Photo: vineyard at 50th Parallel Estate Winery
After 10 years as winemaker at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery,
Grant Stanley is moving to 50th Parallel Estate Winery as an
investor, partner and winemaker.
Parallel is a new winery near Carr’s Landing
in Lake Country
. It opened its tasting room for
the first time this week. The major plantings in the 30-acre vineyard are seven
“The focus exclusively as a premium Pinot Noir producer had
me absolutely salivating at the opportunity,” Grant said in an interview. “I
can tell you it is very tough to stay on focus when you have so many different
varietals you are working with. As you know, Pinot Noir is near and dear to me.
I just felt that I wanted to be working at a winery that had nothing but Pinot
That is not entirely accurate. The 50th Parallel
vineyard also has blocks of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer but these
are supporting actors in a drama that is all about Pinot Noir.
Grant, who is leaving Quails’ Gate this month on good terms,
was also attracted by the chance to become an owner in 50th
“The investment aspect was hugely attractive to me going
forward,” he says. “I wanted to be more involved in making the quality
decisions that affect the winemaking and the viticulture. I bought a
significant share – my wife and I – in the business and it will put us in a
board position and able to be there, making those calls. I will have a director
role along with day to day winemaking and viticulture.”
At 50th Parallel, Grant, a New Zealand-trained
winemaker, takes over from Adrian Baker, a New Zealand-born winemaker. Adrian has moved to
another winemaking project, so far not announced, in the Carr’s Landing
Photo: Grant Stanley
50th Parallel is a winery launched by Albertan
Curtis Krouzel and his wife, Sherri-Lee Turner-Krouzel, who bought this
lakeshore property in 2008 and began planting vines in 2009. The property has
been a vineyard for Jordan & Ste. Michelle cellars until the vines were
pulled out in 1988.
The Krouzels, with backing from other investors, plan a
destination winery with buildings designed by a leading architect.
“We are going into construction of a winery in the next few
weeks,” Grant says. “We have a new winery design and a plan to accommodate
close to a 100 ton vintage this year. I will be involved. That is another
reason I want to be involved at this stage, so I could be involved right from
the get-go, at the planning of the winery and making sure it is a facility
designed specifically for high quality Pinot Noir.”
Grant was born in 1967 in Vancouver, the son of a printer
and a dental technician, both of them New Zealand
immigrants and neither
particularly interested in wine. He developed his wine passion while working at
restaurant and hotel jobs in London
, New Zealand
, and the Whistler
He and his British-born horticulturist wife, Annabelle,
moved to New Zealand
with exquisite timing: the boom in New Zealand
wines was just
beginning. She got a job with the Cloudy
winery while Montana Wines, then New Zealand
biggest producer, gave him a job and then sponsored him to train as a
winemaker. In 1998, after a few vintages with small wineries, Grant joined a
legendary New Zealand Pinot Noir producer called Ata Rangi, where he did six
vintages, plus guest winemaking in Oregon and France.
“Ata Rangi opened doors for me,” Grant says. On two
occasions, Ata Rangi Pinot Noirs won the Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for the top
Pinot Noirs in the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London
Grant continued to pile up awards since joining Quails’ Gate
in 2003. Over the past decade, his wines have won 45 gold medals, 84 silver
medals and 89 bronze medals.
Those awards have included many varieties in addition to Pinot
Noir. While that is the flagship variety at Quails’ Gate, the winery’s annual
crush – now close to 1,000 tons – encompasses many other varieties. The single
biggest release from Quails’ Gate this year is 14,500 cases of an excellent
white blend, Chasselas-Pinot Gris-Pinot Blanc.
“I have made my reputation in this valley making Chasselas
and I am not too happy about it,” Grant jests.
“We hired Grant based on his interest in Pinot Noir,” Quails
Gate president Tony Stewart once told me “If Grant had it his way, we would
probably make only Pinot Noir.”
Quails’ Gate has just begun recruiting for a new winemaker. “As
you know, it is a pretty awesome position, so they will have no trouble filling
it,” Grant predicts.
One expects the winery will search both domestically and
internationally. In the decade before hiring Grant, the winery had employed
three Australian winemakers in succession, starting with Jeff Martin in 1994.
Martin now operates La Frenz Winery on the Naramata Bench
and, by coincidence, is just about to hire a senior winemaker from Australia.
Parallel has released three white wines and its
first Pinot Noir, a mere 100 cases made in 2011 by Adrian Baker. He came to the
Okanagan after making wine at Craggy
, another top New
Zealand Pinot Noir producer.
“I have only really managed to look closely at what I see in
barrel,” Grant says of the 2012 Pinot Noir.
and his style, it is a hands-off approach. The fruit is speaking really loud
Going from Quails’ Gate to 50th Parallel will be
a bit of an adjustment. “To my mind, the real fundamental difference will be
vine age,” he says. “I have been working with some real old vine material here
at Quails’ Gate. I will have some young vines to work with for a few years; and
the clonal mix is different as well.”
Somewhat like the Quails’ Gate vineyard, the 50th
Parallel vineyard is a long slope toward Okanagan Lake
Where Quails’ Gate slopes to the southeast, 50th
southwest to west.
“I think the soils, the topography, the whole package up
there are perfectly suited” to Pinot Noir, Grant says. “I really like the
soils. They are completely different to here; a little deeper in the top soils
but still not very vigorous; and there is some cool mineral content as well.
There are plenty of sunlight hours, and judging from the color I see in the
barrels, they are getting great ripening on the skins.”