Vines in late November at Pillitteri Winery
Committed to creating a legacy for the generations to follow him, 3rd generation wine grower Gary Pillitteri founded the Pillitteri Winery in 1993. Gary began working in the vineyards alongside his grandfather and father in his native Sicily, and carried his passion for viticulture to Canada. Initially he and his wife grew fruits and vegetables on the estate, but in 1998 Gary decided to experiment with making a small batch of Vidal Icewine. Upon winning a gold medal right out of the starting gate, Gary decided to plant vines and open a winery. Today there are just over 100 acres of vineyards, and Gary’s grandchildren [who grew up working in the vineyards] are managing the export side of the winery, establishing themselves as the 5th generation of the Pillitteri winemaking family. Alongside their renowned Icewine, [which is currently receiving many accolades in the UK] the estate also crafts traditional Niagara wines such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Additionally, Gary’s roots in winemaking in Sicily is evident in their Riserva Famiglia line, in which grapes from only the best vintage years are handpicked and crafted using the Appassimento method, creating big, bold reds.
During my recent trip to Niagara on the Lake the Pillitteri Winery was my first introduction to the splendid Niagara region. I enjoyed a tasting of nearly a dozen wines and purchased quite a few bottles to take home! [They do not charge for their tasting flights, they ask instead for a donation to be made to one of the many charitable organizations they support.] They offer vineyard and winery tours, which I had fully intended on doing, but I unfortunately ran out of time, so I will have to wait until my next trip to NOTL [Niagara on the Lake].
The number 23, and combinations of 2’s and 3’s has been significant to Gary Pillitteri throughout his entire life. He has crafted ‘Twenty Three’ wines to be versatile, easy drinking, and easy to pair with food.
Twenty Three Sparkles
Racy and light with intriguing aromas of citrus, banana and a hint of toast. Cheerful apple and lemon notes mingle with generous bubbles, traces of honey linger between each sip. Fun and fresh on its own or with light snacks.
Twenty Three Rose 2013
Deep, clear red-coral in colour with radiant aromas of strawberry and candied violet. Vibrant, strawberry and cherry flavours are held in check by a beaming acidity. A clean, fruity finish keeps you reaching for more. Sweet but not cloying, this is a fantastic sweet wine for those that say they don’t like sweet wines. [It only ranks a 2 out of 10 on the LCBO Sweetness Descriptor and Sugar Code Comparison Chart, denoting it is “medium-dry”. Or seco for Italian wines, sec in French and trocken on German labels.]
Twenty Three Cabernet Merlot 2013
Transparent garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, gingerbread spices and dry, dusty earth [dry tannins were beckoning from the aroma]. Sturdy, yet polished flavours of cherry, cranberry and leather wrap seamlessly around a core of food friendly acidity, finishing with dry tannins, spice and hints of plush fruit. As with the other Twenty Three wines, this is lovely to sip on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.
Prices listed are in Canadian Dollars