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Hazlitt makes a mark in Naples

    NAPLES—Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards has breathed new life into the former Widmer Winery in Naples by turning it into Red Cat Cellars.
    Leigh Hazlitt Triner and Doug Hazlitt, co-owners of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, purchased the 499 acre property in the spring of 2010. Production and bottling started this year on March 1. Renovations and improvements to the winery started on the inside, but have expanded to the outside.
    The “W” that once marked the outside of the tower has been replaced by a Hazlitt “H” and “Red Cat Cellars.” Brad Phillips, marketing director for Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, said the grounds are being restored and beautified.
    Red Cat Cellars is also getting involved in the local community. Red Cat Cellars will be the sponsor of the annual Naples Grape Festival, Sept. 24 and 25. Phillips said the company will also be hiring more local workers in the coming year. Currently, he said most of the 22 staffers at Red Cat Cellars are administrative staff from Hazlitt who are working part-time in Naples. Some of the Hazlitt staffers in Naples also include some former Widmer Winery employees.
    Staffing is not the only thing shared by the two facilities. Red Cat Cellars is producing most of the wine from the 2011 grape harvest. Phillips said it is handling 630,000 gallons of wine, compared to the 25,000 being produced in Hector. He added the total production is still about the same as it was before Red Cat Cellars opened. Phillips explained another winery was handling some production for Hazlitt. However, Red Cat Cellars has the potential to process 3 million gallons of wine a year. Phillips said Hazlitt is definitely in the top five wine producers in the state.
    Where Hazlitt previously paid another winery to process grapes, it now offers that service to others. The winery opened the facility and its state-of-the-art crush facilities for custom wine and beverage industry work in January 2011. The business is called East Coast Crush & Co-Pack (EC3) and services include grape crushing, winemaking, co-packaging and warehousing.
    Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars has invested more than $1 million into the facility including a crush area with Bucher Vaslin presses. Work continues, though, and a retail and tasting area is the next project. Phillips said a year from now people will be able to come to Red Cat Cellars to taste and purchase wine. The owners are also restoring a historic brick house on the Naples property. Phillips explained when renovations are done people will be able to rent it and spend the weekend there, right in the middle of a winery facility. Other future plans will include additional parking and a production tour.
    Renovations aren’t limited to the Naples location. Phillips added the work at the Hector winery has focused on the outside picnic areas and the entrance. Inside, office space has been renovated. Phillips said Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards has also gotten new production equipment.



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