Monday, October 5, 2009
Opening the Gate
Opening the Gate - Quails' Gate that is.
As it turned out - completely co-incidentally - we ended up opening a bottle from Quails' Gate on two successive nights (even though there might have been a couple of nights without wine in between).
Quails' Gate is another of the "larger" wineries that are located in the Kelowna area. Boo and I just never seem to make it that far North when we head to the Okanagan, so we don't drink a lot of their wine - even though we're familiar with the winery and we usually have a bottle or two in our "cellar."
The Quails' Gate story began with the three Stewart brothers arriving in the Okanagan from Ireland in 1908. They quickly established themselves in agriculture; however, growing vinifera grapes and making fine wine was unknown to the Valley at that time. The brothers' livelihoods revolved primarily around tree fruit.
A generation or two later, the family started planting, reputably, the first Pinot Noir vines in the Okanagan and the winery was founded in 1989. Quails' Gate now produces about 50,000 cases a year and that makes it one of BC's biggest producers - particularly for a family owned winery.
209. 2006 Quails' Gate Dry Riesling (VQA Okanagan)
Many of the grapes used for this Riesling come from 25 year old vines - these are old vines by BC standards. And the wine is full of racy acidity.
I love the fact that the Okanagan is now producing some very fine Riesling fruit. As in the rest of the world, our Rieslings can cover the full spectrum of completely bone-dry and citrusy to hints of off-dry sweetness. I find this wine to be in the former camp - which is not a bad thing - but it's not necessarily my favourite style profile.
210. 2002 Quails' Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve ( VQA Okanagan)
The Old Vines Foch, on the other hand, has long been a favourite of Boo's.
Marechal Foch is not a varietal that you'll see much when you head into your local liquor store. It is a hybrid varietal that was popular in the early years of wine production in Canada and the Northern US (largely New York state) because it is an early ripening varietal that has good hardiness through the colder winter months.
It is thought to have a similar profile to Pinot Noir which may have played a role in its introduction to the Okanagan and it remains perhaps the only hybrid grape that is consistently used to make a varietal wine in BC. There are, however, only a handful of wineries that produce such a varietal wine. Quails' Gate's is perhaps the best-known and about 7% of the winery's production involves Foch. They actually produce three different versions of Marechal Foch - their Old Vines Foch, a Reserve and a fortified wine.
Most of the varietal wines we see in the stores nowadays are vinifera varietals and the Marechal Foch grape "suffers" a bit from its hybrid heritage. Who reaches for Foch in a world of Merlot, Shiraz and Cab? I think we'll continue to reach for it though - as long as Quails' Gate continues to put such consistent effort into their bottle.