Wine Filtration Focuses On Clarity & Quality

Close up cassette filter device used on modern winery

By: Gerald Dlubala  

Filtration of wines is absolutely a necessary and important step in winemaking,” says Massimiliano Buiani, Vice President Enological Sales for ATP Group. “But only if used and conducted in the proper way and manner, otherwise you will damage your wine.”

  “Filtration is a very personal issue for winemakers because it is a process of endless possibilities,” says Buiani. “We filter wines for different reasons, including stability, aroma, clarity and overall aesthetics. There are different steps to take and different materials to use to filter wine to different levels. We can filter very aggressively or very fine. Some methods can tolerate mistakes better than others. We can filter at different speeds that will affect the process and subsequently the results. We can filter too tight at the wrong time, blocking membranes, damaging pads and cartridges, and ultimately adding cost to the production that wasn’t necessary. Filtering should be done step-by-step, slowly getting tighter and tighter as the process moves toward the winemaker’s goal. All of these variables affect the quality of the wine to some degree, and what works for a wine this year may not work next year because of all the variables that occur during the winegrowing season, both naturally and man-made.”

Filtration Methods Are An Ongoing Choice

  “There are many types of materials to choose from for filtration, and they all serve purposes that the others may not,” says Buiani.

•    Diatomaceous earth (DE) based systems are traditionally used for coarse filtration. The DE powder is added to the wine, clinging to the larger particles to make it easier to remove at a later time. It is a very forgiving way to filter wine, but it also absorbs a lot of product with it, too much in the opinion of many winemakers. There have also been recent health concerns raised over the handling of this powder so most wine producers are moving away from this method.

•    The crossflow class of filtration is highly recommended by ATP Group and can be used with an endless type of membranes. Crossflow filtration is the latest and most popular technology, being completely automated, self-cleaning, internet-based and remotely accessible with the ability to run days on end without a stoppage. It was and is still considered the new frontier of wine filtration.

•    Pad filtration systems are great for smaller wineries that can’t afford a high-end crossflow system. The pad filters are attached on vertical supports in a sandwich configuration. You have one system that can accept pads for different filtration settings from coarse to sterile. The downside is that these systems are more labor-intensive. They are non-automated, having to be manually cleaned, and the pads must be replaced after each use. They are also prone to leakage, translating to loss of product.

•    Cartridge style filters are slid into housings, and able to be cleaned and used again, but that usefulness and ability to last longer are reflected in their increased cost over pad filters. Cartridge filtration is the best, most reliable option as a final safety check right before bottling, but it is also the most responsive, meaning small mistakes can turn into costly errors. It is in the winemaker’s best interest to take care and properly filter their product during all previous steps so that the final cartridge filtration catches very little, lengthening its lifespan.

•    Centrifuges can be used in all wines, using G-forces of gravity to accelerate the process of separating the wine from the coarse particles. It provides in just fractions of seconds what we would have to wait months for gravity to do. And by the time gravity satisfactorily separated the liquid from the solid, the wine would be old and undrinkable. The downside of centrifuge use is their cost versus the limitations of the machine.

  While all of these methods are valuable and useful in different situations, Buiani believes that a well-planned and implemented sterile filtration process is the formula for success. Just using one type or stage of filtration is not a proper solution. A combination of filtering processes is preferred, considering that choices of membrane, whether organic or ceramic, can affect the qualities of the wine. Buiani tells The Grapevine Magazine that experience matters.

  “In today’s market, there is an abundance of over filtering and trying to get wine to market too soon, Over filtering turns into an extremely aggressive process, reacting negatively with aroma, flavor and color of the wine. The great winemakers recognize the correct process to get crystal clear, great tasting wine in the hands of the consumers while knowing that the methods proving successful this year may not be the answer next year. Each year’s harvest will vary, needing proper analysis to achieve great results.”

Mobile Filtration Helps Create Successful Wines

  Along with selling filtration systems and accessories for every need in the winery, ATP Group provides a mobile filtration service that caters to those wineries that can’t or don’t want to invest in stationary filtration equipment. ATP Group uses its equipment and experienced operators on site to process volumes up to four thousand gallons within a ten-hour time frame.

