Joe Wagner had just come down from checking on the Hennessey and Gamble fires, which had been sparked by lightning and were burning on Monday in northeast Napa County. The plan had been to talk about his new tasting room, Quilt & Co., opening on Main Street in Napa on Aug. 27.
Yes, he said, they would be open.
“Napa is resilient,” said Wagner, a fifth-generation Napa winemaker, who grew up in Rutherford. “I believe there will be a return to normalcy.” And this includes the pleasures of exploring wines.
Wagner, whose grandparents founded Caymus Vinyards in 1972, has gone one to establish his own wine legacy. Born and raised in Napa Valley, he launched his Belle Glos Pinot Noir in 2001, followed in 2006 by the phenomenally successful Meiomi, also a Pinot. He sold the Meiomi brand to Constellation in 2015 for $315 million.
Today, he is the owner of Copper Cane Wines and Provisions, which includes the wine brands Belle Glos, Quilt, Beran, Elouan, Böen, Carne Humana and Steorra.
His Quilt, he said, is “classic Cabernet Sauvignon the way my family has made it.” It takes its name from the patchwork of Napa Valley vineyards from which he sources the grapes.
Beran, “the bear” is Zinfandel sourced from “old-vine plantings and and up-and-coming vineyards” in Sonoma County, Napa Valley, and other places he has discovered to make a wine that pays tribute to the variety often described as California’s grape.
Elouan is a Pinot Noir made from Oregon grapes, while Böen is Pinot from Russian River Valley.
Carne Humana is a red blend, named for the Napa Valley land grant, given in 1841 by Gov. Juan Alvarado to Edward Turner Bale. Rancho Carne Humana, included land from what is Rutherford today to Tubbs Lane in Calistoga. “Carne Humana” means “human flesh” in Spanish, and one theory about the origins of the strange name is that the land was known to the native residents as “Huilic Noma” or “Colijolmanoc,” and Bale converted “Colijolmanoc” into Spanish.
Steorra is a Russian River Valley brut sparkling sparkling wine.
“I’ve always believed that when folks are exploring wine, they should go with their palate,” Wagner said, adding that his goal is to provide a relaxing, enjoyable way of trying his different wines and discovering personal favorites.
The tasting room will open in the building adjacent to Wagner’s restaurant Avow, in the space formerly occupied by Velo Pizzeria, across from Veterans Memorial Park.
The larger-than-life bronze statues of pioneering farmworker rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, which stand over the entrance to the new tasting room, will remain, Wagner said.
Wagner bought the Main Street property from previous owner Steve Hasty for $3.7 million in February 2016. In 2019, he opened Avow restaurant in the building that, from the 1940s until the mid-70s, was Fagiani’s, the bar that closed soon after its co-owner, Anita Andrews, was found murdered inside. After the murder was finally solved decades later, owner Muriel Fagiani sold the building to Hasty, and the long-dormant site reopened in August 2012 as The Thomas restaurant, with a bar named Fagiani’s at The Thomas. After this restaurant failed, a second restaurant, Nine Bark, opened, and closed within a year.
After he purchased the building, Wagner got permission from the city to remove the blue tiles that had been added to the site, with a goal of returning the the building to its original appearance.
Wagner said his plan is to coordinate service between Avow and Quilt & Co., to offer food and wine pairings and charcuterie boards with the wines.
The city’s decision to close the block of Main Street where his new tasting room and his restaurant are located has been an enormous boost for him as well as other restaurateurs, he said. His neighbors on the block include Zuzu, La Taverna, and Napkins.
Quilt & Co. will open in accordance with the present social distancing guidelines and reservation-only appointments. Guided virtual wine tasting experiences are also available, as are Quilt & Co. Wine Club memberships, that offer two options and include waived tasting fees, complimentary food options, access to the Quilt & Co. lounge and membership discounts.
Despite all the challenges life is throwing at Napa this summer, Mother Nature continues to produce grapes, and, Wagner said he believes people continue to need experiences that remind them that life is to be enjoyed — a thought as comforting as a fine old quilt.
Quilt & Co. is open by appointment from 11 a.m to 6 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday, at 807 Main St. Visit QuiltAndCo.com to schedule reservations.
Watch now: Joe Wagner opens Quilt & Co. in Napa