Sunday, November 6, 2016

Kettle Valley's second generation also impresses

Photo: Kettle Valley partners Tim Watts (l) and Bob Ferguson

Kettle Valley Vineyards marks its 25th anniversary with  more good wines and with some news suggesting a long-term future after the founders retire.

Let me hasten to add that neither Bob Ferguson nor Tim Watts, who founded this winery with their wives, are talking about retirement any time soon.

However, the most recent releases include a superb Viognier that was made by Andrew Watts. He is the son of co-proprietors Tim and Janet Watts. He has come back to the winery where he grew up after completing enology studies in New Zealand in 2010 and after doing harvests in New Zealand, South America and Nova Scotia.

“We were kind of hoping the kids would be involved in the business and would carry things on,” Tim told me this summer. “I thought we had worked it out of all of them. Andrew for some reason liked the concept and went off to study winemaking at university.”

This may be first time that the partners have really delegated authority. It is not that they are control freaks, however.

“We have always been reluctant to bring in people from the outside to be in charge,” Bob told me.  “We wanted to do it ourselves. That is the whole fun of being in this business. From our perspective, we want to be hands on.”

In addition to making the Viognier (and generally helping in the winery), Andrew has also been managing the Great Northern Vineyard near Keremeos which Kettle Valley bought almost a decade ago. It is a 14-acre property, including almost two acres not planted.

“We left the two acres because at one point we thought we might have a winery down there,” Bob explained. “If all the boys came home, that would be a good place to have a second winery.”

That option has now been taken off the table, with the unplanted area being used to do the winery’s composting.  

“We are trying not to look for more work,” Tim told me. “We are trying to make our lives a little simpler. Now we are actually starting to take little holidays during the growing season and we never used to do that before. We are starting to live life the way we should be doing it.”

Thank you for coming home, Andrew, is implied. Here are notes on the six current releases.

Kettle Valley McGraw Estate Merlot 2013 ($38 for 72 cases). The wine has been aged in French oak for 21 months. This is a big, bold and concentrated Merlot with ripe fruit flavours that toy with port, given the 15.4% alcohol. The wine begins with black cherry,  cassis and vanilla aromas that are echoed in the sweet fruit flavours. The tannins are long and silken. 91.

Kettle Valley Barber Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($38 for 96 cases). The wine has been aged in French oak for 21 months. This is a legendary Cabernet Sauvignon from a vineyard which Kettle Valley has farmed since 2000. It has classic aromas of black currant and cherry with a touch of vanilla from the time in oak. Still a bit firm, the wine needs to be decanted. It opens up with flavours of cherry, black currant, coffee and mocha. 92.

Kettle Valley Old Main Red Naramata Bench Reserve 2013 ($38 for 502 cases).  This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot from Old Main Vineyard with 5% Petit Verdot and Malbec from King Drive Vineyard, both located in Naramata. The wine has been aged in French oak for 21 months. The wine begins with ar0mas of cassis, cherry and vanilla, leading to flavours of cherry, black currant spice and cedar. On being decanted, the wine reveals an appealing core of sweet fruit flavours, with a hint of chocolate and tobacco on the finish. 93.

Great Northern Vineyards Viognier 2015 ($21 for 400 cases).  Andrew fermented a portion of this wine in older French barrels and allowed it to go through malolactic ferment as well, accounting for the rich texture of the wine. The remainder of the juice was fermented in stainless steel, preserving the fresh fruit flavours. The wine is a mouth-filling bowl of fruit, with aromas and flavours of apricots and mango. A tour de force! 92.

Great Northern Vineyards Syrah 2013 ($24 for 478 cases). The grapes were farmed at just over one ton an acre to yield a very concentrated wine, which aged 21 months in French oak before bottling. The result is another robust and ripe red, with aromas recalling spice and fruitcake. The flavours include plum, fig and black cherry with a hint of pepper on the finish. 91.

Great Northern Vineyards Zinfandel 2014 ($24 for 760 cases). This wine aged 20 months in oak. It is another bold red, with brambly blackberry aromas and with lush red berry fruit flavours. The texture is generous and the finish is long. 91.


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