  Mobile lees and crossflow filtration are performed by the same units that the ATP Group sells. You’ll get all the benefits of a quality filtration system when you need it, saving you time and money by having the correct filtering units and experienced personnel come to your winery and perform all functions from setup through final filtration. Then, they’ll perform the cleanup and leave no trace that they were even there, except for that crystal clear, great tasting wine.

Koch Membrane Systems Deliver Crystal Clear Wines

  “The amount of filtration needed during your wine production is a direct result of how your grapes are handled through harvest and crush,” says Nicholas Barretto, North American Wine Sales Manager for Koch Membrane Systems Inc. “Rough handling causes turbulence, which in turn causes more solids to be disrupted and in need of filtering. Although some high-end red wines are not filtered, sediment in the wine is just not very appealing to most consumers. Consumers want clarity, so filtration is necessary to remove the unwanted solids and deliver a crystal-clear end product. Equally important, filtration provides sterility, removing any remaining yeasts and bacteria that can cause secondary fermentation.”

  Commonly used options include crossflow and pad filtration. Crossflow filtration uses a filter medium similar to what one may find within an HVAC system, but the orientation of the filter is different. In crossflow filtration, the filter medium will be situated perpendicular and on end to the flow of wine, allowing a lot of flow while being filtered.

  Pad filtration is another option that allows different grades of pads, rated as coarse, medium and fine to be used during different stages of filtration to remove unwanted solids or polish a wine for clarity and color

  “Think of wine like freshly squeezed orange juice with its pulpy, hazy appearance,” says Barretto. “It’s the same for the freshly squeezed wine. If you have months that you can just let your wine sit, it’ll eventually separate and filter itself just like that bottled orange juice in your refrigerator, with a clear separation between the solids on the bottom and the liquid above.”

  To accelerate that settling, Barretto says that you can add Bentonite, a cleaning medium used for clarifying wines, liquor, beer, cider, vinegar and mead. When added to the wine, gravity makes it slowly descend while attracting other particles on the way to the bottom. It’s the same basic principle of gravity that is used in French Presses with coffee. The resulting crystal-clear wine is removed using a racking arm and sight glass for further processing.

  Flotation filtration is another method of separating the solids that occur after crush when the juice is pumped into tanks. “It’s a little different process than the rest,” says Barretto.

We pump in nitrogen, taking advantage of its extremely small bubble properties to reverse gravity and send remaining solids to the top of the tank for removal.”

  Most effective when your percentage of solids is between ten and twenty-five percent, centrifuges are also a valuable tool for separating solids and can be used on single decanters up through entire batches.

  “And those solids left at the bottom of the tank still have value,” says Barretto. We can filter those down even further to get the remaining liquid out. Some winemakers consider this low-quality product and refuse to use it, but there is real value in the remaining liquids removed to be used in red blends.”

Improvements In Filtration An Ongoing Process

  “We can be better,” says Barretto. “The best improvements have come from advancements in the filtering medium. They’re now reinforced with stronger mesh and coatings, providing a longer-lasting filter to start with. If we provide a way to control the pressure and concentration of the chemicals used to clean the membrane, we can save money by not having to replace as many membranes due to over fouling or damage.

  Ceramic membranes are traditionally expensive and susceptible to damage, but the advantage is that they degrade very slowly, if at all. And technology has allowed the equipment operators to be hands-off, using self-guided touchscreens to control the systems. It decreases user error and also helps during times of employee turnover. Touchscreens provide much-needed simplicity in training to get new employees up to speed.

Koch Membrane Systems Offer Quality With Environmental Responsibility

  Koch Membrane offers high-quality, internet and phone-enabled crossflow filtration systems that are self-cleaning and self-testing. Whether portable or in-house stationary units, they are designed to grow with your business, being expandable by 3 times the volume, cutting down on labor costs by potentially reducing the length of time it takes per filtration cycle or increasing the number of filtration cycles run per day.,

  Completing the filtering cycle while staying environmentally friendly, Barretto tells The Grapevine Magazine that the final retained solids have shown to be valuable and compostable, even being able to be added back into the vineyards as soil additives.

Falconry at Featherstone

By: Michael Strickland

For Louise Engel and Dave Johnson, the decision to fly a raptor over their 23-acre vineyard and winery was a no brainer.

