Donald Ziraldo

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Donald Ziraldo
Donald Ziraldo in Riesling Vineyard, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Donald Ziraldo in Riesling Vineyard, Niagara-On-The-Lake
Known forInniskillin wines

Donald J.P. Ziraldo is a Canadian winemaker and businessman, and a Member of the Order of Canada. He has often been hailed as one of the most important figures in Canadian wine history.[1] He has been credited with starting the first winery in Canada since Prohibition. He and his partner/winemaker, Karl Kaiser, were the founders of Inniskillin Winery in Niagara, Canada.[2][3]

Inniskillin winery[edit]

In the spring of 1974, Ziraldo was determined to start a winery after he and Karl Kaiser, an Austrian-born wine-maker who had immigrated to Canada a few years earlier, found the wines in Ontario to be "undrinkable".[4] Ziraldo got permission to obtain a winery license from Major-General George Kitching, who was the chairman of the Liquor Licensing Board of Ontario. Along with Kaiser, they worked together for 30 years to establish Inniskillin and put Canadian wines, which were virtually unknown at the time, on the world wine map.[5]

Their most well-known accomplishment was winning the coveted Grand prix d'honneur at Vinexpo, France in 1989 for the Inniskillin Vidal icewine. Ziraldo would be the man to create an internationally recognized Canadian wine category with icewine.[6] Today, Canada is one of the world's largest producers of icewine and sells a significant quantity to the Asian markets, largely due to the efforts of Ziraldo's vigilant marketing prowess over the past 30 years.[2][7]

Varietal wines[edit]

While tasting Ontario wines in the early 1970s, Ziraldo and Kaiser discovered very little wine existed in the premium market segment in Canada.[7] They seized the opportunity and set out to break new ground producing premium varietal wines from premium grapes grown in the Niagara Peninsula. In order to succeed, Ziraldo and Kaiser knew their future in the wine business was dependent on using the Vitis vinifera grapes, the family of grapes used to produce the fine wines in the established wine regions of the world.

When sourcing these limited grapes became a challenge in the early 1970s, Ziraldo and planted vinifera grapes which included Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay and formed the quality base for Kaiser to work with.[8] Kaiser and Ziraldo's first attempts to make icewine failed miserably due to a flock of hungry starlings devouring the grapes.[9] Afterwards, they would cover the grapes with netting and use bird bangers to keep the starlings away from the tempting frozen grapes on the vines.

Later years[edit]

In 2006, after Inniskillin was sold to Constellation Brands, Ziraldo left Inniskillin and in the years to follow started his own brand of icewine and Riesling table wines under his name, "Ziraldo".[10] In 2011, Ziraldo was asked to manage a Port winery in the Douro Valley, Portugal, under the brand Senhora Do Convento.[11]

Ziraldo is the author of several books, including Icewine: Extreme Winemaking and Anatomy of a Winery.[12]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1998, Ziraldo was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest tribute paid to its citizens, and he also received an honorary Doctorate of Laws (LL.D.) from Brock University. In 1999, the National Post Magazine chose Ziraldo as one of the top twenty-five Canadian CEOs of the century.

In 2008, Ziraldo was awarded the Premio Masi by his peers in Verona, Italy, and the Folio D’oro in Friuli, Italy in 2010. Ziraldo also received Canada's highest agricultural honour in 2013 when he was inducted into the Agriculture Hall of Fame.[13]


  1. ^ Aspler, Tony, "Kings of Ice", December 26, 2007
  2. ^ a b Ice wine kings - Ontario
  3. ^ [1],
  4. ^ Bramble, Linda, Niagara's Wine Visionaries, "Donald Ziraldo's Zap", 2009
  5. ^ Aspler, Tony, Vintage Canada, 1983, pg.26
  6. ^ Johnson, Hugh, Wine:A Life Uncorked, pg. 353.
  7. ^ a b Wine Visionaries of Niagara, Bramble, Linda, Lorimer, 2009.
  8. ^ Canadian wines, Donald Ziraldo of Inniskillin Winery, interview on StarChefs
  9. ^ Black, John, E and Roy, Kayo J., Niagara Birds, 2010, pgs 97-101.
  10. ^ Niagara: A Fortuitous Position, Szabo, John, MacLean's, Wine In Canada, Summer 2013
  11. ^ The COR, Vansickle, Rick, Wine Tidings, July/August 2013.
  12. ^ Lancette Arts - book nonfiction Icewine - Lancette Arts Journal
  13. ^ Co-founder of Inniskillin inducted to hall of fame | Niagara Advance

External links[edit]