Pillitteri Estate Winery
Niagara on the Lake
Gary founder and president of Pillitteri Estates Winery and Lea Pillitteri
The story of Pillitteri Estates Winery begins generations ago in the heart of old world Sicily. Grape growing was the way of life for the Pillitteri family in Racalmuto. Growing up on a family farm, Gary was soon responsible for helping his father and grandfather with the harvest and the tending of the vines.
In 1948, Gary, at the age of 12, and his father, set off to establish a new life for the family in Canada. They settled in the Niagara region and shortly thereafter were joined by Gary's older brothers Sam and Joe. In 1952, Gary's mother, younger sisters Lena and Jane, and brother Vince joined the family in Canada. The family settled on a farm on Lakeshore Road in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. With a passion for entrepreneurship and independence, Gary took a job as a Tool and Dye marker at General Motors that same year.
In the summer of 1957, Gary was introduced to Lena Agro, a young girl whose family was from the same town in Sicily as the Pillitteri family. On June 18 th of 1960, Gary and Lena were married. Their family soon flourished. They welcomed their first born, Connie, on September 23 rd , 1961. They welcomed their second child, Lucy, on February 23 rd , 1963 and they welcomed their third child, Charles, on August 2 nd , 1964.
On December 15 th , 1965, Gary and Lena Pillitteri settled in Niagara on the Lake to raise their family. They purchased a small fruit farm on Niagara Stone Road. The land was planted to tender fruit (peaches, cherries, pears, plums, prunes, apples and grapes) as well as vegetables. In 1973, they opened Gary's Farm market. Over the years, the fruit market grew as did the interest in wine from Niagara.
On December 15, 1965 Gary and Lena Pillitteri settled in Niagara on the Lake to raise their family. They purchased a small fruit farm on Niagara Stone Road. The land was planted to tender fruit (peaches, cherries, pears, plums, prunes, apples, and grapes) and vegetables and in 1973 they opened Gary’s Fruit Market
(which actually still operates today in the east wing of the winery).
By 1988, Gary had decided to experiment with his wine making skills by making a small batch of Vidal Icewine. The Icewine was later entered into a wine competition where it won a gold medal. This achievement solidified the idea to open a winery in Niagara's newly emerging wine industry.
He was among the first to plant vinifera grapes in this area, and because of these first intrepid steps, the Niagara area is currently the largest wine making region in the country.
Together, Gary, Lena and their three children, invested their lives in creating the foundation of a family business. During the next 5 years the farm and the market underwent several changes to convert the property into a winery. Ready for business, on June 5 th , 1993, the winery opened with the capacity to produce up to 16,000 cases. Through hard work, the wines began to achieve many awards, nationally, and as well, on an international level.
In 1997, it was time to expand. Plans were drawn up to create a separate production building and tour centre. The new production building would host a state of the art facility with a capacity to produce 80,000 cases and the largest working barrel cellar in North America. The tour facility, completed in 2002, would be host to private tasting rooms, a hospitality suite and the continuance of the fruit market. In June, 2013, the family celebrated the winery's 20 th anniversary.
The Pillitteri Logo contains a Sicilian cart, called a Carretto, which is intricately painted with scenes of Pillitteri ancestors. The carretto represents the history of a family whose roots are deep in the cultivation of the land and the making of wine. The original antique, a cherished family heirloom, is proudly displayed in the winery's reception area.
Gary Orazio Vincenzo Pillitteri was a member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2004. He served on the
Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and later on the Finance.
In 1999, Mr. Pillitteri was appointed to the Prime Minister's Task Force on Youth Entrepreneurship. He also served on the Task Force on Bank Mergers and was a member of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. he served as co-chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Working Group.
He has served as co-chair of the Canada/USA Parliamentary Association, Executive Member of the Canada/Italy Parliamentary Group, Vice-Chair of Canada-Argentina Parliamentary Group, member of Canada/Japan, Canada/China, Canada/Europe Associations.
Today Pillitteri Estate Winery is the world's largest estate producer of Icewine. The third-largest exporter of wines from Canada. The winery continued to produce Vidal Icewine and other icewines along with VQA wines.
In 1999 Pillitteri Estates was the first producer to create a successful Merlot Icewine. In 2004, they created the world's first Shiraz Icewine, 2007 the world's first Sangiovese Icewine and in 2008, w world's first sparkling Cabernet Icewine. Today we produce over 13 different styles of Icewine, far more than any other winery in the world.
Aleksandar Kolundzic is the winemaker having joined the winery in 2010.
Previously, he has worked with Vincor Canada as a VQA Winemaker since June 2004 and previous to that with Hillebrand Winery as a Winemaker and Lab and Cellar Technician commencing in 1996. Aleksandar received his Bachelor of Science at the University of Zagreb, Croatia and his Honours Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology at Brock University
They have amazed over 700 international awards and domestic awards including the coveted Civart Trophy from the Challenge International du Vin, in Bordeaux, France, and a rare Double Gold Medal from the American Wine Society in the United States.
Trophee Citadelles (Gold) & Special FIJEV Prize - 2011 Vidal Icewine (Citadelles du Vin 2013, Bordeaux, France)
Gold - 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Icewine (International Wine and Spirits Competition 2012, UK)
Trophee Citadelles (Gold) – 2007 Riesling Icewine (Citadelles du Vin 2009, Bordeaux, France)
Golden Bacchus- 2006 Vidal Icewine (Bacchus Wine Awards 2008, Spain
Gold ‘first overall' in France's Effervescents Du Monde for our 2008 Sparkling Cabernet Icewine.
The family's winemaking philosophy is quite simple: “To produce the finest wines possible from the highest quality Niagara Peninsula grapes.” The strategy, however, is much more complex. Each vineyard and wine is treated individually since each has its own ‘personality' that must be expressed. “Our goal is to produce consistent, quality wine for our consumers: rich, full-bodied reds; fragrant and lively whites; and luscious Icewines, all in a variety of styles to suit every palate