Wine Culture Magazine

Shawn Talbot Photography

Quails’ Gate Estate Winery is celebrating 30 years since the winery’s opening, in 1989. But the Westbank pioneer actually took root much longer ago than that. It was in 1956 that Richard (Dick) Stewart planted his orchard on land that eventually became today’s vineyards.

At the time the Okanagan was growing mainly low quality hybrids for bulk wine. However, Stewart became convinced the Okanagan could do better and decided to switch to grapes. He planted Chasselas and, later, Chenin Blanc, which still remain part of today’s portfolio. When he established the winery it was one of the Okanagan’s original ‘Farm Gate’ wineries, but it quickly outgrew the limit of its 2,000 case production.

The Quails’ Gate Vineyard in Westbank. Photo courtesy of Quails’ Gate Winery

In short order the Stewart Family realized the potential for premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which have become the main focus of the winery (now run by son Tony Stewart, CEO). As a result they were also among the first in the valley to grasp the importance of attracting to the Okanagan expertise from around the world. Early on, Quails’ Gate hired winemakers who had worked in key Pinot regions such as Oregon’s Willamette Valley and Martinborough, in New Zealand.

Quails’ Gate Winemaker Ross Baker. Shawn Talbot Photography

Current winemaker Ross Baker, who hails from Kelowna, has been a key member of the Quails’ Gate team for several years, as well as working at Villa Maria Estates, in Marlborough, and other Okanagan wineries. Overseeing planting across the lake at the family’s new South Kelowna vineyard is Kiwi Chad Douglas, who previously worked in Central Otago, Europe and Oregon. When fully planted its 160 acres will be one of the valley’s largest single vineyards. It will also be home to a new winery, and likely include sparkling wine production.

Planting is underway at the family’s new 160-acre South Kelowna vineyard. Photo courtesy of Quails’ Gate Winery

“When I look at a bottle of wine, it’s the combination of everything,” says Tony Stewart. “It’s the work that’s been done from back in 1956, when the property was first purchased to the start of the winery in 1989, to the planting of every block that exists in our vineyards and takes it right through. At the end of the day, you should be able to look at that bottle and say, ‘This is what we do’.”

“We’re in a very exciting time in the wine industry as we look toward innovation and evolution in the future. For our family, we are particularly excited about the growth and development of the new property that will be a great new legacy for our family and our community.”

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