The Names Behind Winemaking in Canada

Johann Schiller is considered to be the father of commercial wine making in Canada. He was a retired soldier who domesticated the wild vines that grew along the Credit River in Cooksville, Ontario. By 1811 he had added American Hybrids from Pennsylvania making enough wine to sell.

Marguerite Bourgeoys, C.N.D., was the founder of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in the colony of New France, now part of Québec. She lived in Fort Ville-Marie (now Montreal) as of 1653, educating young girls, the poor, and natives until her death at the turn of the 18th century. She is also significant for developing one of the first uncloistered religious communities in the Catholic Church She has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church. She is known to have made Cider and may have been the first to do so in Quebec and Canada.

Francois Dollier de Casson ( the leader ) and Rene Brehant De Galinee two Sulpician priestsin the company of 7 soldiers paddled their 3 birch bark canoes from Montreal departing in July of that year with the intention of reaching the Ohio. In 1669, Dollier and Galinee travelled along the Lake Erie shoreline and arrived in Port Dover where they established their ... winter camp and discovered the local grapes. They made wine that was described "as good as vin de Grave".

Datus Kelly in 1842 brought Isabella and Catawa vines from Ohio to Kellys Island 12 miles south of Pelee Island. In 1833 Datus and Irad Kelley began buying parcels of land on Cunningham Island in Lake Erie, which was renamed Kelley's Island. In 1836 Kelley moved to the island and spent the rest of his life developing the island.

Charles Carpenter In 1850 made wine from these grapes. 8 years later a number of vineyards had been planted on South Bass Island.

Henry Price may have been the first to plant vines Pelee Island 1854

Achilles Roumegous established around 1855 in Cookville Ontario. In 1857 they took over Clair House

Henry Parker planted vines at the Clair House Lot 17 near Cooksville in 1858. He joined forces with Justin De Courtenay to produce commercial wine. The Canadian Vine Growers Association was formed to sell the wines. 1860 By 1864 De Couteny was in charge producing wines from the Clair House. At the height of production in the mid-1860s, Clair House produced as much as 50,000 gallons of wine and a considerable amount of brandy. In 1926 Fred C Marsh took over The Canadian Vine F Growers assets. Cooksville was one of the founding villages that amalgamated to form the City of Mississauga.

Count Justin Courtenay purchased Johann Schiller's farm and by 1864 had doubled the size of the vineyard by planting Clinton and Isabella grapes. His wines had the brand name Clair House.

Justin De Courtenay One source states that De Courtenay bought the Schiller property and other source say the Cooville vineyard property and Clair House was sold in 1865 to Charles Day. Day, together with Sir Melville Parker and Count Justin M. de Courtenay (who was brought in to manage the vineyard), founded the Canada Vine Growers Association in 1866 – the first commercial winery association in Canada. De Courtnenay was an englishman with expeience in european vineyards. He brought in Gamay, Clinton and Isabelle grapes.

Under de Courtenay’s management, the winery and vineyards prospered. The estate house, which had been built by Henry Parker, was re-christened as “Chateau Clair”, and the wine was sold under the label of “Chateau Clair Wines”. The vineyard grew to encompass more than 88 acres of land, and Chateau Clair Wines won first prize in the 1867 Paris Exposition and the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial. Vines from Chateau Clair are also historically attributed to saving the wine industry in France. In the 1860s, French grapes were attacked by blight, to which controls proved ineffective. Count de Courtenay is accredited with sending grape vines from Chateau Clair, which proved to be resistant to the disease, to France to revitalize French vineyards. Many of the world-famous French vineyards today owe their establishment to vines grown in Cooksville by Johann Schiller.

Solomon White bought the property in 1869, and under his direction the vineyard thrived. Nicknamed “Squire”, Solomon White focused winery production on red and white wines and brandy. The property sold a number of times and it failed as a commercial winery. 1932 the 86-year-old estate, Chateau Clair, was razed by fire. Later that year, Clarkson sold the property to Ernest Webb, who demolished the remains of Chateau Clair and the vineyard in 1935 to make way for new construction.

Issac de Razilly head of the French colonists at Fort Ste. Marie-de-Grace (near present day LaHave in Nova Scotia) he wrote in 1634 I have planted some vines as they do in Bordeau which have come along very well. De Razilly became known as the Father of Acadia. Wild vines grow in Nova Scotia, it is unknown if he referred to native vines or vines brought from France.

William Cunard a grape grower in the mid 1800's in Nova Scotia

Aaron Hovey Jr evidence suggest that Hovey a resident of Upper Miramichi Rural Community, New Brunswick
produced commercial wines sometime between 1809 and 1841. His homestead is a Local Historic Place

Abraham Hebb a grape grower in LaHave River Valley, Nova Scotia around 1850. He grew a variety called Diana

Charles H Heaton came to Pelee Island in 1870. Among other occupations he grew grapes at Lot 34 Soth Bay Road. In 1898 he won first prize fro his dry red at the Pelee Agricultural Society fair. Although no physical evidence remains of the winery that Mr. Charles Heaton once owned, it is believed to have been located north of Mill Point on the east shore. In 1870 Heaton moved to Pelee Island from South Bass Island with his wife and four children. In the early years he practiced as a carpenter while clearing his land of woods and planting grapes. In 1898 Heaton won first prize for his dry red wine at the sixth annual Pelee Agricultural Society fair. Prior to 1905 Heaton had made wine which was marketed to Canada and the United States. Like other grape growers, Mr. Heaton pursued many types of enterprises. Fishing, cutting wood, trapping and cultivating potatoes, corn, beans and turnips as well as grapes offered Charles Heaton a means to make a living. But by 1886 Heaton sold ten acres of land to James Findlay and little else is known about Mr. Heaton's contribution to the economy of the island including the wine industry.

Porter Admans a winery brand started in the 1860's located in Niagara. They mostly sold the juice to home wine makers

Archilles Roumegeous in 1857 opened a winery in Cooksville, Ontario he sold it to the Marsh family in 1890, who moved the winery closer to Niagara Falls naming it Stamford Park Wine Company which was later acquired by Canadian Wines Limited who in 1940 became Château-Gai

Father Pandosy  is referred to as the Father of the British Columbia wine industry, he planted vines at the Oblate Mission near Kelowna in 1859

Father Pandosy Mission
Father Pandosy Mission

John Killborn winemaker producing wines in Beamsville in the1860's

W W Kitchen lived in Grimsby Station, in the 1860 he was growing grapes. He stated in the New York Moore's Rural New Yorker ( an agricultural and family) newspaper that he grows over 1000 vines of different varities. He liked Delaware best. He sold the wine by the gallon. He also suggest he made wine from frozen grapes.

Pierre Dominic Laurent, a French priest from Nantes, Amherstburg Echo newspaper planted the first vineyard on the Essex County mainland in 1867 in Amherstburg, to prepare his own sacramental wines, and his successful trial encouraged others to do the same.

Henry Rehberg' came to Pelee Island in the early 1880's. His farm was described as " two years, has changed from an eyesore to a beauty spot, which has been further enhanced by his neatly painted buildings. He has three acres of grapes and [intends to plant] ten acres in the spring." But by the year 1888 Henry has second thoughts about remaining on Pelee. That year his farm was put up for sale comprising of sixty acres, twelve of vineyards and twenty seven of other cultivated land. The asking price was eleven thousand.

