Quails’ Gate Winery  proprietor Tony Stewart

Quails’ Gate Winery proprietor Tony Stewart

Local winery ready for move to Napa Valley

Quails' Gate Winery in West Kelowna looks to establish new winery in the heart of California's wine country.

More often it’s U.S. companies that expand into Canada, but a West Kelowna winery is looking to reverse that trend.

The Stewart family, owners of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, has co-founded a new winery with the Zepponi family in the Napa Valley in California, called Plume.

The deal has been a year and a half in the making, said Quails’ Gate CEO Tony Stewart, as they made wine at a custom crushing facility in California last year and expect to have the first Plume 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon available for sale in B.C. by the end of November.

By 2012, the goal is to have a home for the winery in the Napa Valley, which Zepponi will head up.

He is looking after contracting with the five vineyards in different areas of the valley who supplied the 75 tonnes of mostly cabernet sauvignon grapes.

“Dan knows growers there. When I was down there last week the fruit was looking good,” commented Stewart, adding this year’s harvest is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The Zepponi family has three generations of experience growing grapes and making wines in California.

Dan Zepponi previously made his home in the Okanagan and served as president of Mission Hill Family Estate and Artisan Wine Company until just a few years ago.

He is currently looking for a winery with vineyards to purchase in the Napa Valley.

Hospitality will be the focus, but there won’t be a restaurant. “We want to duplicate the Quails’ Gate experience,” Stewart said.

Once they establish the operation in California, they’ll focus on the local market, but the first wine will be available in Alberta next week, with the idea of concentrating on Western Canadian markets at first, Stewart said.

While Zepponi is supervising operations in California, they have a “notable” winemaker involved whose identity is not being revealed, said Stewart.

“We’re not looking to create a big fruit bomb. We’re looking for some elegance that is classic of the Napa terroir, rich and complex and elegant, and at a price point that people would feel is good value,” said  Stewart.

Most Napa wines cost more than $30 a bottle here, and their cabernet will be priced at $29.99.

“Like Quails’ Gate, we’re not focussing on the lower-end market,” he said.

Stewart said the family has a global perspective on wine. “It’s easy to be insular in B.C., but certain varietals are better grown in certain areas.”

Initially, the new winery’s production is 1,200 cases, with the idea of producing quality rather than quantity, but ultimately they are aiming to become a winery producing in the 10,000 to 20,000 case range, not as large as Quails’ Gate.

Other varietals they intend to bottle are another red, and chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

The winery’s name refers to the plume on a quail or on a horse’s headdress and reflects a special achievement, he said.





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