Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quails' Gate honours Grandmother Lucy

Photo: Winemaker Nikki Callaway

If I did not know better, I might think winemaker Nikki Callaway is related to the Stewart family, the owners of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery.

Why? During the last few vintages, she has produced limited edition wines named for members of  previous generations of Stewarts. There is Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay, Richard’s Block Pinot Noir and now Lucy’s Block Rosé. It is a fine and gracious honour that she pays to the family.

The Stewarts have been involved in Okanagan agriculture since Richard Stewart Sr. arrived in the valley in 1908. Richard Stewart Jr., the father of the current owners, first planted grapes in 1961 on  property in West Kelowna that became Quails' Gate vineyards. As well, he formed a partnership with Calona Wines to establish Pacific Vineyards, then a major vineyard on Black Sage Road. "We believed there was room for growth in the wine industry," Richard told me later.

Richard (left) was a founding member in 1961 of the Association of British Columbia Grape Growers (with Frank Schmidt and Martin Dulik), set up to lobby government for favorable policies. He was not an original member of the Grape Growers' Marketing Board but soon joined this price-negotiating body and subsequently became its chairman.  Interested more in grape growing than winemaking, Richard encouraged his son, Ben, to establish Quails' Gate in 1989. Subsequently, Tony Stewart, Ben’s younger brother, joined the business.

Tony became president when Ben went into politics and then took a post as British Columbia’s representative in China. Having finished that assignment, Ben has rejoined the Quails’ Gate management. It is my understanding that he will focus on planting a large Quails’ Gate vineyard in East Kelowna and likely oversee the construction of a second production facility there.

The Stewart relative honoured in this spring’s releases is Lucy May Whitworth, referred to in the winery’s notes as “our grandmother.” It is one of the finest rosés from the Okanagan in 2016.

Here are notes on the Quails’ Gate releases this spring.

Quails’ Gate  Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2016 ($17 for 18,848 cases). As the production volume indicates, this wine has become an immensely popular wine.  The blend is 60% Chasselas, 20% Pinot Blanc and 20% Pinot Gris. The wine begins with an appealing floral aroma, with hints of tangerine, pear and apple in the nose and on the palate. The texture is juicy, surprisingly so for a bone dry white. The finish is as refreshing as a day in spring.  90.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2016 ($15 for 5,935 cases). Notes from the winery suggest this can be cellared until 2022. I would certainly recommend putting this away at least until next year to allow it to begin developing the inherent complexity. The wine begins with aromas of lime, lemon and green apple. The tangy palate has a medley of flavours, including lime and white peach. There is a good mineral spine. The finish is refreshing. Look for the wine to develop the secondary aromas and flavours of Riesling with more age. This is outstanding value. 91.

Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer 2016 ($15 for 6,817 cases). This wine begins with classic aromas of lychee and spice, leading to a rich palate with flavours of guava. There is a hint of ginger mingled with the spices that give the impression of dryness. The rich texture reflects the wine’s moderate residual sweetness (7.4 grams), balanced with good acidity.  90.

Quails’ Gate Chenin  Blanc 2016 ($17 for 4,000 cases). The winery has blended 10% Sauvignon Blanc into this varietal. While 8o% of the wine was fermented in stainless steel, the winemaker added complexity and texture to the palate by fermenting 20% in older oak barrels and puncheons. The wine has aromas of apples and melons, with flavours of  lime and green apple. The wine is crisply dry with racy acidity and with a backbone of minerals. The finish is dry. The winery suggests cellaring this wine until 2022. 92.

Quails’ Gate Rosé
2016 ($16 for 7,300 cases). This rosé 70% Gamay Noir, 20% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris. The grapes were sold-soaked overnight, extracting a light salmon pink hue. The aromas of cherry and strawberry are echoed on the palate. The wine is balanced to a refreshing, dry finish, with a silky texture. 90.

Quails’ Gate Lucy’s Block Rosé 2016 ($20 for 500 cases). Move over, Provence, for this 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This is a very elegant rosé, beginning with a lovely rose petal hue. The aromas are both floral and fruity, with notes of raspberry and strawberry that are echoed in the flavours. The finish is crisp and dry. 92.


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