Deep in the sunburnt, smoky, Southern interior of British Columbia lies the stunning Quails’ Gate Winery, a majestic winery with over 25 years experience of producing multi international award-winning wines. Resting on the slopes of Mount Boucherie, a bygone volcano graciously producing fertile conditions, and next to the Okanagan Lake so gently tempering Kelowna’s continental weather patterns, this 124-acre waterfront estate is an icon of rolling grounds, Old-world finesse, and New-world industry leading innovation and viticulture practices. With every single one of Quail’s Gate wines being of the ultra-premium and internationally recognised BC VQA (Vintner’s Quality Alliance) calibre, these are first-class wines that warrant both a tasting – and meal. In Quails’ Gate’s spirit of delight and luxury, there is a fine dining restaurant on the estate that delivers exceptional food with an unrivalled panoramic view of the rolling vineyards. This winery is a must for all Okanagan visitors.
By way of background, this is a second-generation winery, owned by the Stewart family, that has been growing grapes for over 50 years. With extensive experience in the field, every vinifera planting has been carefully selected and the viticulture program has been meticulously iterated. All of the grapes are hand-harvested and 100% of each grape’s integrity is maintained. There are a few vineyards across the grounds: the Lower and Upper Boucherie Bench Vineyards, Sunnyside West Kelowna Vineyard, Blue Fox West Kelowna Vineyard, Patricia and Martyna East Kelowna Vineyard, Old Vines Vineyard in the Osoyoos, West Point Vineyard and Stewart Family Estates Vineyard in East Kelowna. The vineyards are all hallmarks of sustainability and environmental stewardship, deploying low impact viticulture practices with a holistic ecosystem management approach. There is organic farming throughout, drip irrigation to conserve water, minimal vehicles in the vineyards, organic fertilisers, reduced waste, and rare, targeted chemical applications. This is all in addition to biodegradable practices, water conservation, equipment upgrades, BIOPURE filter pads, and recycling initiatives throughout the estate. The estate is partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and advises in the BC Sustainable Winegrowing program. Premium, beautiful, and environmentally friendly, Quails’ Gate marks the pinnacle of what a modern winery can – and should – be.
I arrived into the cool entrance of the Quails’ Gate storefront on a sweltering, Saturday afternoon to be greeted by Lead Sommelier Mike Lee. A fellow Brit, he began the tour by showing me the stunning grounds as we nodded in appreciation for the splendour of the grand, Kelowna landscape. As a lakeside estate, the vineyards of Quails’ Gate roll delightfully towards the waterfront, leaving the impression of a Bordeaux chateau set against a distinctly Canadian, grand and vast landscape. There is something both unfettered and wild in the scene, a nod to the New World, yet familiar in the Old World design of the building itself. The restaurant, a spectacular green and lush patio affair, protrudes to the left of the winery, giving its guests a feast for the eyes (and the stomach). After soaking in the surroundings, and dipping inside to see some of the winemaking process, we returned to the wine shop where our tasting began. We worked our way through some Quails’ Gate staples. We started with the Chenin Blanc, which with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc (3%) and fermented in 3 year old oak followed by stainless tanks, brought a delicious richness with fresh minerality. Gooseberry and honey, with a hint of tropical fruits, this marked an excellent start to the tasting. We then had the Chardonnay, which is barrel fermented in 20% new French oak for 10 months and shows a nutty, biscuit complexity with fresh, bright tropical notes. The Boswell Syrah was our first Red, named in honour of the founder’s Grandparents. Bold, peppery, and spicy, this would be fantastic with some local Kelowna meats. The Pinot Noir, barrel aged in French Oak for 11 months, showed a Burgundy-esque level of subtlety in its tannins, gentle cherry notes and creaminess. To finish, we dived into the famous Quails’ Gate Optima sweet wine, a Botrytis Sauterne-style wine set to rival the original. Famous for over 25 years, this is possibly the hallmark of Quails’ Gate’s finesse, though the Chardonnay was my favourite by far.
After the delicious tasting, explained thoroughly by the affable Mike, I made my way to the picturesque patio restaurant, Old Vines. Named as one of the ‘Most Romantic Restaurants’ and ‘Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants’ in Canada by Open Table in 2018, this stunning, spacious expanse of wrought iron outdoor furniture, wooden beams, and luscious foliage felt more like Cannes than Kelowna. The lovely Anina took me to my table, arguably the best in the venue, a corner table overlooking the vista of the vineyards surrounded by a bounty of flowers. With a glass of wine at the ready, starting with the 2018 Rose, I opted for a starter of Grilled Pacific Octopus with white bean puree, patatas bravas, Espelette, pepitas, and chorizo oil. The presentation was immaculate, redolent of European fine dining, and the flavours exceptionally fresh, well balanced, and full. A thoroughly enjoyable starter. The bread basket of home made sourdough bread with salted butter was warm, crunchy and soft, making an apt accompaniment to the juicy octopus dish. For the main, I had the Line Caught Day Boat Halibut dish with Swiss chard, asparagus, potato, kiffir lime, and coconut nage. To pair, the 2018 Chasselas, a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris was recommended. The Halibut was tender yet firm, flakey yet warmly fresh, oozing with a delicious coconut jus. Slightly Asian in taste almost, the Pinot Blanc with Pinot Gris wine gave a pleasantly spicy accompaniment to the fragrant fish, rendering yet another pairing well done. For dessert, I had the Rhubarb and Vanilla with lemon panna cotta, on the recommendation of Anina, which came with sable Breton, rhubarb ginger consommé, candied ginger and rhubarb sorbet. Fresh, light, summery yet with a pleasant creamy finish, this was a delicious end to the meal, paired beautifully with the 2017 Totally Botrytis Affected Optima sweet wine.
As the sun set majestically over the Quails’ Gate vineyards, I finished my meal and began my dusky walk home through the Kelowna desert roads. Traversing vineyard after vineyard in the heat of the setting sun, I felt grateful and glad to have experienced the warm hospitality and grace of Quails’ Gate. Now back in Vancouver, this is the wine that I default to in restaurants, each sip bringing me glowing memories of my time there. If you can visit, do.
Quail’s Gate Winery
3303 Boucherie Road
BC V1Z 2H3