  Like so many other fruit growers across North America, the owners of Featherstone Estate Wineries in Ontario’s Niagara Region had waged a frustrating war against starlings. A flock of 5,000 can consume a ton of fruit in just 10 days, though they cause even greater damage by pecking more berries than they eat. The weeping fruit attracts fruit flies, which encourages rot.

  Grapes are often the last crop to be harvested, long after cherries, strawberries and tender fruit have left the field. With less soft fruit to binge on, bugs start to disappear. By October, grapes are one of the last food sources—a juicy-fruity one no less—visible from the sky.

  “When you look at that vineyard, and you’ve looked after and babied these vines along, and it’s now October 10th, and the fruit is loaded and healthy, and you see a flock of starlings—of five, six or ten-thousand—just descend on you, we run out and we’ve got all kinds of cannons and bangers, it is breathtakingly annoying,” says Johnson.  So, when Engel said she thought she had a solution, Johnson says, “it was a no brainer.”

  Engel attended a bird of prey demonstration in October 2003, four years after the couple opened Featherstone. She returned determined to take up falconry, undertook the 15-month certification required in Ontario and purchased a Harris Hawk named Amadeus.

  Today she is president of the 200-member Ontario Falconry Club. While falconry is a common bird abatement technique in the U.S., she’s not aware of anyone else really adopting the practice in Canada.

  “We’re certainly the only winery that has a resident bird of prey, or that does it on a regular basis,” she says.

  While Featherstone continues to use noisemakers and netting against starlings, few things work quite like Amadeus. “The one thing they never get used to is hawk silhouettes,” says Engel. “When you put a bird of prey in the air, everyone leaves, and it becomes very quiet.”

  Only for a little while, however. Like nets and noisemakers, falconry has its limits. Starlings will find holes in the nets, and they’ll return when the noise dies down, or Amadeus leaves the sky.

  “So it’s effective while I fly him, but then I put him away and go do other things, and it ceases to be effective,” says Engel. “So it’s best not to get on too much of a routine, to fly him as periodically as I can.”

A Working Relationship

  After spending one long night looking for Amadeus, Engel no longer flies him without a tracker. He is a bird of prey, she stresses, with no emotional attachments. He can and will leave if and when he wants. She relies on a trust relationship—a rather mercenary one—to bring him back at the end of each flight.

  Amadeus views Engel as a source of hunting opportunities. She regularly provides him with the chance to hunt starlings and, if he catches something, he gets to it eat it. Since he frightens away far more prey than he finds, Engel is also a ready source of food. When he returns empty-handed, she greets him with bits of quail.

  “So there’s a bond there that is predicated on positive reinforcement and hunting.”

  For growers interested in using birds as a pest control method but hoping for a little more control, Harris Hawks are a popular choice for beginners. They are one of the few avian predator species that hunt in castes, a family unit akin to a wolf pack, working collectively in the wild.

  “When I, as a falconer, am in the field with them, that kind of fits in with their paradigm quite naturally,” says Engel. “They’re a little less independent and a little more predisposed to want to work with you to find hunting situations.”

Natural and Eco-friendly

  Adding Amadeus to the mix of pest abatement strategies fits with Engel and Johnson’s eco-friendly approach to viticulture. They live on their 23-acre property, farming 20 acres of it, and have a vested interest in being responsible stewards.

  Featherstone has been insecticide-free since day one and has adopted a range of natural practices to deal with pests that threaten the vines. Methods include using diatomaceous earth (which is abrasive and irritating to insects), bringing in beneficial predatory insects like the ladybug, and using pheromones to disrupt mating cycles. In 2008, they purchased a recycle sprayer to capture and reuse any spray that does not stick to the vines.

  Johnson is mainly focused on natural ways of keeping his soil as healthy as possible. He plants cover crops (25% legumes, 25% daikon radish and 50% ryegrass) between rows of grapes. He’s also determined to fight soil compaction by reducing tractor passes, aiming to reduce the total by one pass each year.

  “The big issue for us, and the thing we’re working on all the time is compaction of the vineyard floor,” says Johnson. “We’re trying to get tractor trips reduced. I think that’s more important than organics, biodynamics or anything else. We need to get the equipment out of there.”

  To that end, Featherstone has adopted “lamb labor” to help keep the vineyards “sheep shape.”

