These are the wines that have put Canadian Icewine on the map. Established in 1975 by Austrian chemist Karl Kaiser and Italian-Canadian agriculture graduate Donald Ziraldo, Inniskillin is now synonymous with top quality Icewine, a fact underlined by the numerous awards they have won.
Following Kaiser's retirement in 2006, Bruce Nicholson joined Inniskillin in Niagara as senior winemaker. Born and raised in the Niagara Peninsula, Bruce sits on the technical committee of the Vintners' Quality Alliance in Ontario (VQA) and the committee for Sustainable Winemaking of the Wine Council of Ontario. Bruce has become Canada's most awarded winemaker, including notable awards from Vinitaly (Gran Premio) and the UK-based IWSC and Decanter World Wine Awards for his Icewines, in addition to being twice named Top Winemaker at the San Francisco International Wine Challenge.
The harvest of the precious Icewine grapes cannot begin until temperatures drop below -8°C for a sustained period of time. Inniskillin does not pick at temperatures warmer than -10°C, which reduces yields and increases quality; the frozen clusters are often harvested in the dead of night. The grapes are pressed immediately while their water content is frozen in crystals, leaving only a few coveted drops of concentrated, intense liquid, which is then fermented slowly over the following months to become Icewine.
Inniskillin consistently sets the bar much higher than its competitors. Although the VQA sets the minimum Brix level at harvest at 35 degrees, Inniskillin generally harvests at between 40 and 42 degrees while, instead of a minimum of 18% of residual sugar, Inniskillin's wines have between 22 - 28%. As a result, the wines are richer, more intense and merit their higher price.
With 235g/l of residual sugar, the Riesling Icewine is the driest in the range; crisp, lively citrus and apricot characters balancing the sweetness. Fermented in French oak barrels, the Gold Vidal is richer in style with cloves, cinnamon and toast complementing stone fruits and marmalade. Bruce Nicholson developed the unique technique to create sparkling Icewine. Exotic and honeyed, a lively effervescence gives freshness to the palate with an impressive 275g/l residual sugar. The Cabernet Franc, decadent and festive with sophisticated ripe, candied red fruit, has a lovely tannin structure and seems drier than its 242g/l residual sugar would suggest.