Pillitteri Estates Winery proudly continues a family tradition of viticulture and winemaking excellence. For Gary Pillitteri, the opening of Pillitteri Estates Winery in June of 1993 was the culmination of a lifetime dream. Since arriving in Canada from his native Sicily in 1948, Mr. Pillitteri was able to achieve his lifelong dream of opening a winery using his many years of experience as a grape grower in Niagara and as an amateur winemaker.
The turning point had taken place five years earlier in 1988, when Gary won a gold medal for his Icewine in Niagara’s amateur wine competition. He knew then that he could make his dream come true. He had been thinking about early retirement and could only build a professional and high-quality winery with the expertise and full commitment of his family. Pillitteri Estates Winery is truly a family enterprise: Gary’s son Charles is CEO President of Sales, daughter Connie is CFO President of Operations, daughter Lucy is CMO President of Marketing and son-in-law Jamie Slingerland is the Director of Viticulture. Gary and Lena’s eldest grandson Richard, having spent his life working in the vineyards, in the retail store and traveling the world opening new markets for Pillitteri wines, has taken on the role of VP of Sales, while grandson Jared continues to develop new export markets in Europe, Central America, Asia and Australia as the Export Manager. Both Richard and Jared have taken up the mantle to keep Pillitteri a true family business for a third generation.
From Gary’s first Gold Medal to the winery’s more recent honors, Icewine remains Pillitteri’s flagship wine. Icewine is a rare and exquisite wine made from frozen grapes in cool-climate wine regions. Canada is the world’s best-known premium Icewine-producing country. Pillitteri Estates Winery has grown to become the largest estate producer of Icewine in the world, and also one of the most innovative, creating a wide variety of Icewines, using Vidal, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Cabernets, Shiraz, Merlot, Sangiovese and Semillon varietals. Pillitteri Icewine is exported to more than 39 countries worldwide. The family’s commitment to producing Canadian Icewine of exceptional quality and character is on display in every bottle of Icewine sold. In fact, 27% of all Canada’s Icewine exports come from Pillitteri Estates Winery.
In addition to Icewine, Pillitteri Estates Winery has chosen to produce 100% locally grown table wines that come from grapes grown in Niagara. Pillitteri is committed to promoting the ideals of locally made wine because they are wines with a sense of place, a quality taste and support the local economy. Most grapes are harvested primarily from the family’s 175 acres of vineyards, planted with vitis viniferaand French Hybrid grape varieties. Following the exacting standards of the VQA (Vintner’s Quality Alliance), production has increased steadily since the winery’s opening and currently stands at roughly 100,000 cases. Production is carefully controlled to ensure that the family’s high quality standards are maintained.
The Pillitteri winemaking philosophy is to produce the finest wines possible from the highest-quality Niagara Peninsula grapes. Each vineyard and each wine is treated individually, since each has its own personality that must be expressed. Winemaker Aleksander Kolundzic’s goal is to produce consistent, quality wine: rich, full-bodied reds; fragrant, lively whites; and luscious Icewines, in a variety of styles to suit every palate. As a cool-climate wine region, vintage variation is common in Niagara, and so classifying our wines by vintage is quite common. Therefore, Pillitteri’s reserve series of wines are only produced in the best vintage years. Pillitteri is committed to the process of classifying strong vintages, setting a standard for what we classify as Reserve Wines. For weaker vintages the reserve juice is blended back into its popular Meritage-style Cabernet Merlot to enhance flavors and quality.
This approach has earned Pillitteri Estates Winery a reputation for excellence. In the past 20 years, the winery has been honored with more than 1,000 medals, at both domestic and international competitions. Many of the most prestigious awards are on display in the awards gallery at the entrance to the winery. In addition to wine awards, the winery has received high praise from wine writers the world over. In addition to wine accolades, Pillitteri has received community, industry and government recognition including Jamie Slingerland 2015-16 Grape King, Gary Pillitteri 1981-82 Grape King, 2015 Company of the Year Award, 2013 Ontario Food Exporter of the Year and 2011 Premier’s Award for Agra-Food Excellence. Each and every accolade is a testament to the family, quality and tradition at Pillitteri Estates Winery.
Pillitteri wines and Icewines are available in Ohio at many wine retailers. Ask for them from your local wine shop.