This year's Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Trophy for Canadian Sweet under £15 went to Pillitteri, Vidal Reserve Icewine, Niagara Peninsula 2012 (10.5%)
- No other Golds in this category
When producing icewine, winemakers generally hope for harvest temperatures of between -10°C and -12°C, and as the fruit is often harvested by hand and during the chill of the night, this endeavour is a true labour of love.
If you accused Pillitteri as being in love with, or even slightly obsessed by, icewine, then you’d certainly have the evidence to back up the claim. There are certain varieties one might think of as classic icewine grapes, but Merlot, Sangiovese or Shiraz are normally not among them. However Pillitteri has crafted icewines from each of those three varieties – indeed it was the first to do so. It also came up with the world’s first sparkling Cabernet icewine in 2008.
But this Trophy-winner comes from Vidal – a far more established icewine grape – and it is with this variety that the modern-day winemaking story of Pillitteri began.
In 1948 at the age of 12, Gary Pillitteri moved to Canada from Sicily with his father who used to grow grapes on the Italian island. Fast forward a couple of decades and the now-married Pillitteri purchased a fruit farm at Niagara-on-the-Lake, opening Gary’s Fruit Market in the early 1970s. In the late 1980s, out of interest, he produced a small parcel of Vidal icewine and entered it into an amateur winemaking competition. It won agold medal.
Spurred on by this success, the fruit market gradually morphed into a winery, with 1993 heralding the opening of Pillitteri’s first bona fide winemaking facility; today annual production stands at 100,000 cases.
Written by Decanter