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The Elite - Ontario

Peller Estates Winery

Peller Estates Winery
Niagara - on - the - Lake

The Elite is a small list , but growing, of Ontario wineries, whose wines and contributions have helped placed Canada on the Worlds map of outstanding wine regions. This article was originally posted in 2014.

Tawse Winery ~ Vineland Ontario

Tawse is a family-owned estate winery situated on the lower slopes of the Niagara Escarpment.
Tawse was named 'Canadian Winery of the Year' by Canadian Wine Access Magazine in 2010, 2011 2012 and 2016!  This is the first time an Ontario winery has won this distinction three years in a row, with a record setting 9 gold medals.   Winemaker Paul Pender was named Winemaker of the Year in 2011 at the Ontario Wine Awards.

The winery is owned by Moray Tawse. their first harvest 2001 with the winery opening in 2005. They produce 30,000 cases – 360,00 bottles. Their vineyards are Certified organic and biodynamic.
Growing Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Pinot
Gris, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.

They seem to receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines

In 2021 alone Tawse was award medals for 20 wines at the Nationals. The winery is indeed one of Canada's Elite.




Is this the winery that put Canada on the world Map! It just might be. Inniskillin, co-founded by Donald J.P. Ziraldo and Karl J. Kaiser , in 1975. The winery is located in the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada, on the Niagara Peninsula. Inniskillin was granted the first estate winery license in Canada. The name Inniskillin is Irish and is derived from the famous Irish regiment, the Inniskillin Fusiliers. Colonel Cooper, a member of this regiment, served in North America in the War of 1812. On completion of his military service, he was granted Crown land which he named the Inniskillin Farm.

In 1991 Inniskillin 1989 icewine won Gold Grand Pix d'Honneur Show bringing Canadian wine to the attention of the WORLD.. Inniskillin Wines captured the top prize at the 17th Annual International Wine Competition at Vinitaly: "The Premio Speciale Gran Vinitaly 2009". The special prize for top producer at the show is considered to be the wine industry's "world cup". Vinitaly, held in Verona, is the largest and one of the most prestigious annual wine competitions, attracting the global wine elite. Inniskillin qualifies based on its performance of scores. For Inniskillin to take the top award of the show highlights Inniskillin's international reputation as a quality producer, and also has the wine world shifting its attention to Canada

Today name any award and most likely Inniskillin has won it, from winery of the Year to Winemaker of the year, Gold after Gold. Inniskillin is a household name.

Inniskillin has progressed from been a major player in Ontario to opening a second winery in Oliver BC. Here too they have accumulate the awards.


Southbrook Winery


The farmland, located in Maples north of Toronto, turned winery has been in the Redelmeier family since 1941. I t was fifty years later that Bill Redelmeier and partner/co-owner, Marilyn, evolve the family business from a roadside stand in the 1980s to a thriving farm market and finally a winery in 1991.

In 1992 thanks to heavy rains customers of the pick-your-own raspberry patch stay away in droves. Staff pick the ripe fruit during the week with the idea they will make jam. Yield exceeds three tons. Bill's love of fortified wines sparks a different idea. He decides to make a dessert wine he names Framboise - It becomes an award winning wine year after year.

The winery becomes a destination for good wines and fun times. The winery grows; annual production climbs to 5,000 cases using VQA grapes from growers in the Niagara Peninsula. The combination of farm market, winery and event location becomes a big success, regularly attracting 125,000 visitors per year

Brought on as a winemaking consultant in 2005 Ann Sperling introduces Bill and Marilyn to an excellent opportunity. A 74-acre parcel in the warm Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake is on the market, complete with 36 acres of ideally planted, well-selected varieties and top-notch clones. The couple realizes its potential, and decides on the new location to build the winery of their dreams. They convince Ann Sperling to sign on as full-time Director of Winemaking and Viticulture .Expansion of the vineyard is planned and planting starts. The design of a winery with associated facilities and a hospitality building are entrusted to Jack Diamond of Diamond and Schmitt Architects of Toronto. The Redelmeiers commence creation of a fully biodynamic, organic and environmentally responsible winemaking operation.

The new enterprise is re-named Southbrook Vineyards to reflect the Redelmeier's new role as vineyard stewards. The opening celebration of the Hospitality Pavilion takes place on the Summer Solstice of 2008. The building winning awards for its Architecture design.

As the years have gone by the winery has accumulated its share of national and international awards. This includes Lieutenant Governor's Award in 2013. The winery itself named Niagara Entrepreneur of the Year Awards - 2012

Their Framboise wines have captured the world and can be found at Harrods in England Southbrook Chardonnay 1994 was served when Canada's Prime Minister hosted Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, June 28 1997.

Ann Sperling was has been named Winemaker of the Year 2021 by the prestigious Cambridge Food & Wine Society and is the recipient of the coveted RIEDEL Award.

Southbrook is a Demeter-certified winery.