George Barnes built a winery in St. Catharines in 1873. He called the "Ontario Grape Growing and Wine Manufacturing company. later renamed Barnes Winery.  He sold it in 1932 to Grimsby Wines Ltd. the brand name lasted until the late 1980's

David Jackson Lowery [Lowrey] was born at Ancaster on June 10, 1824 to Matthew Lowrey and Hannah Kelly. He married Elizabeth Catherine Teeter and had 9 children. He passed away on 27 June 1901 in St. Davids, Ontario, Canada. His wife Elizabeth Catharine was born at Virgil Jan 20, 1826 and died Jan. 11, 1911. David Jackson Lowrey, bought the Upper Farm and moved his family from Vanessa, Ontario to St. Davids in 1869 where he planted one of the earliest commercial grape vines. Te next generations would continue growing all kinds of tree fruits and grapes. He also donated land to a new one-room stone school which was built in the village of St. Davids in 1871. Ravine winery sist on the property today.

F.A..  Shirriff co-founder of  Niagara Wine Company  in 1874 which later became T.J. Bright Winery

Thomas Bright co-founder of Niagara Wine Company

Thaddeus Smith and Thomas S Williamswho were from Kentucky and J.D Williams from Windsor started growing grapes on Lake Erie's Pelee Island in the 1850's. They opened Vina Villa Winery in 1871 and hired J.S Hamilton, a grocer, as their agent.

J. S Hamilton a grocer who entered the wine industry as an agent in 1871 soon opened his own winery, Pelee Island Wine and Vineyard Co.The Pelee Island Wine and Vineyards Company amalgamated with J. S. Hamilton and Company in 1919 to become J. S. Hamilton and Company Limited with Mr. Hamilton as president and managing director. J. S. Hamilton died in March 1931 but the business continued under his name until 1945 when London Winery Ltd. acquired the company.

Edward and John Wardroper planted a second vineyard on Pelee Island, and launched their own operations under the name, Pelee Island Wine and Vineyard Company.6 According to the n

Pierre Antoine Robinet and his partner Ernest Girardot 1879 established a winery in the town of Sandwich (Essex county) Ontario. The business was successful. Between 1879 and 1935 three generations of the Robinets were engaged in the wine business. In 1881 Pierre's son Jules Robinet bought the business.

Jules Robinet

Jules Robinet Jules emigrated to Canada from Rougemont, France in 1875. His family had been in the business of winemaking in the Nans area of France for approximately 500 years. His father Pierre Robinet had actually established a wine business with his partner Ernest Girardo in 1879 in the town of Sandwich, Ontario. Jules bought out his father and M. Girardot in 1883, becoming the sole owner. In that year he produced 25,000 gallons of wine. He also bought most of the grapes in Essex County and shipped them to wholesale merchants in Montreal, PQ and Winnipeg, MB. On April 5, 1893 the Essex County Grape Growers Association was established to represent the interests of those growers in government circles. Jules was elected to the committee to draw up their constitution and by-laws, and was part of the contingent to Ottawa to meet with Agricultural Minister Foster and other MPs to enlist support for the objectives of the association. On May 10, 1895 he expanded and established "Jules Robinet & Company" with financial assistance of John Curry and Alex Cameron.

On January 28, 1897 he established "La Cie Robinet et Freres de Sandwich".  His company was incorporated with capital in excess of $50,000, a slate of officers, a board of directors, and statutes.  Jules was elected President and Manager, his brother Victor Vice-President. The company offices were located in his own building in the St. Antoine block (corner of Mill and Sandwich Sts.) in Sandwich.

Jules Robinet in his vineyards
Jules Robinet in his vineyards

This company continues until April 28, 1914 when he buys out his brothers' shares and once again takes complete control. 

In 1915 Jules' sons, Clovis and Joseph, enter into partnership with their father, and in 1920 his sons Frank, Paul and Emile also join the company. The company is then called "Robinet and Sons".

In 1920 Jules brought over two experts from France to develop the process of making Champagne with local white grapes. With prohibition in force selling this wine was difficult.

In July of 1928 Jules establishes a new winery in his sons' (Clovis and Frank) names.  This company located in Oldcastle, Ontario is called "Robinet Freres"  and it is this company that T.G. Bright & Company buys from Jules in 1935.  That same year he sold the original winery to Fred Marsh.  At one time five of his son Joseph, Francis Paul, Emile and Clovis were involved in the companies of Jules.

Finlay Winery (John Finlay) constructed a cellar in 1888. A house was constructed over the cellar. The cellar would hold at least 10,000 gallons. Fire damaged the cellar in 1893, it was rebuilt in 1894 and final improvements were made in 1895. 

James Srigley a grape grower on Pelee Island in the 1880s

John and Edward Wardroper were planting grapes by 1880 on Pelee Island

Fred C Marsh Established the Stamford Park Winery 1890 In 1929 formed Fred Marsh Winery Limited at Niagara Falls

W.J. Wilcox believed to be the first commercial grape grower in British Columbia starting a vineyard near Salmon Arm around 1891

1911 The Kentville Experimental Agricultural Research facility opens in Nova Scotia

1918 Pietro Beiluz founded Twin City Wine Co in Fort Williams sold to Brights in 1956

Pasquale (Cap) Capozzi
Capozzi grocery store 1918- from

1918 photo showing the interior of the Capozzi's grocery on Bernard Avenue. Pictured is Pasquale (Cap) Capozzi in his store The City Grocery (later called Capozzi's Cash Grocery). Photo from the website. Here is some more background info from the Kelowna Italian Club website: "Pasquale (Cap) Capozzi arrived in Nelson in 1907. After three years working numerous jobs he made his way to Kelowna and opened Capozzi’s Cash Groceries on Bernard Avenue. After his store was well established he became involved as an agent for many of the farmers in the area. This led him to join his neighbouring store owner, W A C Bennett, in forming a winery, using apples grown in the area. The switch to grapes proved more successful with the resulting Calona wines established in 1931. One of Cap’s landmark development projects was the Capri Hotel and Shopping Centre. In 1921 he married Maria Mussatto and they raised three sons Joe, Herb and Tom.

Early grape growers in BC Okanagan

Early grape growers in BC Okanagan Left to Right: Gisachano (Joe) Lanfranco, Silvio Vaccaro, Camillo Rampone, Vincenzo Rizzo, Angelo Pioli..taken in the 20’s..they were admiring the grapes that had been planted

Packing Grape Baskets - circa 1930.
View of J.W. Hughes standing handing a basket of fresh market grapes to Walter Born, who is standing on top of an International truck with a 1929 license plate at Pioneer Vineyard.
From a series of vintage photos displayed on a wall at Orchard Park Mall - Kelowna

J.W Hughes
J. W Hughes harvesting grapes

J.W Hughes

J.W Hughes grew the first large scale commercial grapes in the Okanagan in the late1920's selling to wineries. He obtained his first vines from Wilcox. He started growing grapes in 1926, expanding from 45 acres near Okanagan Mission to 75 acres by 1933, and eventually had over 300 acres of grapes in production. He was one of the earlier growers in the Kelowna to produce grapes, which has become a leading agricultural industry. Hughes also grew cucumbers, asparagus, raspberries, and flowers, sold vegetable seeds and experimented with game and poultry farming in the 1940s. Hughes sold most of his vineyards to men who had worked for him, and shifted to growing and sending gifts of flowers to hospitals and shut-ins in BC and Alberta through the Rotary Club. Over the years, until his death in 1975, he sent about two million peonies, tulips, and gladioli.

