|Brian Schmit - Photo by Carole Bozzato|
Brian fills his social stream with photos that capture his life on the Bench beautifully – landscapes, storm clouds, grape vines, they all make regular appearances as he chronicles his day. Following along, you learn not just about the beauty of the region, but about the hard work of the vineyard, the long days, the weather headaches (his icewine picking posts are always shiver-inducing) and the actual labour that goes into making all those bottles of Vineland wines.
Brian is the reason I blog about wine. I’ll put that out there right up front. I was sucked in by his photos, by the #CabFrancTuesday hashtag he and Tinhorn Creek’s Sandra Oldfield cultivated a few years back, chronicling a year of growing Cabernet Franc in Niagara and the Okanagan. I reached out via Twitter, Brian responded, he invited me into the world of Canadian wine and, because of that, I found my place in the world.
|Photo courtesy of winesinniagara.com|
This attitude imbues all that Vineland Estates does. Their wine club is one of the most popular and loyal in the region (they have an almost zero attrition rate). The wine club is a special one. They host parties, send wines from other wineries alongside their own, even host trips to Germany with members. “We know there are world class wine experiences everywhere,” Brian says. “There are world class wine experiences down the road at Tawse, there are world class wine experience is Italy and Spain and France, no matter where you go, there’s going to be fantastic food, because great food always exists symbiotically with great wine. The only way we can differentiate ourselves from all these other great experiences is by creating an emotional connection.”
Shawn and I celebrate many of our big moments with a bottle of Vineland Estates Elevation Riesling—it reminds me of how I first fell in love with wine, how that first sip of Vineland Riesling exploded on my tongue and I understood that terroir and winemaking came together so that Brian was able to create this wine that spoke right to me. Sure, I’ve since had $150 bottles of California Cabernet and vintage champagne that made me swoon, but it’s always your first love that holds a place in your heart. For many in the Ontario wine community, Vineland is the place that always feels like home.
|Photo courtesy of winesinniagara.com|
|Photo courtesy of uncorkontario|
When Brian’s father sold his interest in Sumac Ridge in 1986, Allan stayed on as winemaker, but Brian was done with wine. He had seen the angst and financial troubles that could come with owning a winery and he wanted out. He spent four years working as a commercial scuba diver in B.C. Allan, meanwhile, accepted an offer to move to Niagara and work with German winemaker Hermann Weis.
For years, Brian’s father had been selling cuttings of Hermann’s vines in Canada’s Okanagan Valley and Hermann had been trying to break into the Niagara region. But local winemakers felt that it was too cold for vinifera, especially Riesling, in Niagara. So Hermann, determined to show that the terroir was perfect for Riesling, bought land on the Beamsville Bench and turned an old Menonite home into a winery. Vineland Estates was born.
Arriving on September 12, 1991, Brian took over winemaking duties in 1993 and hasn’t looked back since. He has become well-known for helping other wineries get their start and for being an enormous champion for Ontario wine.
He plans to continue documenting his adventures in winemaking across his social media platforms so that friends and fans can follow along with the journey from farm to table (his recent harvest photos have shown just how much hard work goes into every bottle of his wine). Vineland Estate wines are available across Ontario at the LCBO and at the winery.
* A huge thanks to Rick Van Sickle from WinesinNiagara.com and Shawn McCormick from UncorkOntario for allowing me to use some of their photos in this article. I highly recommend both their blogs.