The La Caille restaurant bottles wine from vines planted in 1976, serves farm-to-table food and is building a new bar and lounge

La Caille, the iconic restaurant located on 20 acres at the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon in Sandy, has made its move with farm-to-table food and a restored wine label.

For decades, La Caille, which opened in 1975, was the fine dining spot of choice for Utahns for marriage proposals, weddings, anniversaries and Easter brunch. But by the mid-2000s, the company’s informal, family structure was unraveling and the owners found themselves embroiled in a legal battle that culminated in a tragic murder-suicide.

In 2012, La Caille was reopened under the ownership of Kevin Gates, who spent $1.5 million restoring the château and grounds.

Contractors filled nearly 30 industrial dumpsters with broken kitchen appliances, outdated chairs and tables, and yard waste.

They also repaired leaking ponds and tilled an area for a garden.

With the help of a local farmer, the garden was created as a closed ecosystem where kitchen waste is composted. Various types of beans, plush squash, Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, leeks, cabbage, squash, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and lettuce are now grown. The restaurant maintains an aquaponics system in its greenhouse where it grows herbs.

The gardens will be on display during a fundraiser in aid of the non-profit Tribune on August 27 starting at 3:00 p.m. There will be live music and more than 35 local food and wine vendors including La Caille. A limited number of tickets are available at saltcitywineanddine.com.

Partner Kelly Doll said the garden doesn’t necessarily fill the plates at the restaurant — instead, they source from a rotating list of Utah farmers.

“The menu changes with the seasons,” he said.

It’s not just the menu that’s changing. Doll said they would like to restore La Caille’s ponds, vineyards and buildings to their original condition. And there’s the new bar.

“We’ve made many, many improvements to the property and brought back the loving care,” he said. “We are in the process of building a new lounge and bar in the future. Neat things are coming onto the property.”

The beginnings of La Caille

Quail Run was a weekend restaurant that opened in the early 1970s at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

By 1975, it was replaced by La Caille, an upscale French restaurant in a 14,000-square-foot stone building hand-built by co-founders Steve Runolfson, David Johnson, and Mark Haug without architects or contractors.

Utah had never seen anything like it.

La Caille was known for both its 20 acres of grounds and its food. The winding brick driveway (also hand laid); the swan ponds; the fountains and orchards; the lush gardens full of strutting peacocks.

In the early 1980s, the co-founders planted a vineyard of Seyval Blanc – an American-French hybrid. The site is 5,350 feet above sea level and benefits from low nighttime temperatures, well-draining sloping hills and soils rich in glacial deposits.

New Castle of La Caille

The vineyards have come a long way.

In 2011, Gates hired Michael Knight of Kiler Grove Winery, who had worked with La Caille in the 1990s to establish the restaurant’s first wine label, to help restore the vines. When Knight arrived, he replanted dozens of dead and diseased plants. He also installed a drip irrigation system to prevent mold on the grapes.

The vineyards are managed by Ed Primosic who has been at La Caille for decades.

Winemaker Mike Marron joined La Caille in 2013. He said he started fermenting apple and grape juice at the age of 10 and planted Pinot Noir grapes behind his childhood home in 1977, which he still uses in winemaking.

At La Caille, “we grow Sauvon Blancs and Dornfelders,” he said. Their estate wine, Enchante, “is made from Sauval grapes and fermented in stainless steel, which is a little different,” Marron said.

The goal is to create a full-bodied wine that is fruity, has high acidity and a crisp finish.

“We’re trying to get it as dry as possible,” he said. “Sometimes the grapes are too ripe and get a little bit sweeter, but most people don’t even realize it.”

The Chateau La Caille label now produces enough wine, including Pinot Noir, Choix Évident, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Seyval Blanc, to host regular tastings at the restaurant.

La Caille is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 5pm to 9pm and on Sunday from 10am to 2pm. Wine tastings at La Caille are available by appointment by calling 801-942-1751.

About Rachael Garcia

Check Also

Sanitary sewer cleaning, inspections September 19-24

Residents on the streets listed below can see vehicles, work crews, and small equipment. The …