From as early as 1521 and perhaps before, there had been agriculture in Herbert Konzelmann’s family.
His ancestors lived in a small village called Uhlbach, a mere twenty-minute journey from Stuttgart in Germany. Grape growing in Uhlbach dates back to 1108 and the annual wine festival, Weindorf, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the farmers and winemakers.
In the 1890s, Friedrich Konzelmann, Herbert’s great-grandfather, was a successful restaurateur in Uhlbach, presiding over several prominent eateries in the area. As successful as his restaurants were for their food, patrons were flocking for a taste of the house wine, and were surprised to learn of its origin. Years before, Friedrich had been experimenting with homemade wine in the cellars of one of his restaurants, and in the spring of 1893, the people of Uhlbach were treated to their first glass of Konzelmann wine.
The word spread quickly and soon Friedrich was making so much wine, he had grown too busy to continue managing his restaurants. In a bold move, he hung up his apron, sold the restaurants, and purchased new winemaking equipment. Thriving though it was, demand for Konzelmann wine became too much for what German land could warrant; as population density in that area of Germany was predominantly occupied by residential homes and buildings.
Fourth generation Herbert Konzelmann, who sadly passed away on Friday at 84 years of age, had been in charge of operations for two decades and was looking for solutions. An avid gamesman, he took a hunting trip to British Columbia, Canada in the early 1980s, where stories of a fledgling wine country were emanating. Further investigation led him to the Niagara Peninsula, where several viticulturists had had great success, grafting European vinifera vines onto local, heartier rootstalks. Herbert returned home and consulted with his father. After much deliberation, the potential of new world expansion seemed impossible to turn down, and Herbert set to work. In 1984, he packed up every machine and vine he owned, gathered his family and possessions, and set off for Canada.
Herbert purchased forty acres of peaches at 1096 Lakeshore Road in picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and soon replaced many of them with vinifera plantings. The Konzelmann residence was constructed in the summer of 1986, and the winery opened its doors for business on April 9, 1988. The peaches did not go to waste, but instead became the talk of the town, as many of them were fermented into Konzelmann’s famous Peachwine.
Always on the lookout for new opportunities, Herbert purchased a second vineyard in 1997, a mere ten minutes inland from the lake. In 2006, the southeastern corner of vines was removed and work began on the observation tower and retail boutique.
It was here Herbert found truly found himself and began paving the way for what would become a flourishing wine region. His vision from the very beginning was always built around hospitality and providing a product for everyone to enjoy.
As the many guests began to frequent the lakefront winery, the accolades and awards began to roll in. From being honoured by the Ontario Wine Awards as the first Winemaker of the Year to receiving international recognition from Wine Spectator as the first Icewine to be mentioned in the Top 100, Herbert continued to remain humble and dedicated to his craft.
Today Konzelmann Estate Winery is flourishing, producing more than 500,000 bottles each year and employing a team of close to 75 people. New experiences, immerse tastings and vast array of wines continue to highlight the wineries success; all of which emanate from a vision Herbert Konzelmann had over 35 years ago.
Herbert will be remembered as a kind and generous man who devoted himself to his family and winery. A loving father, grandfather, great grandfather and husband to wife Gudrun, who recently celebrated 57 years of marriage. A pioneer in every definition of the word, Herbert was a guiding light for the industry he came to love since first arriving from Germany in 1984. And who’s legacy will forever continue with each bottle of Konzelmann wine.
Our profound condolences go out to the Konzelmann family at this time.
Visitation will be held at the George Darte Funeral Chapel
585 Carlton Street, St. Catharines
Monday November 8th
2:00pm – 4:00pm and 6:00pm – 8:00pm
— Information provided by Konzelmann Estate Winery