Friday, July 12, 2013

Wine Tasting at Quails' Gate, the Okanagan Valley

This article is part of the one-month road trip series, The Great Northwest North American Wine Road Trip, during which we'll visit wine countries in Oregon, British Columbia, and Washington.

In the northern Okanagan Valley, near the town of Kelowna, Quails' Gate winery is offering some deliciously fascinating white winesnot to mention the views that come with them:



The Stewart Family moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1908, and, like many winemaking families in the Okanagan, they started out growing fruit trees. They founded Quails' Gate winery in 1989.

Interestingly, the first non-native people to move to the Okanagan Valley lived on what is now the Quails' Gate property, and, while wine tasting, you can check out the original farmstead, the Allison House. According to Wikipedia, Susan Louisa Moir Allison was a Sri Lankan-born Brit who moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1873. She was an author who loved interacting with the indigenous people, the Okanagans, and she had a whopping 14 kids—mostly in this little house at Quails' Gate pictured here:

The Allison Family House

Susan reportedly saw the famous monster of Okanagan Lake, Ogopogo, which might look something like this (2011 Riesling by Monster Vineyards—delicious in its own right, too):


Alright, enough history and folklore. At Quails' Gate, I was shown around by The Wine Doctor, Isaac. Dr. Isaac got his moniker during a live radio show, when he asked the disc jockies to send a shout out to his kids from the "Wine Doctor." The name stuck, and the Stewart Family even made him a name tag. It was a good thing the doctor was in the house when I visited, because I was feeling ravenous. "No problem," said Isaac, "take two merlot and call me in the morning."

Earning his title, Dr. Isaac explained that some of the winery's vineyards grow out of an extinct volcano cone, and the winery's foch vines are the oldest vines. Foch is a type of grape, and, no, it isn't pronounced that way. It's pronounced fōsh. I'd never heard of the grape before and was excited to get to try it.


Of all their wines, I truly loved the 2012 Chenin Blanc for its tropical fruit, kind-but-firm acidity, and light, care-free-summer-days attitude. It's been served to President Obama and Prince William and Kate Middleton, and you can try it too with incredible views at Quails' Gate. Other stand out wines, according to my tastes, were:

  • 2012 Chasselas (blend of pinot blanc and pinot gris)
  • 2011 Quails' Gate Chardonnay
  • 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay
  • 2011 Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir
The wines made with the foch grape are also worth a try. They are incredibly masculine, with huge tannins, deep fruit, and tobacco notes.

Love Quails

Quails' Gate is open daily for wine tasting, and they offer a basic wine tasting for $5 (fee waived with two-bottle purchase). Additionally, you can take the highly informative Family Tour, which is offered three times a day. It includes a wine tasting and costs $8. Pre-booking isn't necessary.

The winery has a nice porch with lots of comfy seating—ideal for soaking up the Okanagan atmosphere—and the onsite restaurant, Old Vines Restaurants & Bar, has equally dazzling views and serves a locally and seasonally inspired menu in a fine-dining setting.




Lastly, I visited Quails' Gate at a very special time: when the grapevines were blooming. Vines only bloom for a week or two each year, and, though the flowers are very small, they symbolize the beginning of another vintage of idiosyncratic wine, in this case, from the Okanagan Valley.

Portions of this article included information obtained during a press trip funded by the Okanagan tourism board.

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