Monday, April 23, 2018

Quails' Gate releases top-flight 2016s

Photo: Quails' Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway

The most recent six-wine release by Quails’ Gate Estate Winery are all from the superb 2016 vintage.

The British Columbia Wine Institute summed up the vintage this way: “Early spring heat started off an excellent growing season which was slowed down by a cooler start to the summer and an extended fall season; it all adds up to an excellent 2016 vintage.”

“Harvest started early on the morning of September 6 for Quails’ Gate Winery, with picking of Maréchal Foch from the winery’s property on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna,” BCWI reported. “Winemaker Nikki Callaway said this year’s harvest was seven to 10 days ahead of previous vintages. ‘I think it is an exciting vintage,’ she said.”

Several factors made the vintage as good as it proved to be. To begin with, the winter of 2015/2016 was relatively mild and the vines came through it without any bud damage.

Secondly, BCWI noted that it was “an atypical spring with extremely warm weather that provided more Growing Degree Days (GDD) in April than any other April in the last 19 years. Budbreak was the earliest on record, as much as six weeks early in some areas, and was followed by early flowering, about two weeks ahead of normal.”

BCWI added: “GDD remained ahead of any other year with temperatures reaching the mid to high 30s until the week of June 19 when the weather changed.” The temperatures were moderate, but ideal for vine growth, until a more typically warm August arrived.

Without the blistering heat that often occurs in July and August, grapes matured more gradually, retaining good fruit flavours and natural acidity.

The bonus for the growers: the early spring and the benign growing conditions delivered tonnages of healthy grapes that were larger than expected. There are bountiful volumes of 2016 wines. Quails’ Gate, for example, has been able to release more than 10,000 cases of its estate Chardonnay – and that does not count the volumes of reserve Chardonnay.

“Because of the early heat, veraison came about two weeks early for some, but was reported as protracted,” BCWI said. “Unlike summers past [or unlike 2017], forest fires were not an issue for grape growers” in 2016.

The vintage was not entirely trouble free – none ever is – but, for the most part, it gave winemakers the tools to make first rate wines. And Nikki’s wines do the vintage proud.

Here are notes on the wines.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2016 ($22.99 for 10,600 cases). This is the wine for those who lean to unoaked Chardonnay. Most of the wine was aged in stainless steel. A small portion was aged in older oak to add texture, mouthfeel and just a subtle note of oak. The wine is crisp and fresh, with aromas of citrus and apple leading to flavours pf apple and nectarine. 90

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($39.99 for 2,345 six-pack cases). This wine was fermented in French oak barrels (new and used),where it went through malolactic fermentation and regular battonage (stirring of the lees). The wine begins with appealing buttery aromas mingled with notes of oranges. On the palate, the texture is rich, almost creamy, with flavours of tangerine and ripe nectarine. The intensity of the flavours increased as the wine warmed in the glass. 93.

Quails’ Gate Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay 2016 ($44.99 for 685 six-pack cases). This wine, along with the Richard’s Block Pinot Noir, are premium small lot wines available just at the winery. The grapes are from the two best blocks of Chardonnay in the vineyard. They get the full treatment: whole-cluster pressed into new and older French oak barrels. The wine was fermented in barrel where it went through full malolactic fermentation and was aged 11 months on the lees. It was stirred regularly. One word describes the memorable wine: rich. The wine begins with complex aromas of citrus, ripe peaches, cloves and toasted almonds. The layered flavours include ripe apple, butter, and tangerine. Bright acidity balances the power of this wine, leaving a lingering and refreshing finish. 94.

Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2016 ($26.99 for 5,450 cases). This wine was aged 10 months in French oak, long enough to polish the silky texture without imparting noticeable wood to the intense red berry aromas and flavours. Medium-bodied, the wine has good length and a long finish. 90.

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir ($49.99 for 2,208 six-pack cases). The style of this wine leans less to the power of the Richard’s Block and more to elegance. It begins with aromas of plum, cherry and spice that lead to dark cherry flavours on a firm palate. Still youthful, the wine, which was aged 10 months in French oak, should be decanted to immediate consumption. The better idea would be to lay it down. It should peak within a decade. 92.

Quails’ Gate Richard’s Block Pinot Noir 2016 ($54.99 for 652 six-pack cases). Nikki went to considerable lengths to produce a great wine. Each of the four clones – 115, 667, 777 and 828 – was fermented separately in stainless steel with both indigenous and cultivate yeast strains. The lots were blended and aged in French oak for about 11 months. The dark colour in the glass signals that this is a powerful wine. It begins with aromas of black cherry, plum and spice. The rich palate delivers flavours of plums and dried cherry with classic notes of savoury, forest floor flavours on the finish. With its intense flavours and structure, this wine will keep getting better as it ages until it peaks in about 10 years. 95


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