W. Hughes House 806 Bernard Avenue, Kelowna A Heritage Designation Bylaw protected this house in 1995, giving it value as an early participant in the City's heritage conservation program

Hughes built this substantial house himself in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression, when building a house was a bold gesture. The design of the house has value for being characteristic of architecture between the world wars. It is one-and-one-half-storeys high, with a large forward-facing dormer and projecting porch. Jesse and Ruth Hughes lived here until the mid-1950s, when they retired to their remaining property in Okanagan Mission.

Kentville Research Station Opened in Nova Scotia,1911 by Federal Government under the name Dominion Experimental Farm. Kentville Research facility first studied grapes in 1913. They evaluated grapes testing 175 wines and grapes from 1931- 1983. Today under the name Atlantic Food and Horticultural Research Centre they continue to work with Nova Scotia wineries

Hugh Fraser was born in Montreal in 1885. He took part in WWI stationed in France until he was captured by German troops in 1916. When Armistice was signed in 1918 Major Fraser was released from his prisoner-of-war camp. He returned to Canada and accepted an invitation from a friend, Naramata playwright C. C. Atkins, to visit the Okanagan. He loved the wild, scenic valley — it was a perfect fit for his outgoing personality — and he soon purchased the Hawthorne Ranch. Here he raised dogs and planted vines. The ranch was his home for more than 45 years, each year adding to a rich mix of truth and fiction involving elaborate gatherings, plenty of dogs and a wife from London, who upon seeing the rustic surroundings left both the Valley and a three-word note: “See ya later.”

Dr Donald L Craig did much of the research at the Kentville Station.

Herbert Anscomb headed the Growers Wine Company from 1922-1955. juggled business with a long political career: he was Reeve of Oak Bay, then mayor of Victoria and sat from 1936 to 1952 as a Conservative in the British Columbia Legislature. As the province's Minister of Finance from 1945 until 1952, he introduced the province's first sales tax, three per cent, in 1948. As a cabinet minister, Anscomb ensured that his winery's products enjoyed secure listings in government liquor stores. Anscomb's political links with the government in Ottawa also enabled Growers' to get a distillery license in 1936, then the only Canadian winery with that privilege.

Knowles Family founded London Winery 1924

Born in 1877, Rabbi Jacob Gordon was Dean of the Toronto Rabbinate for 30 years

Rabbi Jacob Gordon (1923) received a licence to manufacture Passover Wine in his home cellar.

His license was purchased in 1928 by the Oporto Wine Co. Which after a serious changes led to the Parksdale Wine Ltd in1936

Harry Hatch CEO T.G. Bright and Company

 Harry Hatch  purchased Canada's largest winery T.J.Bright in 1933. In 1923 he had purchased Gooderham and Worts Distillery and in 1926 had enough funds to buy Hiram Walkers  becoming  one of the most successful and wealthiest men in Canada. The Toronto Star dubbed him King of Canadian Distillation Under his leadership at T.J.Bright Vinifera hybrides were imported from France. In fact over six hundred varieties were tested.

Dr John Ravenscroft Eoff III was Harry Hatches' winemaker who introduced microbiological control to the Canadian wine industry.

Dr Donald L. Craig tested over 175 grapes at the Kentville Research Station, Nova Scotia from 1932 t0 his retirement in 1983. Researcher Helen Fisher supplied cuttings of Ollie Brant selection V.53261 to be evaluated by Dr. Don Craig at the Kentville Research Station. This selection was orphaned in Ontario, and after successful evaluation in Nova Scotia became the award winning wine variety named L'Acadie ~ the wine L'Acadie Blanc

Nicola Pataracchia self taught winemaker founded Thorold winery 1922. He sold Thorold in 1927 merging five wineries which would later become Chateau-Gai in 1940. Won a gold medal for his sherry at the Bologna World Exhibition 1933 working at St Catherines Wine Co.

Schmidt, Frank (1913-1979):An early Okanagan grape grower. Born in 1913 in Unity, Saskatchewan , he emulated many other farm lads during the Depression by hopping a freight train, arriving in Kelowna in September 1937 for the vintage. Schmidt did such a good job picking grapes for pioneer grower Peter Casorso that in 1938 Schmidt was given a contract to manage a vineyard, along with a house to live in. Four years later grower J.W. Hughes lured him with an even better package: a house, a car and $100 a month. Subsequently Hughes let Schmidt (and the other vineyard foremen) earn ownership of the vineyards they managed. In 1958 Schmidt became the owner of Lakeside Vineyards, later renamed the Beau Séjour Vineyard, at Okanagan Mission, south of Kelowna on the east side of Okanagan Lake. He retired after the vineyard was sold to Growers' Wines Ltd. of Victoria in 1965. He died in Kelowna .

Schmidt had a warm and favoured relationship with Growers' and its general manager, Brian Roberts . When the Victoria winery, which had been shipping fresh grapes from the Okanagan since 1932, decided to crush them in the Okanagan and ship the must instead, the crushing equipment was installed on the Schmidt vineyard and Schmidt was paid for operating it. "We could have located the crushing depot on neutral soil, but deliberately located it on your farm so that you could get major benefits," Roberts wrote. In January 1960, when Ernest C. Warner bought Growers', Roberts again wrote, offering a benefit: a small number of class B voting shares -- never before available -- were being offered to friends of Warner and of the winery. "My thought is that the Company's good friends in the Okanagan -- the gentlemen who have been growing the grapes for us all these years -- might just want to have a few shares in the Company to give them not only a splendid investment, but also a greater interest in the Company which turns their grapes into wines which are sold as far as Ontario and the Yukon. ... I will lay my head on the block that the share right now is worth every cent of $10.00, so that it is not really a speculative share." Both Schmidt and his son, Lloyd, became shareholders.

Lloyd Schmidt

Lloyd Schmidt, son of Frank Schmidt was born in Kelowna He worked with his father in their vineyards. As Frank became ill Lloyd gathered more and more responsibility. After graduating from Pittman Business College., he worked as assistant to John Vielvoye BC grape specialist. He also worked as Viticulturist for six years at Cascebello wines. In 1981 Lloyd and his wife Noreen co-found Sumac Ridge. In 1987 they sold their Okanagan interested and moved to Ontario, Niagara region, where they established International Viticulture Service. They retired in 2012

Adhemar de Chaunac a microbiologist hired by Dr. Eoff. In 1938 he was the first to introduce Vinifera hybrides into Canada. He imported Maréchal Foch, Baco Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling Pinot Noir and Gamay from France (approx 1946). These wines first appeared

Gottfried Hernder emigrated from Germany to western Canada. In 1939, the family moved to the "Grapeview" area of St. Catharines, Ontario, to a mixed fruit farm that included acreage of indigenous grapes. "Fred" Hernder's boyhood chores would become the foundation for future skills. After the passing of his father, Fred purchased the family farm in 1968, and began the acquisition of others. His success was heralded when he was crowned as the youngest Niagara "GRAPE KING" in 1977. Forever the entrepreneur, Fred began selling not only grapes & juice, but also winemaking supplies to the growing home market as well as wineries.

Fred Hernder in 1988 made 2 important decisions: to replant his acreage with classic Vitis Vinifera & French Hybrid varieties and also to purchase the Victorian cattle barn (circa 1867)on 8th Avenue ~ this, to launch his newest endeavour, that of his own winery. The first vintage in 1991 consisted of 7,000 bottles of Vidal. Two years later, on September 17, 1993, Hernder Estate Wines officially opened to the public.

Dr Eugene Rittich  winemaker for Growers Wine Company  along with his brother Virgil published a book (1941) on Okanagan viticulture called European  Grape Growing in Cooler Districts where Winter Protection is Necessary .

