Photo: Quails' Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway
When reviewing the Quails’ Gate releases a year ago, I
speculated that Nikki Callaway, the winemaker who had joined Quails’ Gate in
2013, was finishing the whites a little drier than her predecessor.
I may have belaboured the point. On looking at the
specifications for the 2014 wines, I note a few in which the residual sugar is
a touch higher than the year before. But I think it is more sensible to
conclude that she is just responding to what the vintage has given her.
The delicious rosé, for example, has eight grams per litre
of residual sugar in 2014 compared with 4.6 grams in 2013. The acidity is
similar in both years. The difference surely is too small to be generally
noticeable; perhaps the texture might have a little more flesh, if one had the
two wines side by side.
The wines in the current release are all her wines. The
winemaker change has not interrupted the continuity of Quails’ Gate’s quality.
A friend who is a very knowledgeable taster thinks the quality has even risen
from the quite high level previously set by her predecessor, Grant Stanley.
I am not choosing sides. There is not a single wine made by
either that is not excellent.
In her report on the vintage, Nikki says that the 2014
harvest was the largest crop Quail’s Gate has ever seen (Quails’ Gate is 26
years old this year).
“We were very fortunate to have an incredible harvest, both
in volume and in quality,” she writes. “The whites were clean an aromatic and the
reds were full of flavours tannins. … All the wines this year seem to be very
fruit-forward and full of ripe flavours. They have an intensity and weight to
them that gives the wines a roundness and a soft finish.”
Here are notes on the wines.
Gewürztraminer 2014 ($17.11 for 7,700 cases). This wine begins with
appealing aromas of orange and grapefruit rind, with rose petal spice. The
touch of residual sweetness lifts the flavours of lychee and grapefruit and
gives the wine a juicy texture. This will be a crowd pleaser. The production
volume certainly telegraphs the winery’s confidence. 90.
Quails’ Gate Dry
Riesling 2014 ($17.11 for 2,580 cases). In a Riesling, dry is a matter of
balance. This wine has 12.6 grams of residual sugar offset by 8.8 grams of
acidity. As a result it tastes crisply dry. However, the sugar lifts the aromas
and flavour. There are appealing notes of lime on the nose and on the palate,
along with a great backbone of minerality. That results because the vines
producing this fruit are 29 years old. The winery suggests that classic
Riesling characters, including rich marmalade aromas and flavours, will start
to show in two or three years. The wine can be cellared seven to 10 years. 91.
Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 ($19.18 for 17,500 cases). This is
the winery’s most popular wine, with a volume larger than a majority of the
Okanagan’s wineries. It is a blend of 39% Chasselas, 33% Pinot Gris and 28%
Pinot Blanc. It is a wine with floral and fruity aromas, leading to generous
flavours of melon, pear and apple, with just a trace of sweetness on the
finish. The balance is such that the finish, which lingers, is basically dry.
Quails’ Gate Rose
2014 ($18.14 for 7,975 cases). The astonishing production indicates just
how big the demand is for rosé. Quails’ Gate is one of the wineries that has
driven this market over the past decade with flavour-packed rosé. This dry rosé
is 80% Gamay Noir, 10% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris, all kept separate during
fermentation and then blended. The wine has an appealing salmon pink hue with
aromas of strawberry and cranberry. On the palate, this is a big, satisfying
bowl of fruit – strawberry, watermelon and pink grapefruit. 90.
Quails’ Gate Pinot
Noir 2013 ($28.15 for 4,345 cases). This is a silky wine with great
intensity of aroma and flavour. It begins with cherry aromas accented with
cloves. On the palate, the wine is generous with flavours of cherry mingled
with spice and a pleasant earthiness. 91.
Chardonnay 2013 ($22.17 for 8,960 cases). Half of this wine was fermented
in barrel, half in stainless steel tanks. Hence, the winemaker achieved the
best of both worlds: the bright fruit aromas and flavours hold centre stage
with subtle oak notes adding complexity. The wine begins with aromas of citrus
and melon and a hint of cloves. On the palate, there are lively flavours of
citrus and pear. Good acidity gives this crisp wine a finish that is bright and
Quails’ Gate Stewart
Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($45.17 for 2,030 six bottle cases). This
rich and full-bodied Pinot Noir is delicious now, with the power and the
structure that will support aging it at least until 2020. The winery picked
fruit from mature vines (11 to 28 years old). The grapes were chilled in the
winery to allow several days of cold-soaking on the skins. Then the wine was
allowed to ferment spontaneously. In all, it spent nearly a month on the skins.
It was aged 10 months in French oak (50% new). The wine begins with spicy dark
cherry aromas, leading to layered flavours of cherry and mocha. The svelte
texture has begun to develop the classic silkiness of the variety. The finish
is very long. 92-94.