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Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for June 23, 2000


Winery of the Week

Winegrowing in Canada?
No Way, Jose


1970—Those who knew Canadian wines found it hard to take them seriously.

1991—Inniskillin's Vidal Ice wine wins a Grand Prix d'Honneur at Vinexpo in Bordeaux.

...from Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine

What Happened?

Eastern Canada discovered ice wine, the luscious dessert nectar made from partially-frozen ripe grapes. Let's return to the enlightenment of the '70s, as told by the late dean of American wine writers, Leon Adams, Wines of America, 4th Ed.:

Inniskillin's Vineyard

Inniskillin's Vineyard

"Not so far from Niagara Falls is Ontario's first estate winery. It is named Inniskillin, for the two-century-old farm on which young nurseryman Donald Ziraldo began planting wine grapes when he graduated in horticultural science from the University of Guelph, in 1971. Karl Kaiser, an economics teacher and home winemaker from Austria, bought some vines from Ziraldo, became his winemaker and partner, and then took advanced studies in biochemistry and bacteriology at Brock University. The partners made their first vintage in 1974 in a converted packing shed. A year later they were granted the first new Ontario winery license issued since 1929. They since have built a large modern winery and expanded their vineyard...[and had sensational success with their ice wines]."

Hybrid Hype

One of those sensations is made from a French hybrid, a cross between Ugni Blanc and Seibel 4986. Seibel? When the deadly phylloxera insect struck French vineyards over a century ago, the French created crosses between American and French varieties. The goal was a hybrid with the phylloxera-resistance of the former and the wine flavors of the later. Albert Seibel was one of those hybridizers. This cross that Inniskillin uses is called Vidal. We covered it in detail in the May 27, 1998 WineDay titled, "Thick Skin, Great Wine".


My class just tasted the 1996 Inniskillin Vidal Ice Wine. It won Best of Tasting by a full 20% over the second-place bottle...very unusual; the top wine's margin usually is about half that. The Wall St, Journal's Gaiter and Brecher agree. Their opinion of the same wine:
One of Canada's most famous wines. Huge spice-peach nose. Big taste that almost takes your breath away. Loads of character, with some bite.

The winery's other champion is made from another cold-climate grape, the Riesling. It's covered in the March 30, 2000 WineDay, "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

Just the Facts

Inniskillin Wines
Ontario, Canada
Phone—(905)468-2187, FX—(905)468-5355
USA Contact—Pam Hunter, (707)963-8473, FX (707)963-4758
Wine Prices—$65 to $75 (375 ml.)
Location—60 minutes drive from Toronto, Ontario


We think Canadian ice wines are the greatest dessert wines developed in the 20th century. Hat's off to Donald and Karl, who led the charge.

Postscript—The Behavior of Solutions

If you partially freeze a mixture of water, sugar and a few other grape compounds, the first solids to form are ice crystals. If you remove the solid ice, the remaining liquid is much richer in sugar and flavor compounds. While Inniskillin vineyards look normal in the summer, (pictured), Donald knows they are a bit different at crushing time.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created June 2000