V J Rittich Brother of Eugene Rittich and a Kelowna grape grower, he was ahead of his time as an Okanagan viticulturist. In a speech believed to have been made in 1940, Rittich said: ''After ten years of experimenting with my brother, I have found that the Okanagan valley is not only perfectly suitable for European grape growing, but its climate is in many respects superior to most vine-growing countries in Middle Europe. It seems to me that the early growers neglected chiefly two things: (1) They did not secure varieties which were suitable to our northern climate and, (2) they did not develop a training method which makes it possible to produce high quality grapes. With my brother I imported about fifty different varieties and planted them on our trial plot.'' The white wines grapes he recommended were these: müller-thurgau, muscat ottonel, muscat ferdinand de lesseps, chardonnay, sylvaner and excellent. The latter he described as an old Hungarian variety. The only red he recommended was blau burgunder, an Austrian variety better known today as lemberger; it has been successful in Washington state vineyards. Rittich also recommended as table grapes these varieties: perle of csaba, chasselas, muscat hamburg and sunshine (another Hungarian variety now gone from the Okanagan). In this speech, Rittich disclosed that he and his brother, using a plough, had hilled a winter cover onto the base of their vines each fall as a frost protection. ''l would advise not to neglect covering in this country,'' Rittich said. ''Nothing may happen for five or more years, but a cold winter can ruin not only next year's crop, but can throw us back three or four years.''

George Hostetter followed de Chaunac as director of research for Bright Wines in the early 1860's. He was in charge of research when de Chaunac planted 4 Viaifera in a esearch project . Hosteller contined this research . For his work he was rewarded with the Order of Canada. He found the Niagara Grape Festival in 1952.

Major Hugh Neil Fraser After WWI the Major wanted to retire in the Okanagan; he bought a remote property on Hawthorne Mountain near Okanagan Falls. His wife finding it too remote left leaving a note S.Y.L. for See Ya Later. Major Fraser planted grapes on the property but sold before the grapes matured. The property became LeComte Winery, then Hawthorne and today See Ya Later Ranch. One of his greatest contributions to Okanagan Falls was the donation of property for Christie Memorial Park.

Bill Fraser ( adopted by Major Fraser birth name Bill Worth ) cleaned up the 480 acre property and after a few years of pondering cash crops, decided that the future was in grapes. In 1961 he planted the first Foch, Chelois and other hybrids and successfully sold the crop to Andres Wines in Kelowna. Bill sold the ranch to a European syndicate soon after Major Fraser died in 1971. 

Giovanni Casorso This pioneer Okanagan agricultural family -- the name in Italy was spelled Casorzo -- was established in the valley by Giovanni (John) Casorso (1848-1932), who was born near Turin, Italy, and who arrived in the Okanagan (after a short stop in San Francisco) in 1883 to work as an agriculturist for the missionaries. He homesteaded land south of Mission Creek in 1884 to which he brought his young family from Italy . By the 1930s the Casorso family were raising livestock and selling it through a chain of retail stores in the British Columbia Interior. John Casorso also was one of the large tobacco growers when that crop flourished in the Okanagan in the 1920s; and was so successful with onions that he was crowned Onion King one year. Son Charles is credited in the family history with planting a vineyard on a thirty-five acre property at Rutland in 1925. Two other sons, Napoleon Peter and Louis, planted grapes on the family's home property, Pioneer Ranch, subsequently managed by son-in-law Bert Sperling. Grandson August continues to grow grapes near Kelowna . Great-granddaughter Ann Sperling -- her mother Velma was Peter's daughter -- became a winemaker.

Second Casorso House

Charles Casorso planted the first vineyard in the Kelowna area in 1925. The Casorsos have been pioneers in a wide range of agricultural production: cattle, hogs, vegetables, tobacco, fruit, and grapes. In his old age, Giovanni Casorso was involved in the establishment of Kelowna's first winery, which became Calona Wines. One of the first-ever mobile sprinkler systems, invented about 1912 by Clem , was set up on this property. The road on which this building stands was named after Giovanni Casorso.

Giuseppe Ghezziarrived in the Okanagan in 1931 intent on making wines from Cull Apples, The winery was originally called Domestic Wines and By Products. Being short of cash Ghezzi received support from Pasquale (Cap) Capozzi and W.A.C. Bennett. In 1936 the winery now called Calona began making grape wines.
Please see Thirties and Forties.

The Ontario Grape Growers’ Marketing Board was organized in 1947. It was established to serve the needs and represent the interests of grape growers in their dealings with processors. For the first time, growers were ensured of a unified, minimum price for grapes. Growers also gained a voice in the grape and wine processing industry. In 1947, there were 15,000 acres of vineyards in Ontario and growers harvested 36,000 tons of grapes. The value of processing sales to wineries was $2.5 million.

In 1944 Martin Dulik bought the Pioneer Vineyard just southeast of Kelowna from his employer Dulik acquired the vineyard over seven years by paying the income tax on the crop and giving Hughes the proceeds from half the crop. Grapes were sold both to the fresh market and to Growers' Wines in Victoria, with the wine grape market becoming the major market with the expansion of wineries in the 1960s. Dulik also was one of the leaders in the 1961 formation of the Grape Growers' Association.

Daniel (Den) Dulik took over the operation of Pioneer from his father Martin. The amiable, barrel-shaped Dulik is one of the few growers who made the jump from labrusca grapes to vinifera without a significant stop with the hybrids. However, in 1978 Dulik -- and his even more sceptical father -- were persuaded by Jordan & Ste-Michelle winemaker Josef Zimmerman to plant white Riesling. Zimmerman argued that, if the variety was hardy enough for German vineyards, it would also thrive in Kelowna. The clay-loam vineyard, because of its southwesterly slope, is one of the warmer sites among the vineyards east of Kelowna. The Duliks planted five acres and, over the next decades, learned that Zimmerman was right. At the first industry-wide competition in 1982 (at Septober), the winery won a gold medal for a 1981 Riesling special reserve made from Dulik grapes. Pioneer Vineyard, now with twenty-nine acres under vine, also includes Bacchus and optima (also Zimmerman recommendations), pinot noir, pinot blanc, chardonnay and pinot meunier. The vineyard was sold in 2004 and is now called Tantalus  Vineyards

1947 grape growers: pioneers of that era were Henry Wegman, Rodger Whitty, Ronald Moyer, Roy Johnson, Roy Masterson and Bruce Lambert. That year, there were 15,000 acres of vineyards with only 36,000 tonnes of grapes harvested.

Ollie Bradt (Oliver A Bradt) was the grape and peach breeders at the Horticultural Research institute of Ontario for about 45 years – post war to 1978. He introduced French hybrids in to the breeding program in 1947 and used them as the basis for non-labrusca hybrids for the wine industry. He developed Veeport (blue, labrusca for the port industry), Vinered (dark red, labrusca for the table grape industry), Vincent (blue, non-labrusca for the wine industry, almost teinturier), Ventura (white, neutral for the bulk wine industry), Veeblanc ( white, neutral for the bulk wine industry), Festivee (blue, table grape industry), Vanessa ( red, table grape industry, Ollie made the cross but Helen Fisher named it), Vivant ( white, neutral, wine industry, ditto – Ollie made the cross named by Helen Fisher).

The L'Acadie blanc is a white Canadian wine grape variety that is a hybrid crossing of Cascade and Seyve-Villard 14-287grape was created in 1953 by grape breeder Ollie A. Bradt in Niagara, Ontario at the Vineland Horticultural Research Station which is now the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Today the grape is widely planted in Nova Scotia with some plantings in Quebec and Ontario.