Pillitteri Estate Winery 

Gary and Lena Pillitteri settled in Niagara on the Lake to raise their family in 1965.  They purchased a small fruit farm on Niagara Stone Road. In 1973 they opened Gary's Fruit Market (which actually still operates today in the east wing of the winery).The market grew and so did Gary's interest in wines shortly after the first winery open near by he planted the families first vineyard.

In 1988 Gary decided to experiment 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. In 1993 the winery opened with a capacity to produce up to 16,000 cases

In 1999 Pillitteri Estates was the first producer to create a successful Merlot Icewine.  In 2004, they created the world's first Shiraz Icewine, followed in 2007, the world's first Sangiovese Icewine and in 2008, first sparkling Cabernet Icewine.  Today Pillitteri Estate Winery  produces over 13 different styles of Icewine, far more than any other winery in the world. They are considered to be the world's largest producer of Icewine.

Almost half of the grapes grown are saved for icewine . Among their many awards was a Gold ‘first overall' in France's Effervescents Du Monde  for their 2008 Sparkling Cabernet Icewine.

Pillitteri Estates Winery has been honoured with more than 800 wine awards, at both domestic and international competitions. These include the coveted Civart Trophy from the Challenge International du Vin, for their 2007 Riesling Icewine, two Grand Medaillo d'Oro from Vinitaly, Verona, Italy and a rare Double Gold Medal from the American Wine Society in the United States. Pillitteri achieved international acclaim in 2005 by winning North America's only wine award at Effervescents du Monde and then going on to win their highest honour in 2009 with a rare Grand Gold, and 1st Place Overall for their 2008 Sparkling Cabernet Icewine.

The winery has a beautiful tasting facility where you can combine the tasting experience with lunch

The Reif Estate Winery


There is a long and rich history at the Reif. It is one of the founding Family wineries of the Niagara. Ewald Reif established the vineyards in 1977; opening their doors in 1982. In 1988 Klaus W. Reif moves to Canada to take over the reigns. Robert Parker Jr. put 1987 Vidal Icewine on his top ten wine list.

Klaus Reif's philosophy that "great wines start in the vineyard" is the cornerstone of the quality and integrity of Reif Estate wines. This belief, partnered with a commitment to produce predominantly estate bottled wines from our 125 acre vineyard, has provided our winemaker Roberto DiDomenico with the tools to produce world renowned wines.

Reif Estate Winery has a rich history in Icewine production as a pioneer with their first vintage of Vidal Icewine produced in 1984. This 10 acre vineyard block on their 125 acre estate is still used today to produce internationally acclaimed Vidal Icewine.

Their many awards include 1997 Tesoro takes Gold at International Wine & Spirit Competition. 2002 Best Canadian Winery at Wine & Spirit International Competition. 2004 Vidal Icewine is Wine of the year at Ontario Wine Awards. Klaus W. Reif receives Lifetime achievement award from Ontario Wine Society in 2010 and the list goes on.

The estate includes a Wine Sensory Garden and cellar dinning. Their wedding facilities are among the best in Ontario.

Cave Spring

Located in an historic winery building dating back to 1871, Cave Spring Cellars boasts the oldest functioning wine cellars in all of Ontario. Cave Spring has established itself as one of Canada's most acclaimed wineries since opening in 1988.

Their history goes back to 1973 when the Pennachetti family acquired its first farmland at Cave Spring on Niagara's Beamsville. In 1978, the Pennachettis were among the first to plant Riesling and Chardonnay vines on the Niagara Peninsula, helping to pioneer this emerging North American wine region. Len Pennachachetti and the family took the next step, partnering with winemaker and long-time friend Angelo Pavan to found Cave Spring Cellars in the picturesque village of Jordan. They have now expanded to more than 137 acres, all within the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation overlooking Lake Ontario.

The measure of a winemaker is not his ability to speak for great vineyards, but rather his faith in the idea that great vineyards can speak for themselves.
- Angelo Pavan, Winemaker

The estate is also home to the restaurant On the Twenty, one of the best food destinations in Ontario's wine country.

CSV Riesling has time after time been applauded by wine writers receiving award after awards. Ian D'Agata said arguably Canada's best winery. Giovanni Ascione of Bibenda magazine wrote At the top is one of the best wines of the entire country, the CSV, which is released at three years from vintage and is worthy of comparison with the greatest varietal offerings of the Old World.

