Robert Bell's Wines of Canada

The Stewart Family

Quails Gate Winery

The Stewart family planted our first vines in 1961, but our love affair with the soil goes back to 1908, when Richard Stewart Sr. (affectionately known as “Poppa Dick”) settled in the area. From working the land, he would go on to establish one of the valley’s most successful nurseries. Six decades later, his son, Dick, switched over to growing grapes.

Richard (Dick) Stewart

Richard (Dick) Stewart was born in 1926 to Richard Stewart Sr. and Lucy Marty Whitworth. Dick’s father father emigrated from Ireland to the Okanagan in 1908, thus starting a long tradition of horticulturists. After serving in the Second World War, he graduated from UBC with dual degrees in agriculture and commerce.

In the early ’60s, he invested in Kelowna Builder’s Supply, which led to a long interest in land development and residential and commercial construction. Projects built by Stewart’s company include Guisachan Village shopping centre and Sunrise Village retirement community.

In 1959, Dick purchased the property now known as Quails’ Gate and planted his first grapes in 1961. As well, he formed a partnership with Calona Wines to establish Pacific Vineyards, which leased land from the Westbank Indian Band for a vineyard and bought land south of Oliver for a second vineyard. "We believed there was room for growth in the wine industry," Stewart recalled later. Initially he planted what were then considered the established varieties -- such North American labrusca grapes as Diamond, Campbell's Early, Sheridan and Patricia. A nursery in Seattle, one of his suppliers, misidentified a shipment of what should have been 10,000 Diamond vines. Stewart discovered when the vines were growing that he had been shipped Chasselas, a vinifera vine that produces far superior fruit than Diamond. "We left them in," Stewart chuckled.

In 1964 he and Joe Capozzi (in the latter's private aircraft) flew to grape-growing areas in Ontario and New York state to choose varieties for the initial Pacific Vineyards plantings the following year.  At Gold Seal Vineyards in New York, one of the early vinifera growers, they found that the previous winter had devastated the vines. That convinced Stewart and Capozzi to play it safe, planting the more hardy hybrid varieties, including De Chaunac, Chelois, Verdelet and Maréchal Foch. After managing Pacific Vineyards for several years, Stewart sold his interest to Calona Wines and concentrated on developing the vineyard near Westbank that now supports Quails' Gate.

 “Never afraid of new ideas, Dick believed in putting his nose to the ‘grindstone and his shoulder to the wheel’. He was intensely proud that all his children became a part of making the winery successful. He loved to wander the vineyards, wineshop and offices at Quails’ Gate visiting with guests and he fondly referred to the staff at Quails’ Gate as his extended family.”

Stewart was a founding member in 1961 of the Association of British Columbia Grape Growers (with Frank Schmidt and Martin Dulik), set up to lobby government for favourable policies. He was not an original member of the Grape Growers' Marketing Board but soon joined this price-negotiating body and subsequently became its chairman.  Interested more in grape growing than winemaking, Stewart encouraged his son Ben to establish Quails' Gate in 1989.

Politically, he served two terms as a Kelowna alderman, and was a campaign manager for former B.C. premier Bill Bennett.

Along with his business and political interests, Stewart has been an active volunteer, serving with diverse groups that included the Black Mountain Ski Club, chairing the 1980 B.C. Summer Games that were held in Kelowna, and serving on UBC’s board of governors.

Stewart’s family was one of 14 that in 1977 established the Central Okanagan Foundation, a charitable organization, and he was president of the society for its first nine years of existence.

He and his wife Rosemary have four children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Although he is long since retired, Dick still comes to visit the vineyards with Ben and Tony and, earlier this year, celebrated his 92nd birthday.

Ben Stewart
Having grown up working in the vineyards operated by his father, Ben initially began a career in finance before rejoining the family business in 1979. After several years of planning, Ben and his father Dick started Quails’ Gate Winery in 1989. A true pioneer of the industry, Ben was instrumental in bringing in several clones of highly sought-after clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which Quails’ Gate is still known for today.

Ben Stewart was elected MLA for Westside-Kelowna in 2009 and 2013. In October of 2013, Stewart was appointed British Columbia’s Special Representative in Asia to act as the province’s official on-the-ground representative in Asia to further strengthen BC’s government-to-government relationships in China, Japan, Korea, India and Southeast Asia.

 He was re-elected in a by-election in 2018 in the riding of Kelowna-West. Ben is currently the Official Opposition Co-Critic for Citizen Services. Mr. Stewart previously served as Minister of Citizens' Services, Minister of Community and Rural Development, Minister of Agriculture, and as Government Whip. He served on the Special Committees on Cosmetic Pesticides and Timber Supply, and as the Ministerial representative on Treasury Board, the Priorities and Planning, and the Legislative Review Committees.

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart is the CEO of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, Tony directs much of his energy in creating an environment that enables Quails’ Gate to succeed as one of the world’s best wine houses. He’s passionate about ensuring that Quails’ Gate visitors receive exceptional product and service. Tony and the rest of his team are confident and excited about leading the way in winery culinary tourism. He also devotes significant time to several local, industry, provincial and national associations.

The Stewart Family of Quails Gate winery

Front: Left to Right:Tony Stewart, Dick Stewart, Rosemary Stewart, Ruther Stewart, Ben Stewart, Andrea McFadden (née Stewart), Dave McFadden ~ Back: Scott Walker, Llane Dobbener (née Stewart – Ben’s daughter), Cynthia Walker (née Stewart)

Quails Gate Estate winery is one of British Columbia's most popular winery.  Quails' Gate is internationally recognized as a top quality producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  It is located in West Kelowna over looking the lake.

 John and Susan Allison.were one of the first European settlers to live in the Okanagan valley. They built the Sunnyside Ranch (which is now Quails’ Gate’s location) and lived in the ranch house now known as “Allison House” that still stands on the Quail’s Gate property today. This home was the first permanent structure on the west side of Okanagan Lake. Quail's Gate for many years used the log cabin as its tasting room. It is now used as Quails’ Gate’s gift shop. Susan is considered the first person to record a sighting of Ogopogo in 1873

Dick Stewart passed away May 12 2020 at the age of 94.

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