In addition to the breeding work, Ollie developed the thinning strategies and good viticultural methods for the French hybrids when they were introduced to the wine industry. People used to growing labruscas didn’t realize how over productive the French hybrids were when you prune them as though they were Concords. Ollie developed the thinning strategies to ensure ripe fruit and healthy vines for overwintering. He retired in 1978 before vinifera became the main varieties being grown in Niagara. Ollie co-operated with the New York programme, but distinguished our programme from theirs with his extensive use of the French hybrids, taking productivity and non-labrusca traits as the more critical for selection. Large wine industry tastings were done annually in the spring and their opinions were taken seriously and translated in to his selection criteria. The industry was comprised on only 6 large players (Brights, Jordans, Barnes, London, Chateau Gai, Parkdale and Turner) at that time, and so moving new varieties out to the growers was quite simple, having only 6 field men to deal with. A far different industry today.

He also assist the Nova Scotia grape growers in the 1960's. L"acadia grape was created in Canada in 1953 by O. Bradt. It is THE grape in Nova Scotia. Ollie was also a premier peach and apricot breeder and introduced many of the substantial eastern varieties

William Lailey(a pioneer of Canadian viticulture) planted and propagated some of Niagara's first French hybrid varieties 1950.

Tom Davis-1956-Grape King.jpg

Tom Davis Sr.was named the first Grape King in Ontario

Steve Lemick
1962 with Grape King Steve Lemick.

Steve Lemick 1962 was chosen as Grape King for innovation in the vineyard, and numbering his rows with expired licence plates to keep track of what was down each row.

Opa Epp The history of Cattail Creek Estate Winery goes back to 1956 when Opa Epp had finally saved up enough money working odd jobs to purchase a farm in Niagara on the Lake. A true farmer at heart, he saw the potential for grape vines in the Niagara Region and planted his small, ten acre farm with grapes. Every day he worked his farm selling the grapes to the local grocery store. Gradually, he started planting more wine grapes and sold them to the local winery

 Guiseppe Di Profio
Guiseppe Di Profio

Guiseppe Di Profioone of Canada's first winemaker was Guiseppe Di Profio (1895-1957). Since Niagara grapes hadn’t developed their reputation yet, he imported his red and white grapes from California. Throughout the late Nineteen Forties and Fifties, Peppe experimented with different varieties and barrels, trying to reach the quality he had known in Italy.

Bill Lenko the first grape grower to plant Chardonnay in Canada,(1959) in Beamsville, Ontario. In 1959, and in the 1960s he boldly yanked all of his concord and Niagara grapes from his Beamsville vineyard to make way for Pinot Chardonnay and other varieties that would eventually be the makings of the award-winning vintages of Daniel Lenko Estate Winery. Named Grape King in 1990 and then as the first grape grower to win the Tony Aspler Cuvee Award of Excellence in 2006, an honour usually bestowed upon winemakers.

Gordon Schwenker a progressive grape grower in Ontario The 1960 Grape King

John Harper settled inland, in southwestern BC’s Fraser Valley; there, he imported experimental grapevines from England in the 1960s (at the time, England enjoyed a mushrooming home winemaking crowd). The grapes were mainly a combination of French-American and German hybrids with names like Müller-Thurgau, Ortega, Maréchal Foch, Bacchus, Siegerrebe and Léon Millot—grapes reputed to endure marginal climates.
Harper’s work proved successful, and by the 1980s he had relocated to the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where he continued his work.

Andrew Peller established Andrés Wines (1961) in Port Moody, British Columbia. Today it is known as Andrew Peller Limited one of the most successful wine companies in Canada.

Gordon B Kingsman PAg appointed Director of horticulture and Biology Services in 1962. He decided that Grapes for wine needed to be studied in Nova Scotia.

Robert A Murray PAG. appointed Provincial (NS) Berry Crop Specialist. He worked with Dr. Craig at the research station obtaining vines from the Ontario Vineland Station. They planted test plots at various locations.

Guy Baldwin winemaker at Andrés wines in Port Moody. He helped create in 1966 Chanté a predecessor of Baby Duck

Normandie Wines Ltd. (60s) Moncton, New Brunswick claimed to make the first Blueberry Table wine.

Fred Hernder 1977 Grape King
Fred Hernder 1977 Grape King

Fred Hernder purchased the family farm in 1968, and began the acquisition of others. His success was heralded when he was crowned as the youngest Niagara “GRAPE KING” in 1977. Forever the entrepreneur, Fred began selling not only grapes & juice, but also winemaking supplies to the growing home market as well as wineries.

In 1988 Fred made 2 important decisions: to replant his acreage with classic Vitis Vinifera & French Hybrid varieties and purchase the Victorian cattle barn (circa 1867) on 8th Avenue Louth ~ this, to launch his newest endeavour, that of his own winery.

Hernder Estate Wines has expanded it’s operation five fold to presently producing more than 25 varieties of VQA wines from it’s 500 acres of land spread between St. Catharines and Beamsville. Since their very first international recognition in 1995, Hernder Estate Wines have gone on to achieve many more domestic and international awards adding special recognition to the Hernder legacy.

His success was heralded when he was crowned as the youngest Niagara “GRAPE KING” in 1977. Forever the entrepreneur, Fred began selling not only grapes & juice, but also winemaking supplies to the growing home market as well as wineries.

In 1988 Fred made 2 important decisions: to replant his acreage with classic Vitis Vinifera & French Hybrid varieties and purchase the Victorian cattle barn (circa 1867) on 8th Avenue Louth ~ this, to launch his newest endeavour, that of his own winery.

Edward Arnold hired by Andrew Peller at his Port Moody winery, by 1970 he was chief winemaker for Andrés in Ontario. He later left to become president of T. J. Bright in 1978.

Paul Bosc

Paul Bosca winemaker at Château-Gai began experimenting with Viniferas in 1962. He was the man in the TV ads for Chateau Gai promoting Marcécal Foch. He would later leave to form his own winery based on Vinifera called Château des Charmes. He was given the Order of Canada in 2005 for his work in developing Canadian wines. He has also been the recipient of many honours including a doctorate from Brock University, The Order of Ontario, The Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, the inaugural Canadian Vintners Association Award of Distinction and The Order of Canada; all for his significant contributions to the modern Canadian wine industry. In 2011 Paul was awarded the LCBO Special Recognition Award.

Paul Bosc was born in Algeria under French rule. When Algeria was granted independence from France the new regime took everything. Paul and his wife Andree owned their home, their winery, their land, they came to Canada. Paul working for the liquor board in Quebec noticed a yeast problem with Château-Gia wine. He contacted the company spoke to the Vice-President who granted him an interview with Alexander Sampson who hired him. Paul helped develop Alpenweiss, a very successful product.

After Labatt's gained control of Château-Gai Paul decided it was time to start his own winery. He wanted control over growing the grapes and making the wine. He purchased an established vineyard (1976) but after one year he pulled everything out and started completely from scratch. The winery was named Château des Charmes here he continued to experiment and raise the bar in wine making.

Harold Bates joined T.J. Bright in 1967 helping to develop Bright's President Canadian Champagne. In 1971 he joined Freson Wines in California before returning to Canada in 1977 to join Calona Wines later working as winemaker at Sumac Ridge (1987) helping to develop their Stellar Jay sparkling wine.