  Johnson first learned of the practice in 2007, when he spent time in New Zealand as a guest Pinot Noir specialist at the Sileni Estates Winery and Cellar Door. He’d noticed that the leaf pulling was flawless—the low fruit zone was cleared, allowing sunlight and air to reach the grapes, while the upper canopy looked unmolested—and wondered how that was accomplished.

  At the time, Featherstone was paying migrant workers $200 to clear each acre. Sileni were letting sheep do it for free.

  “They can’t afford to irrigate a pasture for sheep,” says Johnson, “and the vineyards are all fenced to keep the sheep out. Then, at a certain time of year, they open the gates, and they allow the lambs to flood into the vineyards. They strip out the grass, then pick their heads up and start eating those lowest leaves.”

  Featherstone has been using lamb labor ever since. Each February, they purchase 25 or more baby sheep and begin confining them to one-hectare areas as soon as the first varietals, the Pinot and Chardonnay grapes, need leaf clearing. That seems the perfect number to entirely clear a hectare in roughly 10 days, after which he moves the flock to the next area. By the fall, they’re clearing the Cabernet Franc.

  Sheep are perfect because they eat only leaves. Goats, Johnson points out, would eat everything and likely destroy the vineyards. Lambs, it turns out, are also the perfect size.

  “What we worked out here is that they need to be no more than 22 inches high at the shoulder. Otherwise,” he says, “they reach too high and are stripping too many leaves. So we have set the vineyard and pruned it particularly so that the fruit zone is sitting at 22 to 32 inches above the ground. That is the reaching height of a lamb.”

  For Engel and Johnson, these eco-friendly practices are about living a more natural life, a life where all aspects are as fully integrated with nature as possible.

  “We’re interested in complete integration, in being integrated with all aspects of the property, and capitalizing on natural relationships where possible,” Engel says. “Whether its natural predator-prey relationships, or it’s help that just naturally grazes in the vineyards and then helps you with leaf removal, those kinds of integrations appeal to us on a number of levels.”

  The approach seems to be producing one key result: great wines. Featherstone turns 20 this year and was just named Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards. The judges recognized Featherstone’s consistent quality across the portfolio, successes in wine awards and overall contributions to the industry.

  Engel and Johnson realize that their approach is not for everyone. For one thing, it reflects their personal beliefs. They also acknowledge economics and other factors would make all of these practices more challenging if Featherstone were larger, or more commercial than craft.

  “We’re still classified as a small winery, at the larger end of small, but a nice size for us, given our tank capacity, the size of our press and all that,” says Engel. “Were we to get bigger, we’d need to get a lot bigger, and we’re pretty happy at this size. It lets us keep our fingerprints all over everything, and stay craft or artisanal.”

Needs of the Animals

  There’s also the added responsibility of owning livestock, which includes letting it out to pasture each morning, rounding it up each night, and maintaining fences. Ontario has problems with coyotes and other predators. Lambs are extremely sensitive to copper, so Johnson can’t use elemental copper, an inexpensive organic spray used to protect grapes from mildew, until after the lambs have cleared an area.

  “It’s an animal, so now you’ve introduced animal husbandry to what is normally horticulture,” says Johnson. “Once you have animals on-site, they add another layer of complication. They need to be handled. They need to be protected and looked after.”

  When you own a bird of prey, the demands are especially high.

  There’s a 15-month apprenticeship program to become a licensed falconer in Ontario. There are stringent rules around housing and care, though the requirements differ from those in the U.S. With only 200 licensed falconers in the province, says Engel, it’s easy to support one another and ensure all members are practicing falconry at the highest level.

  “It’s kind of like owning a horse. There’s a real commitment there,” says Engel. “These birds need to be worked and hunted and flown. They’re not just meant to be put on your glove and shown to your friends. You do them a real disservice is you’re not getting them in the air and hunting them on a regular basis.”

B.C. Wine Industry Launches 10-Year Growth Plan

Penticton, British Columbia, Canada – October 26, 2017: Exterior view of Hillside Winery located in the Okanagan Valley on the Naramata Bench in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.

By: Briana Tomkinson

The wine industry in British Columbia has bloomed over the past 30 years from a handful of grape growers and wine producers to several hundred. As the industry matures, producers are facing new challenges, including shifting consumer preferences and climate change.

