We’ve all been there. Get up. Shower. Coffee. Drag yourself to work . Drive back home. Dinner. Sleep. Repeat. It can feel like an endless rut (even for a winemaker from time to time). Sometimes a little spark, a little burst of something outside of the daily routine can change everything.
That must have been how Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Piccoli, top photo, felt when he concocted the latest standalone brand to emerge from the wine cellars at one of Niagara’s largest wineries.
Piccoli had the freedom to craft a new brand of stylistic wines that don’t necessarily conform to conventional wisdom. The new wines, called Arterra, are an expression of the winemaker’s artistry, a “provocative” approach to crafting “classic Niagara varietals,” says Piccoli during a tasting at the gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake winery.
For the first two wines in the new portfolio, Piccoli took Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and applied two very different techniques to separate them from the pack.
For the Arterra Pinot, he sourced the grapes at the midway point between the escarpment and Lake Ontario at a Constellation vineyard near the Niagara airport. This is a more robust, full-bodied expression of Pinot, “not as elegant as the escarpment,” Piccoli admits, which is perfect for the wine he’s trying to achieve here.
A portion of the vineyard was picked early at 20 Brix and dried (appassimento style) 6-7 weeks at Jackson-Triggs to reach 27 Brix. The rest of the grapes were picked at 23 Brix.
“I think it’s a bit provocative,” Piccolo says. “It shakes things up with a different style, but I believe Niagara is much more than what we see.”
This is the first appassimento style wine bottled by the Jackson-Triggs family.
For the Chardonnay, the grapes were sourced from Jordan, most of it from the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, which used to be the top vineyard for Constellation Canada’s top Chardonnays and Pinots under the Le Clos Jordanne banner.
Piccolo decided to make this wine with minimal sulphur, very little oak (in fact, no new oak at all) in a much cleaner, pure expression of the fruit.
Where the brand goes from here, Piccolo isn’t sure, but Pinot and Chard will likely always form the backbone. He’s considering a sparkling wine and red blend for the next release in a year from now. Only 500 cases of each wine is made.
Here are my reviews (available at, Select Wine Rack stores, and Jackson-Triggs winery):
Arterra Pinot Noir 2015 ($30, 90 points) — A bold and sassy nose with notes of cassis, kirsch, raspberry jam, barrel spices and juicy plums. It’s mouth-filling on the palate with plush tannins, soft texture and a vivid expression of rich red fruits, black currants, espresso bean and spices.
Arterra Chardonnay 2015 ($30, 91 points) — Working with some of the best Chardonnay in Niagara, this less-is-more style lets the vineyard do all the work. The first whiff is all about the chalky minerality of the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard with fresh pear, green apple, tropical fruits, subtle oak spice and vanilla and citrus on the edges. It is a gorgeous Chardonnay, an honest expression of the vineyard, with a balanced and fresh approach on the palate revealing integrated pear, apple, citrus zest and soft spice notes. So fresh and vibrant through a long finish.
The winery was founded in 1993 by two friends and colleagues, Donald Triggs and Allan Jackson, who bought out Labatt Canada’s wine interests and created Vincor International (eventually acquired by the U.S. wine company Constellation Brands, which is being bought by the Ontario Teachers’ Fund). The state-of-the-art winemaking facility is situated in Niagara-on-the-Lake with contemporary technology housed in buildings that honour the area’s natural landscape. Each year, the Niagara winery yields over 120,000 cases of wine over a range of styles and pricepoints.
About the winemaker
Growing up in Northeastern Italy in one of the world’s most established wine regions, it is hardly surprising that Marco Piccoli’s interest in winemaking started at an early age. However, it wasn’t until his late teens that his true passion was fully realized.
In 1995, after completing high school where he specialized in agriculture, Piccoli started work as a cellar hand at a local winery called Bidoli Vini. Recognized for his unbridled enthusiasm and keen desire to learn, he soon assumed more supervisory roles, including winery assistant. In 1999, Piccoli accepted a one-year management position at another local winery called Dall Azienda Agricota Collis Anna in Il Nappo, where his responsibilities broadened to include cellar management and those of assistant winemaker. After working on the 2000 vintage, Piccoli was convinced that he should pursue formal studies in winemaking.
For the next four years, he satisfied his thirst for knowledge with a joint masters degree in grape growing and winemaking from the University of Udinein Italy and the University of Applied Science in Wiesbaden-Geisenheim, Germany. Working in Germany’s Rheingau wine region was a life changing experience for Piccoli, and it was here that he gained hands-on experience in cool-climate viticulture.
Prior to beginning his master’s studies in Germany, Piccoli jumped at the opportunity to come to Canada when a new partnership between the University of Udine and the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University was announced. Keen to learn more about new world winemaking, and the unique terroir of the Niagara Peninsula, Piccoli set his sights on returning to Canada to pursue a career as a winemaker.
In 2004, Piccoli accepted an internship at the Inniskillin Niagara Estate Winery and was then offered the position of assistant winemaker at the Constellation Brands production facility. While there, he heard about the winemaker opportunity at Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery and applied. Piccoli has been part of the Jackson-Triggs team since September 2005, and works hard to bring the recognized Jackson-Triggs style to each wine that he makes.
Having worked on a number of vintages over the past 10 years in Italy, Germany and Argentina, Piccoli’s experience in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres has provided him with the knowledge and skills that he now brings to his work at Jackson-Triggs.
Piccoli has an aversion to cheese, a bit odd considering his Italian heritage. It stems from a childhood incident where he was given some melted cheese in his soup. It coagulated into a gooey mess in his bowl and he’s had nightmares ever since. He even tried overcoming his cheese fears once, forcing himself to try a variety of cheeses, but it was to no avail — he just couldn’t do it. To this day, he can only tolerate the Mozzarella family of cheese. Piccoli just may be the only Italian on Earth who doesn’t eat cheese.