You can’t afford not to buy it at this price; lay it away for at least two or three years, if not more. 90.

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 ($18.99 for 3,500 cases). This wine includes nine percent of Sauvignon Blanc (the 2012 had eight percent). This wine begins with tropical fruit aromas of lemon, lime and papaya. The wine has flavours of citrus and green apple supported by a spine of minerals. Do not overchill this wine because that might diminish the rich texture. This also is a wine that could age gracefully for another five years. 91.

Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2013 ($18.99 for 11,200 cases). This blend was born several vintages ago as a way to reduce the total number of wines in the portfolio. And wouldn’t you believe it? It has become one of the winery’s most popular whites. The appeal lies in the fruity aromas and the flavours of fresh pears, apples and lemon. The wine is balanced toward dryness, finishing crisply and even austerely. 88.

Quails’ Gate Rosé 2013 ($15.99 for 4,600 cases). This is a blend of 60% Gamay, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris. The wine appeals with a lovely and delicate rose petal hue and with aromas of strawberry and cherry. On the palate, there are exuberant flavours of strawberry jam with a hint of red liquorice. The texture fills the mouth while the finish is crisp and refreshing. This is a bottle looking for a picnic. 90.



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