Colin Hough, marketing manager for Quady Winery, prepares for a vermouth tasting. Quady’s Vya label produces three vermouths: Whisper Dry, Extra Dry and Sweet. Their sweet brand just won the Vermouth Trophy at the 2017 London International Wine Challenge. Photo by Donald Promnitz
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
A former chemical engineer-turned winemaker in Madera County has been winning awards and having difficulty meeting the increasing demand for his products.
Located at 13181 Road 24 on the Madera Wine Trail, Quady Winery has built a reputation for its moscato and fortified wines — their products being sold in 49 states and 11 countries.
“I didn’t really think I’d ever have my own winery,” said Andrew Quady, the owner and founder of Quady Winery. “I thought I’d be very happy just working for somebody else as a winemaker, or maybe just doing engineering in a winery.”
With a major in chemical engineering, Quady didn’t begin his career by making wine, but flares and fireworks for the United States military. He was promoted to production manager and product designer for the company Amex in Fontana. His work in the explosives business, however, would end abruptly in early 1970s.
“They had an accident on New Year’s Eve where this building caught on fire and the building was full of rockets. These rockets took off in the midst of the fire and exploded overhead,” Quady said. “Local people thought we were being invaded from outer space or something because it made this big shaft cloud from aluminum foil.”
Quady was laid off after the fire and returned to college. After receiving his master’s degree in food science with a specialization in winemaking., he went to work in Lodi, where an associate from a wine club that he was in approached him to make a product for his family’s store chain in Sacramento.
The wine that Quady would make was a port-type from zinfandel grapes. The task would prove to be a large undertaking.
“The winery I was working for, the smallest tank they had there was 30,000 gallons, so in order to just put a couple of feet on the bottom of the tank, I needed to order 25 tons of grapes,” Quady said. “So I made about 1,600 cases of this wine, but my friend only wanted to buy about 100.”
Quady would later switch jobs to Heublein, Inc. where he would work under head winemaker Joe Rossi. He purchased his boss’ house in March in 1977 in order to start his own winery and was crushing grapes by September. Later he would buy orange muscat grapes to start the Essensia label and black muscat for Elysium.
In the 40 years since Quady purchased the house, he’s gone on to construct a 40,000-square foot building and has gained wide recognition.
“They’ve really made my job kind of easy,” said Colin Hough, marketing manager for Quady Winery. “The demand is there. Really, our biggest bottleneck currently is production constraints. We’re trying to grow as fast as possible just to keep the product on the shelves.”
Most recently, Quady’s Vya Sweet went on to take the Vermouth Trophy at the London International Wine Challenge. It was his second time picking up this award — the other time being in 2009.
Vya draws its edge in part from the absence of wormwood, a bitter ingredient that is required for European vermouths, but not American.
Quady will be marketing his Vya vermouths with a Manhattan month in October — named for the famous whiskey cocktail which includes sweet red vermouth as one of its main ingredients.
Quady also has big plans for growth in order to get more wine in stores, as they often run out towards the end of the year.
“My focus is really on trying to remove the constraints that are preventing us from being able to grow and I have a plan in the works to get us up to about 160,000 cases,” Quady said. “Right now, we’re at around 110,000, but it’s going to require some big capital investments to do it.”
His son, Herb, has gone on to start his own winery — Quady North — in Oregon.