Friday, May 15, 2015

Quails' Gate's 2014 harvest was its biggest

Photo: Quails' Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway

When reviewing the Quails’ Gate releases a year ago, I speculated that Nikki Callaway, the winemaker who had joined Quails’ Gate in 2013, was finishing the whites a little drier than her predecessor.

I may have belaboured the point. On looking at the specifications for the 2014 wines, I note a few in which the residual sugar is a touch higher than the year before. But I think it is more sensible to conclude that she is just responding to what the vintage has given her.

The delicious rosé, for example, has eight grams per litre of residual sugar in 2014 compared with 4.6 grams in 2013. The acidity is similar in both years. The difference surely is too small to be generally noticeable; perhaps the texture might have a little more flesh, if one had the two wines side by side.

The wines in the current release are all her wines. The winemaker change has not interrupted the continuity of Quails’ Gate’s quality. A friend who is a very knowledgeable taster thinks the quality has even risen from the quite high level previously set by her predecessor, Grant Stanley.

I am not choosing sides. There is not a single wine made by either that is not excellent.

In her report on the vintage, Nikki says that the 2014 harvest was the largest crop Quail’s Gate has ever seen (Quails’ Gate is 26 years old this year).

“We were very fortunate to have an incredible harvest, both in volume and in quality,” she writes.  “The whites were clean an aromatic and the reds were full of flavours tannins. … All the wines this year seem to be very fruit-forward and full of ripe flavours. They have an intensity and weight to them that gives the wines a roundness and a soft finish.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer 2014 ($17.11 for 7,700 cases). This wine begins with appealing aromas of orange and grapefruit rind, with rose petal spice. The touch of residual sweetness lifts the flavours of lychee and grapefruit and gives the wine a juicy texture. This will be a crowd pleaser. The production volume certainly telegraphs the winery’s confidence. 90.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014 ($17.11 for 2,580 cases). In a Riesling, dry is a matter of balance. This wine has 12.6 grams of residual sugar offset by 8.8 grams of acidity. As a result it tastes crisply dry. However, the sugar lifts the aromas and flavour. There are appealing notes of lime on the nose and on the palate, along with a great backbone of minerality. That results because the vines producing this fruit are 29 years old. The winery suggests that classic Riesling characters, including rich marmalade aromas and flavours, will start to show in two or three years. The wine can be cellared seven to 10 years. 91.

Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 ($19.18 for 17,500 cases). This is the winery’s most popular wine, with a volume larger than a majority of the Okanagan’s wineries. It is a blend of 39% Chasselas, 33% Pinot Gris and 28% Pinot Blanc. It is a wine with floral and fruity aromas, leading to generous flavours of melon, pear and apple, with just a trace of sweetness on the finish. The balance is such that the finish, which lingers, is basically dry. 90.

Quails’ Gate Rose 2014 ($18.14 for 7,975 cases). The astonishing production indicates just how big the demand is for rosé. Quails’ Gate is one of the wineries that has driven this market over the past decade with flavour-packed rosé. This dry rosé is 80% Gamay Noir, 10% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris, all kept separate during fermentation and then blended. The wine has an appealing salmon pink hue with aromas of strawberry and cranberry. On the palate, this is a big, satisfying bowl of fruit – strawberry, watermelon and pink grapefruit. 90.

Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2013 ($28.15 for 4,345 cases). This is a silky wine with great intensity of aroma and flavour. It begins with cherry aromas accented with cloves. On the palate, the wine is generous with flavours of cherry mingled with spice and a pleasant earthiness. 91.

Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013 ($22.17 for 8,960 cases). Half of this wine was fermented in barrel, half in stainless steel tanks. Hence, the winemaker achieved the best of both worlds: the bright fruit aromas and flavours hold centre stage with subtle oak notes adding complexity. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and melon and a hint of cloves. On the palate, there are lively flavours of citrus and pear. Good acidity gives this crisp wine a finish that is bright and refreshing. 90.

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($45.17 for 2,030 six bottle cases). This rich and full-bodied Pinot Noir is delicious now, with the power and the structure that will support aging it at least until 2020. The winery picked fruit from mature vines (11 to 28 years old). The grapes were chilled in the winery to allow several days of cold-soaking on the skins. Then the wine was allowed to ferment spontaneously. In all, it spent nearly a month on the skins. It was aged 10 months in French oak (50% new). The wine begins with spicy dark cherry aromas, leading to layered flavours of cherry and mocha. The svelte texture has begun to develop the classic silkiness of the variety. The finish is very long. 92-94.

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