Friday, October 3, 2008

New releases: Quails' Gate reds

There was little respect for Maréchal Foch wines in British Columbia before an Australian winemaker at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in 1994 made an Old Vines Foch so big and rich that he passed it off at one tasting (only briefly) as an Australian Shiraz.

The wine has had a cult following ever since the first release. The winery has just released the 12th vintage, some 9,300 bottles of the 2006 Old Vines Foch Reserve at $40 a bottle. Who would have predicted that a wine from a French hybrid grape not even permitted anymore in Europe would command such a serious price? And deserve it.

Once again, this is a bold, robust wine with a dark, almost brooding hue in the glass. There are aromas of vanilla and plum, along with flavours of vanilla, mocha, plum and black cherries, even with a hint of port. The texture is rich and round, with soft tannins. The wine has been aged in new American oak barrels which add a note of spice. It is a very satisfying red, just the wine for game dishes. 90 points.

The secret here is that the grapes come from 40-year-old vines in the estate vineyard at Westbank that are well-farmed. The knock on Foch in the 1980s was that the wines were thin and medicinal. The problem was that the vines, which are quite vigorous, were over-cropped by virtually all growers. When Quails’ Gate started cropping Foch at low tonnages comparable to its vinifera grapes, lovely full-flavoured wines resulted.

A few vintages ago, Quails’ Gate bought an Osoyoos vineyard that has Foch vines which currently are 26 years old. These grapes go into the 2006 Old Vines Foch ($25) and the winery has released 26,500 bottles of this wine. Once again, the wine is dark enough to practically stain a table clothe through the glass. The aromas and flavours include plums, black cherries and mocha. The wine is slightly less concentrated than the OVF Reserve, which probably has something to do with the sandy soil in the vineyard. The alcohol is higher, at 14.8% compared with 14.4%, because grapes get riper in hot Osoyoos. It’s another delicious wine, also great for game. 87

Two other fine reds also have just been released by Quails’ Gate.

The winery has released 6,200 cases (12-bottle cases) of 2006 Merlot ($27), made primarily from grapes grown at the estate vineyard near Westbank. Winemaker Grant Stanley, who likes to live on the edge, fermented the wine with wild yeasts. He also gave it extended skin contact to extract maximum colour and flavour. The result is a plump, full-bodied Merlot. It begins with attractive aromas of red berries. It is layered and complex on the palate, tasting of plums, red fruit and chocolate, with long ripe tannins. 89

The winery also released 2,200 cases of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($27), all of it from grapes grown on the Westbank vineyard. It says a lot for how well the vines are farmed that the winery makes a Cabernet so good from a comparatively cool site. This wine is every bit as delicious as Cabernets from hotter terroirs in the Oliver and Osoyoos area. Winemaker Stanley approached this much as he did the Merlot (both were aged 18 months in French and American oak barrels).

A medium-bodied wine, it is deep in colour, with aromas of spicy red berries, vanilla, chocolate and the classic cedar/cigar box note that Bordeaux lovers will appreciate. The long ripe tannins frame attractive sweet berry flavours on the palate. 89

The bottom line: four very solid red wines.

1 comment:

Paul Bulas said...

Thank you for the wonderful post on some fine Foch. Here in Ontario, Foch is getting rarer, even though I must say it has in my opinion proven itself to be one of the best grapes for making complex, full-flavoured reds in our climate. Lakeview used to make wonderful Foch, but now it's basically only Malivoire that's still carrying the torch.