Winemaker Karl Kaiser

Two words come to mind when you mention Karl Kaiser Icewine and Inniskillin. Dr. Kaiser was born in Austria and was a student in a monastery where viticulture and winemaking were time-honoured traditions. After compulsory military service, he taught at a vocational school and spent his spare time helping in the cellars of a small wine producer. He was happy in Austria and was married to an Canadian.

While visiting his in laws in Canada Karl tasted Canadian wine and was not impressed. He knew he could produce better wines.
Russia invaded Czechoslovakia just prior to Karl's return home to Austria; fate would have the Kaiser family returning to Canada settling in St. Catherines. He decided to plant grape vines feeling he could make better wine than the current producers(1). This venture led him to the Ziraldo Nursery where he would eventually meet Donald Ziraldo.

He enrolled in Brock University earned his BSc degree in chemistry and biochemistry 1974. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University in 1994. Upon arriving in Canada Karl Kaiser planted his own grapes and began making wine. He was his attempts to find the right vines that led him to the Ziraldo Nursery and meeting Donald Ziraldo

 

On July 31, 1975, Inniskillin Wines Incorporated and its founders Karl J. Kaiser and Donald J.P. Ziraldo were granted the first winery license in Ontario, Canada since prohibition. Kaiser the quiet master winemaker, toiling behind the scenes and Ziraldo, a one-man worldwide campaign for the excellence of Canadian Wines. They continued their hard work keeping standards high and producing wines that garnered the attention of the international wine world. This attention came through many awards, participation is wine shows such as Vinexpo and Vinitaly as well as the placement of Inniskillin wines on the shelves and wine lists of the finest wine stores and restaurants around the world. Inniskillin Icewine had even found its way to the cellars of the Imperial Palace of Japan.

As Inniskillin grew, Karl travelled extensively throughout the wine regions of both the “new” and “old” worlds, to expand his knowledge of different winemaking technologies, and their varied applications . Although Icewine and Inniskillin are synominis Karl Kaiser had many achievements in producing good red and white wines from Niagara (1)

 

Karl Kaiser launched Canada's first red and white nouveau wines. The one and only release of Gamay Nouveau happened in 1978, from 1983 to 1986, he released tasty whites called Heuriger Nouveau, a blend that included Gruner Veltliner grapes.

 

 

The icewine chapter came in 1983 when Karl Kaiser, Ewald Reif (Reif Vineyards), Hillebrand and Pelee Island all agreed to put aside a small portion of their vineyards aside and attempt to make icewine. With the help of netting Inniskillin was able to produce a 1984 vintage with a label that read Eiswein Vidal (ice wine). The wine won Gold at the 1986 Inter Vin International competition in Toronto. The wines were good but it was up to Ziraldo to sell them. Winning the greatest of all possible international accolades in 1991 — the prestigious Grand Prix d'Honneur — with Inniskillin Wines 1989 Icewine at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France. (2)

Karl's wife Silvia said winning Grand Prix d'Honner was like winning the Olympics and Academy Awards together. Not only was the award significant for Inniskillin Wines of Niagara-on-the-Lake, it proved to be a turning point for the Canadian wine industry. Karl, an early pioneer of Icewine production in Canada, has proved to be one of the industry's formidable talents. Karl's Icewines have won a myriad of international awards and honours, and he repeated the Vinexpo coup once again. He has excelled not just in Icewine production, but also his other passion – Pinot Noir. But it is to Icewine that Karl is inexorably linked. (2)

 

After Vincor was established Dr. Kaiser was appointed National Vice-President, Quality and Science, for Vincor International, Inniskillin's parent company. He is an active member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the Canadian Society of Oenology and Viticulture

Dr. Kaiser received the Ontario Wine Society's first Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1993, he received the Order of Ontario

he was presented with the Golden Jubilee Award, which recognized the 50th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumni Award, presented annually by the Brock University Alumni Association.

He retired in 2006 but remains active at Brock university and is ready to offer advice when asked. He spents time with his grandchildren and makes some homemade wines.

 

 

Wines produced

1974-1998-all Inniskillin table wines

Originally Red Hybrids Marechal Foch, Chelois, de Chaunac till 76 including a blend of all 3 called Vin Nouveau; added Seyval Blanc and Vidal;  experimented with Leon Millot, Chambourcin, blended Millot-Chambourcin; 1977 first viniferas-Riesling, Chard, Gamay Noir.  Made some Gamay Blanc and by the late 80s started with Pinot Noir; Methode Champenoise  Blanc de Blanc;   Experimented with Gruenerveltliner, Kerner, Welschriesling, Zweigletrebe. Moved on to more classic  Red viniferas Cabernet Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, and a little Shiraz. Also started to make Pinot Grigio (Gris) and a Riesling Sparkling called L'Allemand.

 

1984-2005-all Inniskillin Icewines

Evolved from Vidal, to Vidal Oak Aged, to Riesling-Cabernet Franc to Sparkling Vidal.

In 2005 he produced a 750 ml of oak aged Cabernet Franc-The Karl Kaiser Legacy Edition ($450.)  DEBI

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Icewine
Donald Ziraldo

Resources

~ Deborah Pratt, Winery Public Relations, Great Estates of Niagara Inniskillin - Jackson-Triggs - Le Clos Jordanne
~ Donald Ziraldo
~ Brock University
~ The Wines of Canada- John Schriener -Mitchell Beazley, Classic Wine Library
~ (2) Kathryn Korchok for the Grape Growers Marketing Board

 

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