Ben Ginter

Ben Ginter In 1962 Ben Ginter bought Caribou Brewing Company in Prince George. He renamed it Tartan Industry Ltd. In 1970 he took over a nearly bankrupt Mission Hills Winery changing the name to Uncle Ben's Gourmet Wines Ltd. Trying to compete with Baby Duck he came up with Fuddle Duck and weird name wines. The Winery failed and was offered up to the highest bidder, somehow Ginter found the funds to re-obtain the winery in 1978. This time naming it Golden Valley Winery. He sold the winery in 1981 to Nick Clark and Anthony von Mandel

Roger Walsh: when Labatts decided to open a winery in New Brunswick Roger was the plant manager of Normandie Wines. Normandie first commercial winery to produce blueberry table wine

Hermann Weis pioneered the use of this Riesling in Canada greatly contributing to the introduction of Vitis vinifera into this country still new to quality winemaking. He planted the first large parcel of Riesling vines in the Niagara Peninsula (1979) under the title of St. Urban Vineyard, later to become Vineland Estates Winery. In 1978, Cave Spring Vineyard was among the first vineyards planted to Weis’ proprietary Riesling Clone 21 (often referred to the Weis Clone and is the most planted Riesling clone in Canada), followed in 1979-80 when Weis planted three other Niagara Escarpment vineyards around Beamsville and Vineland. He then went on to establish Vineland Estates winery in 1983.

Joe Slamka

Joe Slamkaand his wife Freya were pioneers in the BC Wine Industry as they planted their vines in 1969. In 1996 the Slamka family established the winery and now their three sons and their families are all involved in the winery and industry. The winery was originally called Slamak latter changed to Little Straw.

Glennallyn Murray In the 60's he was a winemaker with Andreas winery. Later he planted German clones just north of Skaha Lake in Penticton on Crescent Hill and Valley View road in the 70's. In the 60's he was a winemaker with Andreas winery. He sold what he called "juice" to Cassa Bella winery in Penticton and Colona Winery

Wilson, Guy Tunstall best know for his skills as a vineyard manager. In 1971 he won the coveted trophy for the best Okanagan grapes, sponsored by Andres at the annual Penticton Grape and Harvest Fiesta. Subsequently, he won the trophy in 1979 again at his own vineyard; in 1985, 1986 and 1987, the trophy was won by Paradise Ranch Vineyards, which Wilson then was managing; and in 1990 it was won by the Summerhill Estate vineyard, again with Wilson as manager. "I had a natural feel for the land," he said later.

Josef Zimmerman was born into a grape growing family in Guldenthal, Germany, Zimmerman graduated from Geisenheimin 1975 and went on to do wine research in Baden until he and his wife, then a student in advanced mathematics, decided they were "financially burned out." In search of a career, Zimmerman replied to an advertisement from Jordan& Ste-Michelle to make wine in Canada.

Late in 1976 Zimmerman arrived in Victoria as an assistant to Dieter Guttler, another Geisenheim graduate who had been recruited several years before to make wine at the Victoria winery. Guttler thought of the old winery (now a Keg Restaurant not far from downtown Victoria) as a "shithouse." Zimmerman is less blunt but would never dispute his mentor's assessment. The winery had been designed initially to make fortified wines on a modest scale and was expanded in such a piecemeal fashion that it was completely inefficient. The sanitation problems alone occupied a crew of four people much of the time, scrubbing down floors and tanks with iodine and other disinfectants, with the winemaker scrambling to ensure that the disinfectant was not cascading from upper floors into tanks of wine below. The winery was so inefficient that it employed a cellar crew of three dozen people to handle what eight people later did when Jordan & Ste-Michelle in 1979 opened its large, modern Surrey winery.

Zimmerman believed that the Okanagan actually had advantages over German wine regions, including more sunshine and far less risk of killing spring frosts. Zimmerman believed that some Okanagan growers had poor sites and once sarcastically advised one to solve a viticultural problem by replacing the vines with broccoli. He also disliked the undisciplined way in which some grew hybrid varieties which were easily over cropped to yield mediocre wine. "With hybrids, you have to select the grower before you select the variety," he believed. He became chief winemaker at the new Jordan & Ste-Michelle winery in Surrey in 1978 when Dieter Guttler moved to the Jordan winery in St. Catharines, Ontario. In 1980, Zimmerman transferred to the Jordan winery in Ontario, succeeding Guttler, who had left to develop an estate winery.

Lynn and john Bremmer 1982
Lynn and John Bremmer 1982

Lynn (Stark) Bremmer Lynn has been involved in the B.C. Wine industry since 1973.  She was a technician and assistant winemaker at Andres Wines for 7 years and winemaker at Brights Wines for 11 years.  She was also instrumental in the establishment of Gray Monk Cellars.  She has served on the research and development committee for the B.C. Wine industry working closely with our federal research facility in Summerland, has been an advisor to Okanagan University College on Winemaking & Viticulture courses and to the B.C. government on crop insurance, she was on the panel of VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) tasters and was a director for the B.C. Wine Institute and the BC Grape Growers association.  Presently Lynn is the chair of the B.C. Wine Grape Council where the levies collected from industry are distributed to scientists for R&D.  She also chairs the Lab Proficiency committee and is secretary for the sub-appellation committee for the Golden Mile viticultural area. Lynn presently owns and operates a 2 hectare vineyard in Oliver and is a partner with John Bremmer in Mount Kobau Wine Services supplying field sampling, analysis and winemaking/viticulture services to the B.C. Wine industry.

Lynn has a diploma in Food Processing from the B.C. Institute of Technology and a certificate in Computer Data Processing as well as numerous courses in wine production.   She has traveled extensively touring wine areas of Germany, France, California and Washington and assisting wine businesses in Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Armenia, Serbia and the Caribbean.

Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser

Donald Ziraldo co-founder Inniskillin (1974) he sold the wines . Through his hard work Icewine became synonymous Canada . More on Donald Ziraldo

Karl Kaiser co-founder Inniskillin (1974) he made the wines. Donald Ziraldo refers to Karl as the mastermind behind the Renaissance in Icewine.

Karl Podamer was granted a manufacturer's license to make sparkling wine in 1973. Since his wine required two years in the bottle before it could be sold his retail license was granted 24 days after Karl Kasier and Donald Ziraldo's licence. His winery was called Montravin and Podamer Champagne Company which was sold to Magnotta Wines in 1993.

Dr Helmut Becker head of the German Geisenheim Institute. He traveled to the Okanagan and Ontario advising on which plants would be best suited to the region. In the Okanagan he supplied free of charge twenty-seven Vinifera Varieties for trial in 3 acre test plots running from 1977 to 1985. They included Pinot Blanc, Ehrenfelser, Müller-Thurgau and Riesling. These trials became known as the Becker Project . In Ontario he worked with Paul Bosc.

John Marynissen in 1976 began growing Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gamay. In 1978 he became the first Canadian to plant the Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon

John Paroschya member of the T.J.Bright Company research team who in 1978 tested the use of Vidal for icewine. He later joined Chateau des Charmes

Dr. Joseph Pohorly was one of the first winery owners in Niagara. He founded Newark Winery in the Village of Virgil in 1979, one of the three original cottage wineries that opened in Niagara in the '70s and laid the foundation for the growth of the new Ontario wine industry. Joseph himself was no stranger to wines. Born in Vineland, Ontario, he began life as a farmer's son and learned how to grow grapes and other fruit crops from an early age, gaining an appreciation and knowledge of the land, of our geography and climate, and of the unique characteristics that make this viticultural area special. He was among the first to make icewine in Ontario

Alan Eastman founded Charal Winery and Vineyard near Blenheim, Ontario in 1977.