  Industry players, including the B.C. Wine Institute, B.C. Wine Grape Council, the B.C. Grapegrowers’ Association, and the B.C. Wine Authority, have responded by coming together to create a unified vision for the wine industry and to support B.C.’s many smaller producers in meeting these challenges.

  According to a long-term strategic plan developed by Artemis Group and O’Donnell Lane for the British Columbia wine industry, the future of B.C.’s relatively young wine industry depends on tourism, export, and brand-building, as well as a strong focus on environmentally sustainable business practices.

  The 10-year plan was released in March at the B.C. Wine Industry Insight Conference in Penticton. Developed over 18 months, it included input from more than 650 industry stakeholders who participated in over 30 meetings in 12 locations throughout the province. The plan was funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

  The plan highlights potential threats to the industry, including climate change, crop failure, land value inflation, decreasing talent pool, competition from exports and Canada’s fledgling legal cannabis industry.

  The Wine 2030 plan includes 12 strategic recommendations to strengthen the B.C. wine industry, including committing to industry-wide sustainability standards, promoting wine tourism and links with restaurants and other hospitality partners, and building name recognition for B.C. wines in leading export markets.

  B.C. Wine Institute President and CEO Miles Prodan said that many of the recommendations are in line with initiatives already underway, which he said was a good sign that the industry is on the right track. The plan has been endorsed by the Wine Institute’s board of directors and will influence operations planning going forward.

  “We’ve been doing too much, and spreading ourselves too thin,” Prodan said. “Now that we’ve sat down and identified what we need to do to sustain our growth, we can be more focused. This will rally the industry around the key objectives and strategies.”

  The number of grape wineries in B.C. has ballooned from just 17 in 1990 to more than 280 today. According to Wine B.C., wineries in the province welcome over a million visitors a year to its 370 licensed wineries.

  More than 90% of B.C. vineyards are located in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, which boast ideal growing conditions for grapes: short, hot growing seasons in a dry, desert-like microclimate that is distinct from the rainy, cool coast. The area is known for its extreme temperatures, dipping as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

  Other Official wine-growing regions in B.C. include the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet, and the Kootenays. Sub-regions include Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Falls, Naramata Bench and Skaha Bench.

  There are over 900 vineyards in B.C., representing more than 10,260 acres of planted land. The ratio of white to red wine planted is nearly even, with red representing 51% of grapes planted.

  Consumer demand for locally produced wine is strong. B.C. VQA wine is the second-best-selling category in the province, representing about one-fifth of market share. The top-selling category is non-VQA wine produced in B.C., which includes both wine made from local grapes and international blends from imported and domestic wines.

  VQA, or Vintners Quality Alliance, is the official stamp to mark wine that produced with only B.C.-grown grapes. When including B.C.-produced non-VQA blends, B.C. wines represent more than half of the wine sales in the province. When it comes to imports, U.S. wines are the largest segment, at just under 10% of wine sales.

  While local support for B.C. wines is strong, the Wine BC 2030 report notes that future growth depends on exports. More than 90% of the region’s wine production sells within the province. In the next five to ten years, industry players hope to position B.C. wines as a premium product on the international stage. Prodan said another key goal is to lift restrictive interprovincial trade barriers on alcohol to open up new export markets for B.C. wineries within Canada.

  The report identifies that amping up promotion of B.C. as a wine tourism destination is an important tactic to build the brand reputation of B.C. Wines in international markets. According to research from Tourism B.C., inviting visitors to taste wines results in sales more often than not. It estimates well over half of wine tourist visits result in sales for wineries. Other noted benefits included higher margins when wine is purchased directly from the winery, the opportunity to attract new customers and enhance brand loyalty, and also to get detailed customer feedback on products.

  Prodan said that B.C. wine country was already gaining traction as a desirable tourism destination. Many wineries have begun investing in onsite restaurants and accommodations, making the experience an even more memorable one for visitors.

  Sustainability is another crucial area of focus for the industry, and not just for growers. A new sustainability certification program is in development from Sustainable Winegrowing B.C., which is expected to launch next year. SWBC was created by a coalition of viticulturalists, winemakers, hospitality directors, researchers and sustainability and marketing specialists.

