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Niagara’s Schmidt family honoured with award of distinction for contribution to Canadian wine industry

Canadian wine
From left to right, CVA chair Tony Stewart, Brian Schmidt, Lloyd Schmidt, Dan Paszkowski (CVA president), Noreen Schmidt and Allan Schmidt.

The Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) announced the 2017 Canadian Wine Industry Awards winners on June 21.

These awards recognize the success, leadership and outstanding commitment in Canada’s grape wine industry and the individuals, organizations and businesses that have gone above and beyond in their contribution to Canada’s wine industry.

This year, a theme that emerged in many of the several outstanding nominees which were received, was that of family, with so many wineries being generational businesses.

The recipient of this year’s Award of Distinction, which is regarded as the highest form of peer recognition within the Canadian wine industry, is the Schmidt family of Niagara. Lloyd Schmidt played a critical role in vinifera vines expanding in Canada, sourcing some of the best cuttings from nurseries from around the world, and importing and selling them in Canada.

Sons Allan and Brian Schmidt head up Vineland Estates Winery, one of the pioneering wineries promoting winery tourism in Niagara. Under their leadership, Vineland has expanded the reach of Canadian wines, with Vineland’s wines being sold in countries as far away as Russia, China, Australia, Japan, as well as much of Europe. The brothers have both made an incredible contribution to the Ontario wine community, having given up considerable time to advance the Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario, the Canadian Vintners Association, the Wine Council of Ontario, the CCOVI at Brock University and the Niagara Wine Festival.

Father Lloyd and sons Allan and Brian attended the industry gala in Niagara-on-the-Lake to receive their joint award. Lloyd Schmidt spoke on behalf of the family, saying, “I am very honoured to receive this award alongside my sons Allan and Brian. From the Okanagan Valley to Niagara, our family has enjoyed every moment of this incredible journey, which continues with my sons managing Vineland Estates Winery today. The move from labrusca to vinifera grapes in Canada has been instrumental to the growth of the Canadian wine industry during my lifetime, and I am proud to have been a part of that shift.”

The Wine Industry Champion Award was presented to Hans Christian and his late Father Hans Wilhem Jost, pioneers in the development of the wine industry in Nova Scotia. Hans Senior immigrated to Nova Scotia from Germany in 1970, introducing German grape varietals and techniques to Nova Scotia. A founding member of an informal association of Nova Scotia wineries, his son Hans Christian went on to be significantly involved in the formalized Winery Association of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Grape Growers Association. Both father and son were also strong advocates for policy change that have had lasting impact.

Suzanne Corkum, owner of Nova Scotia-based Sainte Famille Winery, said of Hans Christian: “He truly nurtured growers and wineries alike even though they were competitors.”

Hans Christian Jost said: “I have always said that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and I think that is true of the collaborative work done by those in the Canadian wine industry today. Specifically, I am thrilled to see the wine industry in my home province of Nova Scotia having grown to 20 wineries in such a short period of time.”

The CVA also announced the addition of a third award category to the Canadian Wine Industry Awards — that of Winemaker of the Year, designed to celebrate the up and comers of the viniculture world nationwide. This will be launched ahead of the 2018 Awards, adjudicated by MNP LLP, with nominations to open on Oct. 1.

The awards were presented on June 21 at an awards reception following the 50th Annual General Meeting of the CVA, an event which brings together winery representatives from across Canada to help inform vintners on market opportunities, domestic and international growth and the building of more sales channels.