The other week I had a chance to catch up with Quails Gate CEO Tony Stewart. We’ve followed Quails Gate almost since day one, and can just about track every achievement made over the years—and there have been many.
Quails Gate is one of very few Okanagan estates that has been active in the wine industry well beyond the Okanagan Valley. Over the last two decades, the winery has been at the fore in bringing outside expertise to help raise the bar in winemaking. And it was also one of the first to engage in a significant joint venture—Plume Winery—in Napa Valley.
The Genesis for Plume occurred when Stewart got to know then neighbour Dan Zepponi, when he was running things up the way from Quails Gate, for Anthony von Mandl at Mission Hill.
When the opportunity to purchase five blocks of old vines on what was the very first producing property (dating from 1863) in Sonoma Valley proper, Stewart and Zepponi jumped at the chance.
“You have to respect that,” says Stewart.
“It’s not just the old vines, this place has a real sense of history.”
He also says, by coincidence, that the site’s similarities to Quails Gate are remarkable, right down to a warm aquifer that provides protection against early spring frosts.
Building on the success of Plume, Stewart and Zepponi have decided to expand their partnership—and maybe set their sights even higher, with the launch of Lake Sonoma Winery, a brand with which the two are determined to explore the full potential of Sonoma’s sub-appellations, and the specific varietals that thrive there—at an affordable price.
“Our commitment is that we’re wine people and that when you buy a bottle of wine you should get value in the glass,” says Stewart.
Judging by first tastes, I’d say they’re doing just that. In comparison to other Sonoma specific (i.e. sub-apprellation) wines these have plenty to offer for the money.
• Lake Sonoma Winery 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay. Very well balanced, with inviting tropical and citrus aromas with citrus and measured vanillin wrapped in good acidity. PWS. Not at BCLS. Yet. Although, you could order it by the case ($23.99). I’d be tempted. $24-27, 91 pts.
(I also have to say that these wines showed even better with some excellent, well matched tastes from Lupo—arguably one of downtown’s most under-rated rooms.)
Also worth a nod, for sure, Lake Sonoma Winery Alexander Valley Cab. Sauv. 2011 (Black cherry, cassis and mineral notes, BCLS Specialty $26.99, 90 pts.); Lake Sonoma Dry Creek Zinfandel 2010. Plush ‘n plummy forward black fruit and spicy notes. $24.99, 89 pts.