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Vintners venture to new winemaking opportunities

Gus Janeway is ready to go full throttle once more.

After a six-year pause, Velocity Cellars is again at the forefront of his winemaking efforts.

Janeway back-burnered his red wine when he stepped in at RoxyAnn in 2002 and is now ready to see what he can do pouring his all into Velocity Cellars.

"How to get there is the challenging thing right now, especially in today's economic climate," Janeway says. "I see this downturn as a period of opportunity. It's the time when you can re-invent yourself and discover new markets and not have a huge investment in some large production; it's a great time to be nimble and adaptable."

Janeway, 39, announced last summer that he would concentrate on his own custom crush label which he has produced at RoxyAnn Winery since 2003. He also is winemaker for Carpenter Hill, Red Lily, Rocky Knoll, Daisy Creek and Volcano Vineyards products.

Janeway says he chose Velocity, a red blend named to reflect unyielding focus and direction. He uses predominately malbec and cabernet franc grapes grown by Randy Gold of Talent.

"I had gone through four vineyard arrangements before isolating Randy's vineyard as the best fruit source for my particular style," he says.

Velocity production has ranged from 600 to 1,200 cases annually.

"We have to wait and see what an appropriate size is," Janeway says. "I think we have to make over 1,000 cases in order to make this viable. I have a reasonable amount of inventory and it's a red wine that ages well."

"We can accelerate sales short-term without having to build production; we're holding 2009 to about 1,000 cases."

He hopes to extend that to between 5,000 and 6,000 cases down the road.

"By putting Velocity on the front burner, I'm hoping to move it out and move it up," he says. "If we get to 10,000 cases, I'll be looking for my own facility, building, equipment and hiring people. The beauty of it is that I can still be a long-term custom-crush client. Right now, RoxyAnn sells out everything I make."

John Quinones has made wine for more than two dozen labels in California and even applied his expertise to a developing winery in China.

The 49-year-old winemaker and consultant's next task is to boost RoxyAnn Winery's production and reputation to new heights.

"It's a different growing region and every region has its own set of challenges," Quinones says. "With consulting you're in and out and you get to make changes, but nothing is really yours. You're there one or two years to evaluate and tweak and then you're off doing something else."

His longest stints were with the Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga, Calif., and Raymond Burr Vineyards. While he was with Clos Pegase, he earned 15 top scores from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. The 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon was ranked by Wine Spectator as among the top 100 wines of the world in 1993.

"I'm at the point now where I have some wonderful opportunities," Quinones says. "I've learned about different growing areas and now it's time to settle into one place taking the things I learned and apply them. I'm taking over a very solid winemaking process."

He was intrigued by RoxyAnn's wine while interviewing with Hillcrest Orchards and RoxyAnn Winery owner Jack Day and RoxyAnn Manager Director Michael Donovan.

"We all share the same personality trait, for better or worse," Quinones says. "We're never really satisfied and trying to better ourselves every year. The stamp I'm going to leave is making the wines better every single year I'm there."

As a college freshman, Quinones was hoping to go to medical school when he enrolled at the University of California-Davis.

But after one summer job working in an X-ray lab and another working at a winery, his goals changed.

"Helping out in an X-ray lab was a negative environment," Quinones recalls. "There aren't a lot of happy people with broken bones."

Nearer his Ukiah home along U.S. 101, he spent the next summer giving tours and working in the tasting room at Parducci Winery.

"I made friends with winemakers during breaks," Quinones says. "I started spending my spare time hanging out with the winemaker and found it fascinating."

He applied for admission to UC-Davis' fermentation science program and after graduating in 1986 began his career at Lyeth Estate Winery in Sonoma County.

RoxyAnn's vineyard was planted in 1997 and its inaugural 2001 vintage was made off site. The winery opened in 2002 and its tasting room opened in 2003 - the year winemaker Gus Janeway stepped in for Sarah Powell, who died of cancer in 2004.

RoxyAnn's latest round of expansion has doubled its annual production capacity to 20,000 cases - 340 tons - with room for growth to 30,000 cases. The estimated 2008 production is 231 tons.

There are 76 planted acres with room for perhaps another 30 acres on the east Medford estate.

"We have plenty of space with the pears that have been removed and I suspect there are more pears to be removed eventually on the Hillcrest (Road) side of the operation," Donovan says. "We've got room for 100 to 105 acres of vineyards on the property long-range.

We're not planting any new vineyards this year as was our plan all along; in light of the economic downturn that's been a wise move for us."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

Vintners venture to new winemaking opportunities