“From Concord to Cabernet, The Ontario Wine Industry Celebrates 200 Years”
From the Ontario Viniculture Association.
Johann Schiller is acknowledged as the “father” of the Ontario Wine industry. Schiller opened Ontario’s first wine
venture in 1811 in the area of Mississauga now known as Cooksville, where he offered to the public wines made
from wild labrusca grapes. From this humble beginning, the Ontario wine industry took root.
The subsequent story is convoluted, with periods of excitement, prosperity, political pressures, and virtual
abandonment. After prohibition ended in 1927, it took until 1975 for the first new winery to open in Ontario. The
success of Inniskillin and other 20th-century wine pioneers has fostered a lively industry in Ontario, and this no
doubt played a role in the evolution of fine wineries elsewhere in Canada. There are currently more than 160
wineries licensed in Ontario, including traditional wineries, fruit wineries, and meaderies.
The industry has also survived upgrades to its vineyards. Until the 1980s, Ontario vineyards were dominated by
labrusca grape species, including Concord, Niagara, Delaware, and Isabella. Vine pull-out began in the 1960s and
the majority of vineyards were replanted with cold-hardy hybrid grapes such as Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Baco Noir,
and Marechal Foch. Another replanting drive began in 1978, when growers replaced many of the hybrids with
European vinifera varieties: Chardonnay, Riesling, the Cabernets, Pinot Noir, and many others.
Ontario has always been proud of its best wines. A report from the Paris Exposition of 1867 heaped praise on the
wine entries from Ontario. This tradition of creating award-winning wines is firmly ingrained in the industry, and
Ontario wines bring home international awards year after year, and not just for its icewines.
OVA requests that the Government of Ontario officially recognize this exciting milestone by declaring 2011 to be
the Bi-centennial of the Ontario Wine Industry.
OVA also invites Ontario wineries and wine organizations to join the celebration by helping to spread the
message “Ontario wine: 200 years and growing”. OVA also hopes to see wineries planning special events in
recognition of this achievement.
Ontario Wine Industry Milestones
1811: Johann Schiller, the father of Canadian winemakers, makes wine from local and imported North
American grapes and offers them for sale to the public.
1857: Porter Adams begins cultivating grapes in Southern Ontario.
1864: Canadian Vinegrowers Association is formed in Ontario.
1864: The Dunkin Act of Upper Canada allows counties to be "dry".
1866: Vin Villa is built on Pelee Island.
1867: Canada becomes a nation.
1873: George Barnes Winery opens in Niagara.
1874: T.G. Brights Winery opens in Niagara.
1894: John Sotheridge plants vineyards in Stoney Creek.
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1916: Prohibition begins. Ontario has 67 wineries producing medicinal and sacramental wines, and wines for
1927: Prohibition ends. Alcohol jurisdiction is handed over to the provinces. Ontario implements a moratorium
on new winery licences.
1960s: Growers begin to rip out North American species and plant French-American Hybrids. Baby Duck is the
best-selling wine in Ontario.
1933 to 1974: After much consolidation in the industry, there remain only six wineries in Ontario.
1974: Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser apply for a winery license -- the first since prohibition -- and open
Inniskillin winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
1978: Ontario implements a pull-out program to remove native and labrusca grapes species, to be replaced by
hybrids. Wineries are allowed to import grapes/juice/wine to fill the gap until Ontario’s vineyards reach
1988: Ontario vintners create the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA).
1988: Canada signs Free Trade pact with the US. A massive grape pullout is initiated to wean wineries off
hybrid grapes, replacing them with vinifera varieties.
1990: VQA is adopted as BC’s wine standard.
1997: Cool Climate Vinicultural Institute opens at Brock University in St. Catherines.
1999: 100th winery licensed in Ontario.
1999: VQA is entrenched as Ontario law.
2000: Fruit Wines of Ontario is founded, and establishes the Quality Certified (QC) program for non-grape
2001: Ontario Wine Content Act becomes law.
2007: Prince Edward County is recognized as a vinicultural region.
2008: Niagara Region establishes a system of microclimates.
2009: There are 164 licensed wineries in Ontario, ranging from small family operations to factory wineries, fruit
wineries, and meaderies, with facilities in virtually every segment of the province.
2010: Prince Edward County emerges as Ontario’s second largest viticultural region.
2011: Ontario celebrates the Bi-centennial of its wine industry.