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Interview, Part 2: Copper Cane Wines & Provisions Founder Joe Wagner

August 7, 2019

In the second part of our interview, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions founder Joe Wagner discusses his Napa Valley brand, Quilt, as well as his upcoming spirits portfolio and the opening of his new restaurant, Avow, in downtown Napa.

SND: How is progress currently for your Quilt wine brand?

Wagner: With Quilt, we want to take some of the pretension out of where Napa Valley has been going in terms of extremely high-priced wines. From a consumer perspective, spending $200 or $300 retail on a bottle of Cabernet that you’ve never heard of is just a hard thing for me to wrap my head around. We could start losing younger consumers if they’re tempted to trade down to other areas that are producing great Cabernets at a lower price, whether it’s Paso Robles or Lodi. Quilt is made in our signature style, and has cult elements to it, but we’ve been able to keep the price down to about $50. We should be at about 60,000 cases this year, with the majority done in the on-premise and much of it in by-the-glass. We think that kind of exposure is good not only for the brand but for the Napa Valley. We’re just now launching a new red blend under the Quilt brand called Fabric of the Land, priced a little below the Cabernet.

SND: What’s the status of your spirits project?

Wagner: We’re continuing to progress, but we won’t release anything until the beginning of next year at the earliest. We’re finishing up the packaging design at this point. We started off with apple brandies, then moved into grape brandies, and finally into whiskies. We’re doing a ryed Bourbon, a number of single malts, and a blended whiskey as well. And we’ll be adding a gin and a vodka. The spirits will come out under a number of different brands. We want to keep it concise, and really focus in on each brand individually. I thought the return on investment for wine took a long time; with spirits, if you’re going to do it right, it takes even longer. But I keep telling the finance team, “Don’t worry, this is going to be a good decision.” We’re having a ton of fun with it.

SND: And you recently had a restaurant opening in Napa?

Wagner. Yes, we just opened our Avow restaurant and bar. It’s in what was called the Fagiani building, which was built in 1908. It’s a three-story space with a bar and lounge on the first floor, a dining room on the second floor, and a bar and outdoor patio on the third floor. Our approach is to start with the beverage and then go forward to add a perfect food pairing. We can hold about 160 people, and have done very well so far. We have a pretty broad list of wines—not only our own—but I’m trying to keep the offering somewhat “down-home” and regionally focused.—Daniel Marsteller

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