Monday, January 14, 2019

Quails' Gate debuts new Pinot Gris at wine festival


Photo: Quails' Gate president Tony Stewart

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery will be one of the 26 British Columbia wineries at the Vancouver International Wine Festival.

Over the years, this winery has been a frequent applicant to attend the festival. Given the status of Quails’ Gate as one of the Okanagan’s leading wineries, choosing it is a no-brainer for the festival’s selection committee. Tony Stewart, the winery’s president, is the principal at the festival again this year.

This year, he will be accompanied by the winemaking team: Susan Doyle, the new vice-president of winemaking for California and Canada, and Ross Baker, the Quails’ Gate winemaker.

On reviewing the wines that Quails’ Gate will pour, I was a bit surprised that the selection committee did not lean on the winery to up one of its wines

Every winery is allowed to have four wines at its table, plus a fifth to be poured at the two trade tasting afternoons. The Quails’ Gate trade wine at the festival in February will be a $24 Pinot Gris. No doubt, it will be a delicious wine – but almost every winery in British Columbia also has Pinot Gris.

Last fall’s wine release from Quails’ Gate included a number of other wines that are not among a crowded field of varietals and/or are quite superb. If I were still on the selection committee, I might have suggested the winery offer its Totally Botrytis Affected Optima as the trade wine. This delicious wine is unique.

I appreciate that Quails’ Gate would have solid commercial reasons for offering what it did. It would like the trade buyers to put its Pinot Gris on their wine lists or liquor store inventories. This wine, made with grapes from a vineyard in East Kelowna, is a new offering from Quails’ Gate. Still …

For your information, Quails’ Gate will be pouring these wines at the festival: its always excellent Chenin Blanc 2017; the Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 and the Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2016, two of its flagship wines; the Merlot 2016 which is reviewed below; and The Bench Pinot Gris 2016.

Here are notes on the fall wine releases.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve 2016 ($46.99 for 576 cases). Now in its second decade as a cult vine, the Old Vines Foch Reserve shows good viticulture and good winemaking can do for a sometimes maligned varietal. The wine begins with powerful aromas of spiced plum, fig and vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of fig, black cherry and licorice mingled with vanilla. 92.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch 2016 ($24.99 for 2,809 cases). Inky dark in colour, the wine has aromas of black cherry and plum mingled with oak. The wine was aged 18 months in American oak barrels (mostly neutral). On the palate, the flavours are meaty with notes of cherry, leather and chocolate, with lively acidity. 90.  

Quails’ Gate Fortified Vintage Foch 2016 ($25.99 for 507 cases of 375 ml). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of fig and plum mingled with oak and spice. On the palate, the wine is rich in texture. It presents sweet flavours of plum, cherry, fig and spice that persist on the finish. The wine carries its 18% alcohol very well. 91.

Quails’ Gate Merlot 2016 ($25.99 for 3,713 cases). This is a sveltely-textured wine already drinking well but with the ripe tannins that will support aging. It begins with aromas of black cherry, cassis and vanilla, which are echoed on the palate. The fruit flavours are rich and bright at the same time, for a hedonistic experience. 92.

Quails’ Gate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35.99 for 3,000 cases). Eighteen months aging in French oak contributed to the lush texture of this wine. The aromas of black cherry, mint and cassis are echoed on the palate. 92.

Quails’ Gate The Connemara 2016 ($84.99 for 280 cases). The blend in this tour de force is 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. The wine is dark, with a concentrated texture. It begins with aromas of dark fruit mingled with cassis and vanilla. On the palate, there are layers of fruit – black cherry, blueberry, mulberry – with a lingering finish of spice and chocolate.  Decant this wine if you drink it now; or age it up to 15 years. 94.

Quails’ Gate Totally Botrytis Affected Optima Late Harvest 2017 ($28.99 for 791 cases of 375 ml). This wine is legendary among Okanagan dessert wines, and not just because few wineries have the terroir and a grape susceptible to Noble Rot. Lightly golden in the glass, it begins with the classic sweet tobacco aromas of botrytis, along with notes of apricot. The palate is luscious, with flavours of apricot, peach and orange marmalade. The intensity of the aromas and flavours are heightened by the residual sugar (164 grams per liter), superbly balance with 10.8 grams of acidity. There is nothing cloying here. The lingering finish is fresh. 95.

Quails’ Gate Cailleteau Gamay Nouveau 2018 ($19.99 for 180 cases). Several years ago, Quails’ Gate revived the Beaujolais Nouveau tradition in the Okanagan with this wine. Exuberant and youthful, it is made from grapes picked at the end of September. The wine was bottled a month later and released mid November. Since this style is meant to be consumed by Christmas, this review is probably irrelevant. It has aromas and flavours of cherries and plums mingled with mocha and spice. 88.


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