  SWBC already offers several free online resources for vineyards, wineries and wine-related hospitality businesses, including online assessments, educational resources and training to help growers protect the health of their vineyards, cut costs and reduce the environmental impact of wine production.

  Because most B.C. wines are produced in desert-like climates, water-use efficiency is an essential component of SWBC’s sustainability education. While the cost of water alone may not be a significant line item on most growers’ balance sheets, SWBC notes that inefficient irrigation can have significant hidden costs, including increased system maintenance, a need for canopy management due to vigorous growth, the need to spray for powdery mildew and other diseases, and additional wear and tear on machinery.

  However, Prodan said the focus on sustainability isn’t just about farming; it extends to every facet of the industry from tourism to trade.

  “Sustainability is not a marketing tactic for us. It’s about taking care of what we’ve got. To be a winery here in B.C., you need to have land. Our wineries are literally tied to the land, so we can’t say if things aren’t good here, we can pull up and go somewhere else,” he said. “We know we have to take care of our land. Without it, we wouldn’t have anything.”

Pillitteri Estates Winery: The Passion Behind The World’s Largest Icewine Producer

By: Adrienne Roman

Globally recognized as the world’s largest estate producer of Icewine, Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-On-The-Lake has provided excellence in viticulture since opening in 1993. Their premium V.Q.A award-winning ice and table wines are widely distributed to local events, businesses, and markets, and are currently being exported to International clientele in 39 countries. 

  The Niagara Peninsula is situated between two of the Great Lakes, Ontario to the North, and Erie to the South. The region is the largest wine producer in Ontario, with primary varietals of Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Vidal. With the protection of the Niagara Escarpment, and the moderating climate of the Lakes, the region’s temperature is similar to prime grape producing regions in France.  The cool climate sub-appellation terroirs allow for the development of diverse root character, complex grape flavours, and a number of new varietals.

  “ We bought a wonderful piece of land, ” said Charles Pillitteri, C.E.O and President of Pillitteri Estates Winery. Pillitteri’s cherished Sicilian heritage remains at the forefront of every aspect of the family business. Working alongside his two sisters, his sharp business acumen is focused on ensuring the winery forges forward for generations to come.

  A single glance of the majestic ten foot tall stainless steel doors leading into the Pillitteri’s press house and cellar reveals the imagination of blacksmith Ken Robertson’s unique vision. Carefully designed linear lines on the ground visually direct the visitor inside where they’re transported on an aesthetic adventure. Both natural and synthetic elements juxtapose together seamlessly to produce a truly imaginative space.  Ceramics, composites, polyurethane and steel tell the elegant story of natural growth, culminating in Robertson’s striking sculpture of the stages of grapes on the vine at the center of the atrium, depicting the flower, to veraison, and finally maturity. Intricately carved vine detail adorns the newel posts of the majestic staircase as you travel downwards and encounter the monolithic, Neo-Norman, and Roman influenced oak barrel cellar.

  Designed by close friend and Niagara architect Frank Wieler, a monumental 500-inch terrazzo top concrete table spans the length of the room, with 23 carved stainless steel chairs cleverly mounted on the adjacent walls representing the number that has significance to the family history. Each chair has it’s own designated position at the table, represented by a smaller carved triangle in the stainless steel denoting where it should be placed among the others. The unique chairs were commissioned by Pillitteri’s parents to tell the symbolic story of the winery.  

  Red wines are separate from the whites in the cellar, where the French and American oak barrels work to increase oxygen interaction, enrich development, and further flavour. The press house is no less impressive, with its large-scale open concept glass viewing station and colossal pressing machines that utilize pulse air technology to set the grapes in motion while ensuring the pressure remains gentle. 

  “Volume isn’t an issue for us, we’re a declassification house and we wait for the next great vintage. We’re all about quality and sustainability, it’s definitely our priority,” said Pillitteri.“ I’ve done a lot of method research and I’ve found that the carbon footprint can be remarkably higher with many types of organic farming. Copper doesn’t break down and can kill the insects that work to help the vines. We need to keep the vines as healthy as possible. “

  Their innovation excellence in grape and wine research was recognized in 2011 with an Ontario Premier’s Award for their work on the Verona Appassimento Project.  The family developed techniques now utilized by other wineries in the production of Appassimento wines. They planted the first Verona varietals in Ontario, and laid the foundation for their Riserva Famiglia series. Grapes produced during the Verona project were used to make their 2010 Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc, which won Red Wine of The Year and Gold at the Ontario Wine Awards in 2015. These reserve wines are hand crafted in the classic Appassimento style, as it was previously done for generations in Italy. 