Trius Winery
Niagara on the Lake

Located in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake this winery is one of Canada's leading VQA producers. One of the pioneer wineries in the development of Canada's icewines. In 1995, they were the first Canadian winery to receive highest honors with the Pichon Longeuville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy (Best Red Wine in the World) at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. Owned by Andre Peller Peller Wines Ltd

Andrew Peller established Andrés Wines Ltd., the youngest of the large Canadian wineries in Port Moody, B.C. in 1961. he name Andrés was chosen as the closest to Andrew Peller's baptismal name 'Andreas', but with a French flair.  In 1964, winery operations were established in Calgary, Alberta and in Truro, Nova Scotia.  In 1970 Andrés entered the Ontario market with the purchase of Beau Chatel Wines in Winona.  In 1974 Andrés moved into Quebec with the founding of Les Vins Andrés in St. Hyacinthe.  In 1975 Andrés purchased the Valley Rouge Winery located in Morris, Manitoba.  The Manitoba location closed in 1992 and in 1994 Andrés acquired Hillebrand Estates Winery, Canada's largest producer of VQA and premium wines, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Hillebrand originally opened in 1979. They were among the first to produce icewine beginning in 1983. Years years Hillebrand reputation for producing quality wines grew. It became one of the most visited winery in the Niagara Region. In 2012 they changed the name from Hillebrand winery to Trius at Hillebrand

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.

They opened the first underground wine cellar in 1991 for the production of sparkling wines. In 1991 they introduced the Truis series of wines.

Food and wine experiences are plentiful, and Trius Winery at Hillebrand boasts the first and one of the finest, Winery Restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Several ongoing dinner series' fill the year with epicurean delight.  Experiences include the Longest Table Dinner, Trius Red Barrel Cellar Dinners,  the annual Ice winemaker's Dinner and the Harvest Table Dining Series. 

Australian born Craig McDonald leads the winemaking team. believing that winemaking starts in the vineyard, Craig looks to our fertile land to inspire and guide his "hands-on" winemaking style: “Being in tune with the vineyard and adapting to the specific growing season is fundamental to our winemaking.  Only when we have attained this synchronicity can we then add our personal touch.”   -

Their Showcase ghost Creek Vineyard Riesling brought home a medal from Decanter worlds.

Trius Brut Rosé named Best wine at Efferevescents du Monde 2021

The winery offers some very interesting behind the scenes tours

Awards and aculeates far too many to even mention

Located on the Niagara Peninsula Vineland is one of Ontario's most picturesque wineries. Vineland Estates Winery produces 47,000 cases of wine annually, the majority of which is made from estate grown fruit. Their wines include Sparkling and Icewines.

The two most significant vineyards St. Urban and Bo-Teek are in the designated viticultural area of the Niagara Escarpment (Twenty Mile Bench sub appellation). The third vineyard 16 acre Greenlane Vineyard is located in Beamsville.

The underground barrel cellar showcases Vineland's history, but also allows us to enhance the winemaking process with an eye to the future. The cellar is home to our library, a living record of their thirty year history. This library houses vintages that date back to our first, in 1983.

The winery features a AAA four diamond restaurant under the direction of Executive Chef Jan-Willem Stulp. There is also a B&B cottage so you can spend a night in the Vineyard. Transition and expansion is under way at the winery. All designed to improve the wine making facilities and provide a better experience for the visitors while on tour.

First Canadian Winery to win the “Grand Vinitaly Top Winery Award” at Vinitaly International Wine Competition in Verona, Italy 2003. Brian Schmidt is the winemaker and vice president of Vineland

 The recipient of 2017 Canadian Wine Industry Awards ,Award of Distinction, which is regarded as the highest form of peer recognition within the Canadian wine industry, is the Schmidt family, of the Niagara Peninsula.

Facilities include accommodation and a five star restaurant

Their wine can be found in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and Russia

Pelee Island Winery

Pelee Island Winery

One of Canada's most historic wineries.

The winery was established in 1979. Walter Strehn of Deutschkreutz, Austria. A larger than life character by all accounts, stepped onto the path that Thaddeus Smith had laid. The Strehn family was in the wine making business in Austria and Walter was looking to start a winery of his own in Canada. It was through a mutual friend, George Piller, who knew about Pelee Island and its wine-making history that led Walter to investigate the potential of starting his winery there. After scouting around and comparing the Niagara region to the Lake Erie shore and to Pelee Island, Mr. Stehn went ahead and bought land on the Island of Pelee in autumn of 1979.

They were among the first if not the first to produce an Icewine in Ontario

Pelee Island Winery has over 700 acres of Vineyards and believes that to produce the best wines you also have to grow the best grapes. The Island provides a very unique microclimate and natural environment. Pelee Winery hired viticulturists Bruno Friesen, to maintain the natural balance of the island. Today Pelee Island Winery is located on the mainland having moved to Kingsville in 1982

The Pelee vineyards located on the Island comprise the largest private estate in Canada. It is the most Southern winery in Canada. They played a key role in the early development of Canada's icewines. A Pavilion was opened on the Island in 1991.

With heat units and frost free days unmatched anywhere else in Canada, the island is the natural destination for vinifera grape growing. Varietals grown on the island include:


The Elite ~ The Elite BC ~ The Elite Canada

Donald Triggs ~ Karl Kaiser ~ Donald Ziraldo

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