Monday, December 16, 2019

Quails' Gate Winery at 30








Photo: Quails' Gate winemaker Ross Baker (courtesy Quails' Gate Winery) 

Quails’ Gate Winery has been celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It started as a farmgate winery but soon evolved into one of the most successful of family-owned  wineries in the Okanagan.

The Stewart family, owners of Quails’ Gate, have been pioneers in Okanagan agriculture since their forebears emigrated from Ireland in 1908. Viticulture began with Richard Stewart, who planted grapes in what was then called Mount Boucherie Vineyards in 1961.
The winery was founded by his two sons. Ben was president initially; when he went into politics, his younger brother, Tony, succeeded him. They hired a succession of winemakers trained in Australia and New Zealand, starting with Jeff Martin, who had 20 years of experience making wines in Australia when he arrived in 1994. It was his inspiration that vintage to launch Old Vines Foch Reserve, now one of the cult wines in the Okanagan.
Quails’ Gate has had Canadian-born winemakers since 2003. The current winemaker is Ross Baker.

Here is his biography from the Quails’ Gate website:
“Ross has been an integral part of our winemaking team since 2013 and was the protégé of former Winemaker Nikki Callaway. A native of Kelowna, Ross completed his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (Wine and Plant option) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

“Prior to starting at Quails’ Gate, he previously worked at Villa Maria Estates in Marlborough, New Zealand and also held positions locally at both Red Rooster Winery and Kettle Valley Winery.

“Over the past 5 years working at Quails’ Gate, Ross has learned the amazing nuances to every block of our vineyards and is the perfect candidate to maintain the consistency and quality that Quails’ Gate wines are known for.”

The current releases reflect the consistency of both the viticulture and the winemaking at Quails’ Gate. Here are notes.
Quails’ Gate The Bench Pinot Gris 2018 ($24.99 for 741 cases). This wine is so named because the fruit comes from a single site in East Kelowna called The Bench. The wine was barrel-fermented 40% neutral French oak barrels. It is a textbook Pinot Gris with pear and apple aromas that are echoed, with a touch of spice, on the palate. The texture is rich and the finish lingers. 92.

Quails’ Gate B.M.V Riesling 2018 ($32.99 for 480 cases). BMV is an abbreviation of Boucherie Mountain Vineyards, the home vineyard for Quails’ Gate. In the 1980s the Jordan & Ste-Michelle winery bought this fruit and made a legendary Riesling. Quails’ Gate intends this wine as a tribute. Everything about this wine sophisticated wine is intense: citrus aromas and tart lemon/lime flavours with a spine of minerality and also racy acidity. The finish is dry. This is a great Riesling with potential to age for 10 more years. 92.

Quails’ Gate Late Harvest Botrytis Affected Optima 2018 ($34.99 for 375 ml; 789 cases). This is a legendary Sauternes-style wine. Quails’ Gate has a block of mature Optima grapes at the bottom of its vineyard, close to Okanagan Lake. Because of that site, the block often is infected with so-called Noble Rot, just like vineyards in Sauternes.  It has aromas and flavours of nectarine and peach mingled with the classic sweet tobacco of botrytis. The palate is rich and complex, even decadent in its lush flavours.  The wine is sweet but very well balanced. The finish goes on and on and on. 94.

Quails’ Gate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($29.99 for 1,237 cases). This wine was aged in barrel for 20 months (40% new French oak). It begins with aromas of black currant and cherry; that is echoed in the palate, along with notes of vanilla and chocolate. The texture is full and the finish lingers. 90.

Quails’ Gate Merlot 2017 ($29.99 for 3,785 cases). This is a big, ripe wine (15% alcohol) that was aged 20 months in barrel (15% new French oak). It begins with aromas cherry, cassis, blackberry and vanilla. Full on the palate, it delivers flavours of plum, cherry, chocolate and licorice. 91.

Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2018 ($29.99 for 3,400 cases). This wine, a blend of 93% Pinot Noir and 7% Gamay, was aged in barrel for 10 months. Although it was bottled in August, it still showed signs of bottle shock, with a mute nose and little flavour. Pinot Noir can do that. But after the bottle had been open for two days, the great varietal aromas and flavours had emerged. Either decant the wine or put a few bottles away until next spring. When my sample came around, there were aromas of cherry and savoury flavours of cherry and spice. 90.

Quails’ Gate The Allison 2017 ($24.99 for 1,700 cases). This wine is named for John and Susan Allison, the first European settlers on the west side of Okanagan Lake. Their original cabin once served as the Quails’ Gate tasting room. This wine is a blend of 61% Syrah and 39% Cabernet Franc. It was barrel aged for 20 months. The wine has aromas and flavours of black fruits mingled with leather, spice and pepper. 91.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch 2017 ($25.98 for 2,956 cases). Three weeks of skin contact have given this wine an intense dark colour. Aged 20 months in neutral oak, the wine has aromas and flavours of cherry, fig and chocolate. The sweet fruit, mingled with oak, even suggests maraschino cherry – but the robust wine finishes dry.  90.

Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve 2017 ($46.99 for 361 cases). The Stewart family, owners of Quails’ Gate, planted Marechal Foch vines in the estate vineyard in 1963. This wine, an intense and concentrated tour de force, validates the benefit of old vines. Thirty days of skin contact and 20 months of barrel aging have amplified the power of the wine. The aromas – plum, fig, chocolate – explode from the glass and are echoed on the rich palate and the persistent finish. 93.

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