  The chosen grapes are harvested by hand and dry naturally in racks over weeks or even months in order to concentrate the sugars.  “ We follow French rules when it comes to making reserve. I look to classification when choosing quality wines, an intense richness with our cabernet’s, elegant and not too tannic. Our reserve fruit definitely helps our baselines,“ said Pillitteri.

  It all started with one Black Tartarian cherry tree and a flash of entrepreneurial spirit.

  After settling in Niagara-On-The-Lake in 1965, Pillitteri’s parents Gary and Lena recruited their three children to sell the cherries on the roadside of their Niagara Stone Road property.  Their small fruit stand on the farm soon flourished and they opened “Gary’s Fruit Market” in 1973. In 1988 they decided to focus on the grapes, and the Pillitteri Estates Winery was born. The cherry orchard remains, as does their very first muse, that century-old Tartarian tree. Today, the first thing that appears on the fruit stand in the morning when the winery opens is a plump basket of cherries for sale.

  The Pillitteri passion for wine can be traced back to the region of Racalmuto in Sicily, where grandfather and father worked together grafting and tending to the vines. Gary, now 83 years young, remembers the oppression as though it were yesterday. The widespread hunger in Italy in the 1940’s instilled in him a social consciousness as a six-year-old child that brings tears to his eyes as he recounts a poignant story that changed his outlook on life at a very young age. Gary’s father Calogero asked him to give his shoes to another little boy who was barefoot, his first life lesson about the importance of giving to those less fortunate.  Gary has lived his life echoing those same values, working in farming and politics with the hopes of eliminating discrimination and promoting greater equality among his fellow men.  “ My life is a dream,” he said with a smile. Currently building a tree house for his grandchild, there’s definitely no slowing down in sight for this hardy yet hospitable Pillitteri gentleman.

  As official supplier and private label for Team Canada, Tokyo 2020, and the Paris Olympics 2024, the Pillitteri family are honoured to support the Olympic foundation with proceeds from their sales while helping to further expand the rapid growth of the Ontario’s wine industry.

  The true jewel in the crown for the Pillitteri family is their cherished Icewine. With the Niagara climate moving rapidly into colder temperatures after the summer season, it’s perfectly suited for the icewine grapes that like to go hot and cold, picked at just the right time when they are golden and endorphins are at their highest.  It’s been an evolution since their first Icewine developed in 1988, with 13 styles now available.  Pillitteri decided early on that he needed to take an assertive stand in the promotion and showcasing of Canadian wines, setting his sights on the Asian wine market, and making lasting connections in Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

  The Pillitteri’s understand that not every season will be what they had hoped. Luckily with a world-famous Reserve Vidal, and a Canadian trophy for Best Dessert Wine with their 2013 Reisling Icewine at the Six Nations Wine Challenge, the winery has the freedom to study, explore, and create. 

With over 1000 awards from top competitions, and 200 000 visitors a year, Pillitteri Estate Winery’s dedication to perfecting the art of making Canadian wine is evident. Each creatively designed wine label tells a story that follows the installations that came before. The Pillitteri logo is a representation of their treasured family Carretto, a hand-painted Sicilian cart, traditionally used to bring wares to the market, and personally brought to Canada in 1952 by Pillitteri’s grandmother.

  Wine bias of the past is waning in favour of a new set of rules, discerning clientele who look for quality and taste, and appreciate the progressive innovation of, “ old world meets new world “ experimentation.

  Pillitteri’s winemaker Aleksandar Kolundzic returns to Europe regularly to explore traditional methods, yet always keeping up to date on the latest practices to bring back to share with the winery.

  The Pillitteri story exemplifies the Canadian dream. With reverence for the past, fierce determination, and three generations of family strength, the Pillitteri’s are moving forward with their expanding collections, presenting Canadian wines to the world that are truly worthy of the award-winning recognition they so deserve.

Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire.

No matter where you go or turn, you’ll always end up at home.

For more information contact:

Pillitteri Estates Winery

 1696 Niagara Stone Road