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waters on wine

A winemaker holds grapes from the Quails' Gate winery in Kelowna on Oct. 7, 2010.Jeff Bassett

There’s a small logo on the label of the new Quails’ Gate pinot noir that celebrates the family winery’s 30th anniversary. Having a history in farming in the Okanagan valley, with cherry, pear and apple trees and a smattering of grape vines, the Stewart family produced its first wines in Kelowna under the Quails’ Gate label in 1989.

Over the years, the family’s attention to other varieties of tender fruit gave way to its increasing interest in tending vineyards for wine production, especially chardonnay and pinot noir vines that have given Quails’ Gate an enviable position as one of most consistent and convincing producers of those bottles in Canada. The family also operates wineries in California under its Stewart Family Estates portfolio.

“The Canadian industry has come so far,” says Tony Stewart, Quails’ Gate’s chief executive officer. “Twenty-five years ago, Thanksgiving would come and the next day, our staff would go into withdrawal. It would have been so busy, and then suddenly traffic would just stop.

“I would have never thought that Kelowna would end up looking like it does either, with a 30-storey condominium tower going in every six months,” he adds.

Stewart says interest in Canadian wine has grown apace with people’s understanding of the value of locally produced products. That 30th-anniversary pinot is released this weekend at LCBO Vintages outlets and available in many provinces across the country.

Quails’ Gate’s red is one of nine wines recommended this week. It joins an old-vine cabernet blend made by another pioneering Canadian winemaking family, the Boscs, who own Château des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and fresh new releases from Pelee Island Winery and Bachelder. There are also a nice range of other reds, whites and rosés that are new releases for consumers.

Avalon Appellation Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (United States), $34.95

Rating:90 /100

Made in the Napa Valley’s ripe and concentrated style, this dry red features a core of dark fruit with some earthy, herbal and vanilla notes. It’s robust and flavourful, with a smooth texture and persistent finish. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Bachelder Les Villages Gamay Noir 2019 (Canada), $24.95

Rating:91 /100

Winemaker Thomas Bachelder has firmly embraced the gamay noir grape in Niagara, adding four single-vineyard expressions to his portfolio of chardonnay and pinot noirs. Les Villages Gamay is a blend of barrels of red wine made from the Wismer-Foxcroft vineyard in Vineland and the Bai and Willms vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is textbook Niagara gamay, with a peppery fragrance and succulently ripe red fruit across the palate. The concentrated style remains fresh thanks to its lip-smacking juicy acidity. Drink now to 2026. Available starting April 2, direct through

Château des Charmes Old Vines Cabernet-Merlot 2017 (Canada), $24.95

Rating:90 /100

Last produced in 2012, this estate-bottled red blend is produced with grapes grown at Château des Charmes’ three family-owned vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot that’s been aged in French oak barrels for 15 months, this nicely concentrated and complex wine offers a mix of ripe fruit and savoury notes. Released as a four-year-old wine, this is ready to drink, but has the structure and fruit intensity to cellar over the next four to six years. Drink now to 2027. Available direct through

Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017 (France), $56.95

Rating:91 /100

Château Mont-Redon controls nearly 100 hectares of vineyards, which makes its one of the largest producers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The 2017 vintage of its signature cuvée features the classic red blend from the region, with grenache, syrah and mourvèdre accented by other local varieties. The result is this rich and fragrant wine that offers a complex array of dark fruit, savoury and cedar notes as part of a fresh and mouth-filling expression. It’s drinking nicely now, but promises to develop nicely in the cellar. Drink now to 2040. Available in Ontario at the above price; the equally appealing 2015 vintage is available at various prices in Alberta and $54 in Quebec.

Rivarose Brut Prestige Sparkling Rosé (France), $19.95

Rating:88 /100

This berry-scented sparkling wine is bound to be popular. A blend of syrah and grenache grown in Provence, France, it offers appealing berry and cherry flavours with subtle spice notes. There’s a hint of sweetness on the palate that’s nicely balanced by the wine’s bright acidity and the refreshing nature of the bubbles. Available in Ontario.

Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay 2019 (United States), $63.95

Rating:91 /100

Made in Rombauer’s rich and buttery house style, this full-bodied white wine has a concentrated core of ripe lemon and peach with nutty and oaky notes. The opulent and flavourful style is a match for seafood dishes in a cream or buttery sauce. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Pelee Island Winery Lola Pinot Grigio 2019 (Canada), $14.95

Rating:86 /100

Lola is one of the many affordable brands made by Pelee Island Winery. It’s a simple and enjoyable white wine with pleasing melon, pear and honey notes. The smooth texture, nice balance and refreshing finish give it mass appeal. The winery also sells this in a 250 ml aluminum bottle for $5.45 for picnics or poolside sipping. Available in Ontario and Quebec at the above price or direct through, $17.99 in Nova Scotia.

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery Pinot Noir 2019 (Canada), $34.95

Rating:90 /100

The 2019 vintage of pinot noir marks the 30th anniversary of winemaking at Quails’ Gate in west Kelowna. The family winery cultivates nine different varieties of pinot noir vines to help build complexity and character in its wines. As a result, this features attractive earthy and savoury aromas and flavours with a core of cherry and berry notes that adds interest to its smooth, supple character. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba or direct through, various prices in Alberta, $31.49 in Saskatchewan, $31.75 in Quebec, $34.99 in New Brunswick.

Whitecliff Winemaker’s Selection Rosé 2020 (New Zealand), $14.95

Rating:88 /100

Made in Hawkes Bay, this dry rosé features pleasing cherry and cranberry fruit with some floral notes. The wine’s medium body and bright acidity makes for a nice aperitif style that would also work with a meal. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario.

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