Class of 2011: Serendipity Estate Winery
Photo: Judy Kingston
Judy Kingston was a bit emotional this spring when introducing sommeliers and winery visitors to the first wines released by her Serendipity Estate Winery.
“I planted the grapes; I have seen them all the way through and then helped put them in the bottle” she explains. “For me, it was like I was in the bottle. It was a real funny thing for me. It was the first time I had ever done it, offering myself in a bottle to somebody.”
You need to understand two things about Judy:
First, she comes to selling wine after a 25-year career as a practitioner of computer law in Toronto. “I have never sold anything in my life because I’ve been a lawyer. I never had to.”
Second, four years of farming grapes – another thing she had never done before - has forged a passionate relationship with her vines.
“These are the babies I planted,” she says of her 8 ½ acre vineyard. “It’s so soothing when you are out in the vineyard, in the midst of all your vines, just taking care of them. There is nothing I have ever worked on has come close to that.”
The winery is just opening on Debeck Road, next to Therapy Vineyards and a short drive off Naramata Road. The debut wines are a 2007 Pinot Noir, a 2008 Bordeaux blend and a pair of 2010 whites – Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Later in the summer, Judy expects to release a Cabernet Franc, a Merlot and a Syrah, all from the 2009 vintage.
With wine shop hours still be determined, it might be wise to call for an appointment. Count on a warm welcome and plenty of passion about the wines.
Wine was not her original passion. “I was going through school as a mathematician,” she remembers. “That was my dream in life.” At the University of Western Ontario, she did a double major: mathematics and computer science. She had to do a thesis to graduate and, on the advice of her thesis advisor, did a paper on computer law, then a new area in American law and an undeveloped field in Canada.
In turn, that took her to law school with a determination to carve out a career in this new field. “I chatted to different lawyers in Toronto,” she recalls. “They said you don’t get new areas of developing law; female lawyers go into family law and estate law – try that.” Eventually, about 1975, one large firm invited her to article and she became one of the first, if not the first, computer lawyer in Canada.
Judy’s impulsive 2006 purchase of a Naramata orchard, soon to become a vineyard, came after a car accident and a decision to switch lifestyles. After moving to the Okanagan late that year, she enrolled in Okanagan College’s viticulture course to gain the skills needed as a grape grower. Later, to add winemaking knowledge, she did a crush at a New Zealand winery.
After the apple trees were pulled out, the property was contoured to eliminate frost pockets and to create good south and west-facing slopes. It was planted in 2007 with Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. This year, two acres of Pinot Noir will bring the vineyard to almost 10 ½ acres.
“I don’t think I can farm more than I have got here,” Judy says. “It’s a lot of work.”
Photo: Jason Parkes with a bottle of Serenata
She shares the winemaking with Jason Parkes who also has had colourful careers, first as a construction explosives technician and then as rock musician with a critically acclaimed punk band called Glasshead. When the revenues from music slowed down in 2003, he also took a job in the vineyard at Hainle Vineyards.
Circumstances propelled him into winemaking there and then at Adora Winery, the custom crush facility where Serendipity’s wines were made before Serendipity built its own cellar.
“I’m glad this wine thing found me,” Jason says, no longer working as a musician and song writer. “I make wine with passion and stress. I have nothing left for music.”
Serenata 2008 ($39.90) is the winery’s first Bordeaux red, a blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 23 months in new French oak. It begins with aromas of vanilla, eucalyptus and red fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of currants, blackberries, chocolate, coffee and tobacco, with a core of sweet fruit nesting in long, ripe tannins. 90.
Pinot Noir 2007 ($39.90) spent three years aging in older barrels before being bottled. The style might be called old world, with slightly porty flavours of fig and black olive as well as spicy cherry and plum. The barrel-aging has given wine a polished texture. 88.
The Sauvignon Blanc, said to be done in the New Zealand style, and the Viognier were not available for tasting when I visited the winery last month.
Serendipity Estate Winery
990 Debeck Road,
Naramata, BC, V0H 1N0.