Among my very favourite wine experiences this year has been the chance to talk with and meet Judy Kingston. She is the owner of Serendipity Winery, a new enterprise close to the village of Naramata that opened last year.
Kingston is a former technology lawyer and a French-trained chef. She decided to make a career change and bought the Naramata Bench property, which was then mostly planted to orchard. The acreage was relandscaped to better accommodate rows of grapevines and the early results are impressive, indeed.
When I first spoke to Kingston by telephone earlier this year, one story illustrated how something that could go badly wrong can also go incredibly right when one has a positive attitude. Winemaker Jason Parkes had an accident that put his leg in a cast just before last fall’s harvest. But he and Kingston worked out a plan the harvest and vintage worked out perfectly.
“So my 12th crush turned out to be one of my favourites,” he said.
Parkes also made another telling comment, saying that Kingston is completely devoted to quality. “Just make the best wines we can” is her instruction to him.
Kingston admits she has been a bit spoiled, having daughter Katie O’Kell working with her for parts of the last three years, but Katie is now off to university to pursue a law degree, so Judy and Jason will have to get by without her valuable help.
For someone who has spent many years behind a desk, Kingston has adapted well to the physical labour involved in running a vineyard and winery. When we visited this summer she came trotting down out of the vineyard to greet us, keeping an eye out for visitors while checking out the health of the vines.
Inside the winery we had a great visit and as we made our way through a tasting of everything she had available, we were impressed by her attention to detail and very educational approach to explaining the wines, how they were made and what kinds of food they pair best with.
Although I had earlier subscribed to a Serendipity Wine Club membership, I couldn’t pick up my first shipment because a foul-up with her bottle order had forced a delay in bottling. My order was delivered as promised, though, a few weeks later, and the six bottles are now sitting in the cellar, waiting for suitable occasions to try them.
We found Serendipity’s red wines to be extremely satisfying. Single variety wines — Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc, all private reserves — are made in small quantities and each was a delight. Serenata (a name I love because one of the family members who own a farm we stayed at in Tuscany a few years ago shares the name), a Bordeaux blend, is outstanding. Two years in oak, with extended lees contact, have helped make this a wine that will age nicely in the cellar for years to come. B.C. wine writer John Schreiner gave it the 2009 private reserve a score of 91-93.
When we visited Serendipity, Kingston was brutally honest — she has come to understand that she can’t hope to make a profit with her current production level and commitment to quality. She has been working to contract other growers to provide grapes that meet her high expectations so that she can increase production. Quality is something she isn’t willing to compromise on, obviously.
Potential wine club members shouldn’t be scared off — there are three different membership levels, and tier one doesn’t require any commitment to purchase wine. It comes with a monthly newsletter and gives members the option of purchasing limited edition, small production wines. I’m so impressed with the wines that I signed on as a tier three member, which includes a six-bottle selection three times a year.
For more information about Serendipity Winery, wine sales and wine club memberships, visit www.serendipitywinery.com.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.