Walter Strehan founded Pelee Island Winery 1979. He was among the first to make an icewine in Ontario

 Walter and Thomas Hainle
Walter and Thomas Hainle

Walter Hainle established Hainle Winery 1988 in British Columbia's Okanagan and produced the first commercial icewine in 1973. Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery became BC’s 8th estate winery in 1972, is the birthplace of North American Icewine and became Canada’s first certified organic winery in 1988. The Hainle legacy is built on Walter Hainle’s renowned winemaking expertise and his stroke of genius that resulted in the first production of icewine in North America.

Harry McWatters founded Sumac Ridge 1980 Summerland British Columbia. In 1980, he led a group of wineries and local businesses to establish the Okanagan Wine Festival Society and acted as founding president. Harry McWatters

Ewald Reif founder of Reif Winery was one of the first to attempt icewine production in Ontario.

Don Allen best known as a grape grower from the early 1970's to 1996. Owning property on Kelowna's Westbank. He was also a winemaker producing the first two vintages for Uniacke Winery(1980).

Bob Claremont his first job was with Jordan Winery Ontario in 1967. The following year he joined St Julian as winemaker. St Julian had started in Windsor in 1921 but had moved to Michigan when the US prohibition ended in 1933. After four successful years he was recruited by Calona Winery in BC becoming its head winemaker in 1973. He is best known as the winemaker who produced Schloss Laderheim

He went out on his own purchasing Chateau Jonn de Trepanier in Peachland ( the first estate winery to open in 1978) . The winery had problems closing in 1985 reopening the next year under the name Chateau Ste Clair.

Vera Klokocka, was one of the pioneers of the Farmgate Winery movement in B.C.  In 1979, along with her husband, Bohumir Klokocka, she bought a five acre orchard in the Okanagan that they, subsequently, tore out and replaced with grapes in 1984.  This was the humble beginning of Hillside Cellars, now Hillside Estate. The first commercial release of a Hillside wine was the 1989 Auxerrois which received Hillside’s first VQA (Vintner’s Quality Alliance) seal of approval. She helped initiate the Farmgate Winery Policy, and was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Paul Bosc opens Chateau des Charmes 1979
Paul Bosc opens Chateau des Charmes 1979

Adolf Kruger checking out the first Wild Goose red wine bottling. 1989 Marechal Foch! #happyfriday #canadi
Adolf Kruger checking out the first Wild Goose red wine bottling. 1989 Marechal Foch! 

 Adolf Kruger in 1983 purchased a barren piece of land east of Okanagan Falls. Upon his return to his newly purchased property he discovered a large flock of Canada geese feeding amongst the tumbleweeds, boulders, and rubble. As he approached, the flock of geese took flight and flew to the north.  This vision inspired Adolf to call the property Wild Goose Vineyards. He was a leader was one of the pioneers of the Farmgate Winery movement in B.C. Also see Giants of Modern Times

Terry Wells around 1980 along with his wife Halina, purchased what they called the Tin Horn Creek vineyard south of Oliver. The twenty-acre Tin Horn Creek vineyard was named for the creek which flows through it. The grapes included foch, de chaunac, verdelet, and newly-planted chenin blanc, a variety which Wells came to regard as his favourite grape. He fought an uphill battle to make Chenin Blanc a prominent Grape in the Okanagan he lost his battle with the “1988 grape pull " the wineries would not purchase his grapes.

Wells also was a founding director of the British Columbia Wine Institute in 1991. Today only a few wineries grow Chenin Blanc; according for less than 1 % of the white wine grapes.

Ted Brouwer palyed a major role in the Establishment of Inkameep Vineyards

Dr. Rodger Dial established Grand Prè Wines Limited in 1981 the first commercial farm winery in Nova Scotia.

Joe Busnardo founded Divino Estate Winery 1983. Planting his Oliver, BC vineyards with only Vinifera. He obtained his vines from Italy and University of California at Davis. He was one of the first to plant Pinot blanc which was to become a star in the Okanagan. He tried over 128 different varities in his vineyards.

Senator Ross Fitzpatrick
Senator Ross Fitzpatrick

Senator Ross Fitzpatrickfounded CedarCreek Estate Winery 1986. He became a pioneer in the planting of vinifera grape varieties to produce premium quality wine. Today, almost all wine grapes grown in the province are vinifera varieties. CedarCreek collected numerous awards, including being named the Canadian Winery of the Year twice. In 2014 the Fitzpatrick family sold CedarCreek but was not prepared to completely leave the industry. The family-owned Greata Ranch Reserve Winery, located between Summerland and Peachland, has been expanded to focus on producing high-quality Okanagan sparkling wine.

Nick Clark joined with Anthony von Mandel to buy Mission Hill in 1981 He sold his share in 1989. He became the British Columbia Wine Institutes first president when it was formed in 1990.

Anthony von Mandel bought Golden Valley Winery in 1981 with Nick Clark . They renamed the winery back to its original name of Mission Hill. Nick Clark sold his half of the winery to Anthony von Mandel. Please see Mission Hills

George and TrudyHeiss
George and Trudy Heiss Gray Monk Winery

George and Trudy Heiss opened Gray Monk Family Winery in 1982. The Heiss family has had a profound impact on Okanagan wine growing. They were the first to import clones of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Auxerrois from Alsace. They facilitated the Becker Project, an eight-year trial of German vines that, by its conclusion in 1985, proved the viability of varieties now among the most important in the Okanagan. Among all the wine producers in North American, they alone nurture the hard-to-grow Rotberger grape to make notable rosé.

Wolfgang Zeller immigrated to the Okanagan in 1983, he become a major source of vineyard and winery equipment in British Columbia. His first contract was with T.G. Bright & Co. He planted what he wanted, not what the wineries advised. He was told to plant de chaunac, vidal and Okanagan Riesling; instead, he started with johannisberg riesling and pinot noir, telling the wineries that he might be a newcomer but he knew something they did not. In 1988, nothing had to be pulled from the Zeller vineyard at Naramata and, with the immediate shortage of good wine grapes after the pullout, he had no difficulty selling his fruit to wineries. By then his eight-acre vineyard had been expanded to include müller-thurgau, ehrenfelser and the mother block of two thousand oraniensteiner vines, a German white variety obtained for Zeller by Brights, which later Brights lost interest in.

Along with Gunther Lang, Adolf Kruger and Vera Klokocka, Zeller campaigned for the right to open a farm winery. By the time the farmgate license  was created in 1989, Zeller & Sons Enterprises Ltd., his machinery import company had become too successful for him to consider a winery.

Dionisio (Dennis) Zanatta came to Canada in 1959 He settled on a farm just south of Duncan in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island . He started an experimental plot of grapevines in 1970 with varieties such as leon millot, a red French hybrid, obtained from the federal government's plant health centre at Saanich. In 1983 Zanatta extended his trial plot, cooperating with the B.C. government in the so-called Duncan Project, a six-year trial in which more than 100 varieties were tested for their suitability on Vancouver Island. Midway through the trial, Zanatta began a five-acre planting of ortega, a white variety suited to the long, cool growing season of the Cowichan Valley. It formed the basis for the Vigneti Zanatta farm winery that opened in 1992 when his daughter, Loretta, completed her training as a winemaker in Italy.

The Konzelmannn Family from Germany to Canada

The man on the far right is Herbert Konzelmann's great-grandfather Freidric Konzelmann and the man sitting on the barrel is his grandfather, Otto Konzelmann.

