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Ziraldo comes full circle, teams up with Inniskillin with his own icewine brand

By Rick VanSickle

Donald Ziraldo, co-founder of Inniskillin and founder of Ziraldo Icewine, has partnered with Inniskillin Estate Winery to now produce his Ziraldo Icewine, at the Inniskillin Niagara Estate Winery.

The Ziraldo Icewine continues to have strong connections back to the Inniskillin and the Ziraldo VQA Riesling Icewine is made from estate-grown fruit and “naturally frozen on the vine.”

Planted in 2007 on the original Inniskillin winery site in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Ziraldo vineyard exclusively grows Riesling grapes. The gently rolling hillside of the sandy loam terroir was also established as a research vineyard in collaboration with the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI, Brock University).

Niagara icewine

“I’m very excited to be returning to my roots,” said Ziraldo, owner of Ziraldo Estate Winery and co-founder of Inniskillin.

To celebrate, Inniskillin and Ziraldo have partnered to create a limited-edition Icewine gift-pack featuring the classic 2019 Inniskillin Niagara Estate VQA Riesling Icewine and 2014 Ziraldo VQA Riesling Icewine. This gift-pack will be available for purchase at the Inniskillin Niagara Estate winery boutique in the coming months, as COVID restrictions are lifted. In the future, Ziraldo will also be playing a role to help continue to share the Inniskillin story supporting its legacy in producing quality wines since 1974.

Ziraldo is perhaps the most important ambassador for Canadian wines this country has ever seen. From the significance of the Inniskillin winery with co-founder Karl Kaiser to his relentless promotion around the world of VQA table and icewines, more than anyone, Ziraldo is the international face of Canadian wines.

He “officially” retired from Vincor in November of 2006 and had no regrets about first the “merger” with Vincor and later the takeover by Constellation Brands.

“I saw it as an opportunity to build a bigger brand,” he said in a story looking back on Vincor a few years ago.

After he resigned, Ziraldo took some time off. But “after a couple of years of skiing and reading every book ever written,” he was back smack dab in the middle of the Canadian (and international) wine industry.

Inniskillin founders, Karl Kaiser (left) and Donald Ziraldo (right) faced countless challenges before winning the Grand Prix d’Honneur for their 1989 Vidal Icewine. (CNW Group/Arterra Wines Canada)

First, he worked to resurrect the 100-year-old Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland, Ont. (a world-class horticultural facility in Niagara), which, until he stepped in, was on the verge of extinction.

Next he bottled and sold a Riesling Icewine under the Ziraldo label from John Howard’s Niagara plantings. He also planted his own organic Riesling vineyard and later an icewine under his label with his own grapes.

He’s was also involved in Senhora do Convento Port wines from the centuries old Quinta do Convento de Sao Pedro das Aguias winery, located in Tavora near Oporto, in the Duoro Valley. Ziraldo was approached by owners Colt Resources of Montreal to breathe life into the 370-acre estate. As managing director, he quickly established the brand in the global marketplace.

Another project Ziraldo threw himself into has a family connection. It started when Ziraldo was given an honorary citizenship in Friuli in the town of Fagagna, Italy, where his parents were born. He decided to plant the ancient grape Picolit, which is native to the area, in Fagagna to honour the memory of his parents.

With his renewed relationship with Inniskillin, Ziraldo has come full circle.

Note: Part of this story was sourced from a news release provided to Wines In Niagara.