Photo courtesy of Tim Benedict

Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars in Naples is celebrating the opening of its new tasting room, a large building on the grounds of what used to be Widmer Wine Cellars.

Hazlitt bought the property in 2010 from Constellation Brands. Since then, Hazlitt reports investing more than $1 million to upgrade vineyards and equipment, as well as refurbish existing buildings and launch the new tasting room.

Winemaker Tim Benedict said during a recent chat that he was “thrilled” with the progress at the site, and the wonderful 2012 weather has certainly only helped. The old Widmer vines were often gnarled and overgrown, with many canopies completely covering the grapes. The current approach at Red Cat Cellars is more attentive to viticulture. That’s significant, considering tens of thousands of cases of Red Cat are produced annually, to say nothing of White Cat and other bottlings.

Calling it a “happy press house,” Benedict has been eagerly leading the production as they crush elvira, vignoles, traminette, concord, and golden muscat.

Co-owner Leigh Hazlitt Triner and Doug Hazlitt officially cut the ribbon on the new tasting room this afternoon. The facility employs 30 full-time workers and 10 part-time workers. The Hazlitt family believes it will continue to grow with the opening of the new tasting room.