Herbert Konzelmann  a 4th generation winemaker arrived (1984)from Germany and established Konzelmann Estate Winery . Konzelmann was officially the seventh winery to open its doors in Ontario. They were the first Canadian winery to make Wine Spectator’s Top 100 in 2008 with their highly acclaimed Vidal Ice Wine VQA 2006. 


Thomas J Muckle

Thomas J Muckle pathologist, professor, winemaker extraordinaire, self-taught pianist and composer and champion of unconventionality. One of three men who started a winery that involved into Thirty Bench

Robert Murray a Berry Crop specialist became the man in charge of developing programs for Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia. Over the years he helped numerous vineyards develop their vineyards. Bob has also received many honours including the Recognition Award from the Nova Scotia Strawberry Growers Association, Distinguished Agrologist Award, Honorary Member: Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia, NSIA Distinguished Life Membership Award and Honorary Member NSFA Senate Club. Jost Vineyards felt Bob's leadership to the Nova Scotia grape and wine sectors were so momentous they named their 1992 Seyval Blanc wine the “Robert Murray Select”.

Dr. Andrew Jamieson, who is based at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, in Kentville, N. S.has been working in Nova Scotia for over twenty years researching grapes and other fruits. Andrew works closely with the Grape Growers Association and growers evaluating promising selections

Christian Barthomeuf one of the modern pioneers of viticulture in Québec, planted the first vineyard in Dunham in 1970 and invented ice cider (also know as ice apple wine) in 1989.

Gary Strachan joined the staff of the Food Processing Section in 1977. By 1978, Strachan needed more assistance with his energetic wine evaluation program and Barbara Edwards was hired as his technician. Strachen and his staff made wine from the short listed Summerland breeding selections along with wines from the Becker Project and several BCMAF sites. One site was at the Inkameep Vineyard, another at what is now Zanatta Winery on Vancouver Island. They also had a large cooperative project at the Station to evaluate (mostly) Eastern European grape varieties.

Harry von Wolff, purchased the property on Vancouver Island in 1987 to develop Nanaimo’s first winery Chateau Wolff Estate  .
With his wife, Helga, Harry settled in Nanaimo in 1977 and prospered in retailing western clothing and footwear. Harry now became a competent amateur winemaker and, after planting a few vines at his home, established this vineyard. An admirer of the wines of Burgundy, he planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the best site, a southwest-facing slope against a sunbathed cliff. His first commercial vintage was 1996 and he opened the winey in 1998.


Bruce Schmidt marketer who turned Calona’s Schloss Laderheim into Canada’s largest selling white wine in the 1980s.When he started his own marketing and venture capital consulting firm in 1987, one of the clients he helped raise capital for was Blue Mountain Vineyard & Cellars. In 2007 founded Intersection Winery.

Howard Staff -photo credit Ontario Grape Growers
Howard Staff -photo credit Ontario Grape Growers

Howard Victor Staff- Howard was most content on the farm where he was born, worked and passed. Howard was a leader and contributor to agriculture and the community. Amongst other postings in agriculture, he served as President of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Vineland Growers Co-Operative; Chairman of the Board for the Lincoln Committee of Adjustment; one of the longest serving Board of Directors and Committee Members of the Grape Growers of Ontario; Vice-President of A.C.C. Farmers Financial; Commissioner of the Niagara Escarpment Commission; Member of the Agricultural Adaptation Council; Board of Directors Welch's U.S.A.; Founding Committee and Major Contributor of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University. His dedication to community saw him volunteer with Lincoln District Firefighter Station #4 (Jordan); member of the St.Catharines & District Shrine Club; chair the Beamsville District Secondary School 125th Anniversary; and chair the Jordan Historical Museum. Howard's efforts did not go unnoticed by the public at large as he was awarded the Paul Harris Award by the Rotary Club of St.Catharines South for outstanding lifetime contribution to community; Lifetime Achievement Award by the Niagara North Federation of Agriculture for exemplary contribution to the agriculture community; Royal Order of the Grape and 1996 Grape King awarded by the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival; 25 Year Service

Award by the Province of Ontario for outstanding efforts in volunteering; and Awards of Merit from the Grape Growers of Ontario for over 50 years of grape farming, Green Ribbon Taskforce Region of Niagara Police, and Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association for outstanding commitment to horticulture in Ontario.

Guenther Lang founder of Lang Vineyards which opened its doors in 1990 after a lobby effort led by Guenther succeeded in having Premier Bill Vander Zalm’s government enact regulations to enable small farm wineries to be established. The first release from the vineyard, a 1989 Marechal Foch, won a gold medal at the Atlanta International Wine Festival.

Adolf Kruger in 1983 purchased 10 acres on a stony slope in Okanagan Fall. He planted 5 acres each of Riesling and Gewürztraminer, becoming one of the first growers of such classic varieties in the Okanagan. He travelled from his job in Calgary to the Okanagan for a year before finding work in Pendicton. Adolf first planted Riesling and Gewurztraminer; he quickly secured a contract to sell the grapes to Mission Hill Winery. He opened the winery in 1990.

Reif Estate Winery
Klaus Reif and winemaker Ron, 1979 Reif Estate Winery. Founded in 1982 by Ewald Reif and later acquired by nephew Klaus W. Reif. Today, Reif produces wines from its vineyard first planted in 1977.



BC Winemakers 1992

Have we missed someone who should be listed on this page if so please let us know, we would appreciate any information and photographs you may have. This page is a work in progress

Please continue to the Wineries behind Winemaking in Canada

Related Pages:

The Beginning ~ WWI and Prohibition ~ the 1930's and 40's

London Winery, Vincor, Baby Duck, History, History of Icewine,

Donald Triggs
~ Donald Ziraldo ~ Karl Kaiser ~ Harry McWatters


Resources  :

Niagara's Wine Visionaries - Linda Bramble - James Lorimer - Company Ltd
Okanagan Wine Tour Guide - John Schreiner - Whitecap
The Wines of Canada - John Schreiner - Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library
The Wineries of British Columbia - John Schreiner - Whitecap
Icewine The Complete Story - John Schreiner - Warwick Publishing
Canada Wines for Dummies - Tony Aspler, Barbara Leslie - CDG Books
The Tangled Vine: Wine Growing in Nova Scotia - Chris Naugler MD, Bruce Wright. MD, Robert Murray PAg.-blue frog inc.
Nova Scotia Historic Society
Clair House, Cooksville and the Beginning of the Ontario Wine Industry- Richard A Jarell
Rittich, V.J.: European Grapes for the Okanagan. Text of address in author's files.
Parks Canada Agency - Historic Places
Wines of Ontario - William F Rannie
Institute of Italian Studies-Lakehead University
Vera Klokocka and Family
The Vinedressers by Ron Tiessen Pelee Island Heritage Centre
Richard A. Jarrell
Chateau Clair, Canada’s First Vineyard & Commercial Winery By Matthew Wilkinson Historian, Heritage Mississauga
Ontario Grape Growers.
Lynn Bremmer
Wines of Eastern North America - Hudson Cornell
The World of Jules Robinet 11 by Jack Cecillon

Notes and information supplied by:

John Schreiner
Terry Matz
Chateau des Charmes Winery
Klokocka Family
London Library
Helen Fisher, researcher
Robert Murray, researcher
Irene Gammon - great granddaughter of Jules Robinet
Donald Triggs
Roger Walsh
Donald Ziraldo
Wild Goose Vineyards
Elias Phiniotis
Hender Estae Wine

information welcome


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