In 1983, Joseph made the first Icewine for Hillebrand and, in the process, became one of the early Canadian Icewine pioneers. By the following year, almost every winery in Niagara was leaving grapes hanging on the vines to create the luscious nectar that would become the darling of the industry.
Dr. Pohorly passed away in 2020 age 88. He was a teacher, professional engineer, grape and tender fruit grower, entrepreneur, hotelier, winemaker and product innovator, during his long and well-recognized career.
In 1996 Dr Pohorly opened the doors of Joseph Estate wine. In 2003, the winery expanded with the addition of a new 10,000 square-foot building to house the winemaking operations. With associate winemaker Katherine Reid, Joseph produces a full portfolio of premium VQA red and white varietal wines, Vidal Icewine, unique fruit wines, specialty wines, sherry and port. Inside the retail area, the wine boutique was expanded to include a larger tasting bar for guests.
Kathy Reid, the winemaker at Joseph’s Estate, met him in the mid-1980s in a wine research lab. She’s been at the winery since its opening day.
“He was very proud of his Gewürztraminer back in the ’80s,” Reid said. “I think some of these pioneers that made these wines out of vinifera (grapes) really got the wine industry to where it is today.”
Although Pohorly is perhaps best known for Joseph’s Estates Wines, which he founded in Virgil in 1996, the industry celebrates him for opening one of Ontario’s first cottage wineries, Newark Wines, in 1979 and later creating Canada’s first commercial ice wine in 1983.*
In 1983, Newark Wines became Hillebrand Wines, with new investors. In 1986, Pohorly sold his Hillebrand interest to design, build and operate the Colonel Butler Inn. After 10 years in the hotel business, he sold the hotel to return to his first love, winemaking, opening Joseph’s Estate Wines in 1996.
If that’s not enough, in 2002, at age 70, Pohorly earned his PhD in environmental engineering from Columbus University for his research and development of processes to extract grape seed oil from the grape seeds and skins that are generated during the winemaking process.
In 2004, Pohorly earned the Christopher Newton Award for Extraordinary Vision in Business, awarded to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Businessperson of the Year.
Dr. Pohorly received the Niagara Agricultural Lifetime Achievement Award for his many achievements in 2018.
Today Frank Pohorly ( Joseph brother), who along with his wife Susan, and their son Stephen, farm a total of 53 acres of tender fruit and grapes in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 20 acres of vines.
Joseph’s Estate Wines Inc Pinto Gris style 2020 Rosato won double gold at the All Canadians 2022.
Joseph’s Estate Wines Inc., 2019 Arancia Skin Fermented Gewurztraminer won double gold too!
* This is debatable with The Canadian Encyclopedia maintains it was British Columbia that was the first region to produce this sweet dessert wine in Canada. In his book, Icewine: The Complete Story, John Schreiner recounts how the late Walter Hainle made his first icewine in Peachland from Okanagan Riesling in 1973 — 40 litres in all. “It became an annual tradition,” wrote Schreiner. “In 1988 when the Hainle Vineyards winery opened … the vintages for sale included
256 bottles of 1978 icewine.”
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