Through the generations at Quails’ Gate Winery
1989 [vineyard 1956]
Generational change in a business brings hurdles, so the Stewarts have taken purposeful steps to keep it all in the family. Family members serve on the Quails’ Gate Winery Board of Directors. A family council provides a venue for the next generation to have a voice and express any interest they may have in working in the wine business.
“There is no stigma either way,” says the winery’s current CEO Tony Stewart.
Love of the land stems back to grandfather Richard Stewart. Raised in County Kildare, Ireland, he trained as a horticulturist working at Marley Gardens and later for the Guinness family. In their early twenties, Richard and his brother set out for Canada, opening a nursery business in 1991 whose roots would grow into a family fortune in viticulture.
In 1956, his son Dick set his sights on the former Allison Ranch on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna to grow apples, cherries and grapes. After nearly three decades of growing grapes, Tony and Ben urged their father to add a winery on the family estate.
The first crush began in mid-September 1989, a week before the government announced the rules for farmgate wineries. Within two years, wine production achieved the standard of an estate winery.
Tony entered the business in 1992. “Back then it was about applying quality standards to winemaking and investing whatever we made back into the businesses,” he says. “The VQA doesn’t have the same focus it once did, but it fundamentally changed how people looked at industry — VQA put everybody onto looking at quality over quantity.”
“As chair of the BC Wine Institute, I advised the government that there was going to be a billion dollars invested in this industry. I thought I was stretching it. The reality is more than two or three billion dollars have been invested over the last 20 years because people saw the quality coming out of the Valley. Quality initiatives launched a successful industry.”
Primarily planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, their 200 acres of vineyards also include smaller blocks of several varietals, including Syrah. Premium tier wines honour family patriarchs that, as Tony says, “are about showcasing the family’s innovation and research, and allowing our winemaking and viticulture team to trial ideas at a commercial level.” Look to the stunning Rosemary’s Block Chardonnay and Richard’s Block Pinot Noir.
The family has embarked on a major expansion, planting a second 200-acre property in East Kelowna. 2020 marked the first vintage of traditional sparkling from the new site.
Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2018
Quails’ Gate Winery, West Kelowna
White burgundy with great charm. Buttery, creamy, toasted brioche. Well-balanced vanilla, light charred oak, citrus and nuttiness. Some lees stirring and partial malolactic fermentation. Long aftertaste.
Feature: 30 Years of BC VQA
“My dad saw a southern slope and said it would be a perfect place to grow Riesling. Riesling needs all the sunshine it can get.”
Charmed by the scenic location, Prince George business-man Curt Garland bought Hester Creek in 2004; the original plantings have thrived in the years under his investments.
Hawthorn Mountain offers a unique aspect for grape growing and has put Okanagan Falls on the wine map for more than 35 years. The high, cool plateau — known for its quality Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir — is home to the first VQA winery in the area.