Thursday, May 19, 2016

Poetry with Nikki Callaway at Quails' Gate

Photo:  Quails' Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway

The winemaker’s letter that accompanied these six wines included a quote from an English poet called John Gay: “From wine what sudden friendship springs.”

Quails’ Gate winemaker Nikki Callaway has a leg up on me when it comes to erudition. I still have my books of poetry from university days but I don’t know John Gay.

Fortunately, I no longer need to repair to the stacks of the university library to look up references on the poet. I have Dr. Google near at hand.

It turns out that John Gay was born in Devon, England, in 1685 and died in London in 1732. He is best known as the author of The Beggar’s Opera but, according to a reference from the Encyclopedia Britannica, he also wrote a rambling poem called Wine which was a parody of Milton’s style. 

John Milton was dead by this time. Otherwise, I can’t imagine that led to any sudden friendship.

However, John Gay was well regarded in his day. “‘Honest’” John Gay lost most of his money through disastrous investment in South Sea stock, but he nonetheless left £6,000 when he died,” the encyclopedia reported. “He was buried in Westminster Abbey, next to the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and his epitaph was written by Alexander Pope.”

With the help of Dr. Google, I even found the poem, a surprisingly long epic. You get the flavour from this bit:

BACCHUS Divine, aid my adventrous Song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Inspir'd, Sublime on Pegasean Wing
By thee upborn, I draw Miltonic Air.

When fumy Vapours clog our loaded Brows
With furrow'd Frowns, when stupid downcast Eyes
Th' external Symptoms of remorse within,
Our Grief express, or when in sullen Dumps
With Head Incumbent on Expanded Palm,
Moaping we sit in silent sorrow drown'd:
Whether Inviegling Hymen has trappand
Th' unwary Youth, and ty'd the Gordian Knot
Of jangling Wedlock, Indissoluble;
Worried all Day by loud Xantippes Din,
And when the gentle Dew of sleep inclines
With slumbrous weight his Eye-lids, She inflam'd
With Uncloy'd Lust, and itch Insatiable,
His Stock exhausted, still yells on for more;
Nor fails She to Exalt him to the Stars,
And fix him there among the Branched Crew
(Taurus, and Aries, and Capricorn,)
The greatest Monster of the Zodiac;
Or for the loss of Anxious Worldly Pelf,
Or Celia's scornful slights, and cold disdain
Had check'd his Am'rous flame with coy repulse,
The worst Events that Mortals can befall;
By cares depress'd, in pensive Hypoish Mood,
With slowest pace, the tedious Minuits Roll.

It goes on and on in that vein. I don’t know about you, but that would drive me to drink,  even if it was meant to parody Milton. I didn’t like Milton’s poetry that much either. I was, and am, a big fan of Chaucer, for what it is worth. I have always imagined Chaucer as an ale drinker.

As for the wines, here are my notes on the poetry that Nikki creates.

Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris ($17.49 for 16,900 cases). As the production volume indicates, this wine has become an immensely popular wine.  The blend is 37% Chasselas, 32% Pinot Blanc and 31% Pinot Gris. The wine begins with an appealing floral aroma, with hints of tangerine, pear and apple in the nose and on the palate. The slight residual sweetness gives the wine a fleshy texture. On the finish, the superb balance is that of a wine that can be sipped on its own or enjoyed with a wide array of food. 90.

Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2015 ($15.99 for 5,300 cases). The wine begins with aromas of lime, lemon and white peach. The tangy palate has a medley of flavours, including lime and pineapple. There is a good mineral spine. There is also a pleasing tension on the palate from the balance of acidity and residual sweetness. The finish, which has a hint of spice, is refreshing. This is outstanding value. 91.

Quails’ Gate Gewürztraminer 2015 ($15.99 for 7,450 cases). This wine begins with classic aromas of lychee and spice, leading to a rich palate with flavours of guava. There is a hint of ginger mingled with the spices that give the impression of dryness in a wine that is not quite dry. The rich texture reflects the wine’s residual sweetness (8.1 grams) against its soft acidity. It’s a well-made crowd pleaser. 90.

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2015 ($17.49 for 4,690 cases). The winery has blended 10% Sauvignon Blanc into this varietal. While 85% of the wine was fermented in stainless steel, the winemaker added complexity and texture to the palate by fermenting 15% in older oak barrels and puncheons. The wine has aromas and flavours of citrus fruits with backbone of minerality. The finish is dry. The winery suggests cellaring this wine for five to seven years. I would give the same advice for the Riesling because both of these varietals age well. 91.

Quails’ Gate Rosé 2015 ($16.49 for 8,200 cases). This is a blend of 80% Gamay Noir, 10% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris. The wine is pretty in the glass, with a rose petal hue. It begins with aromas of raspberry and delivers flavours of raspberry, strawberry and cherry. It has a dry finish with the tiniest suggestion of bitterness. My palate would have preferred a touch of sweetness. 88.

Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2014 ($24.49 for 6,480 cases). This variety is the winery’s flagship, made from vines which, for the most part, are more than 20 years old. The grapes for left to cold-soak on the skins for five days before fermentation began. Ferment was done with a combination of cultured and wild yeasts in a quest for complexity. The wine was aged 10 months in French oak barrels. This wine, which has a fine deep hue, begins with aromas of cherries and red fruit. There are flavours of strawberry and cherry on the palate, with a subtle spice from the oak. The polished tannins give the wine a velvety texture. 91.

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