Mapping a timeline of the innovative and pioneering Canadian winemaking brand from 1974 to today.
Inniskillin: A Timeline of Pioneering and Innovation in Winemaking
See how an Austrian and an Italian started a Canadian wine with an Irish name.
Inniskillin is Launched
Canada's first estate winery, Inniskillin, is internationally renowned for its award-winning wines and for its pioneering role in establishing the Canadian wine industry. On July 31, 1975, its founders made history when they were given the first winery license in Canada since Prohibition. Inniskillin came into prominence on the global stage with its win at the 1991 Vinexpo, in Bordeaux, France, when its Vidal Icewine was awarded the highest Grand Prix d'Honneur, changing the way the world sees Canadian wine.
1974 - THE FIRST PLANTING
Unfazed by critics, Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser plant Inniskillin’s first vinifera vineyard on Line 3, across from the current Niagara Estate winery.
1975 - FOUNDED IN HISTORY
Inniskillin Wines Inc. is granted the first winery license from the LCBO since prohibition in 1929. The name was inspired by the land's former owner, the Colonel of the Inniskilling Fusiliers.
1978 - NOW ENTERING THE ESTATE
Grapes replace cornfields as Inniskillin moves from the original site to the Brae Burn Estate.
Just tell us we can't. - DONALD ZIRALDO, CO-FOUNDER OF INNISKILLIN
Inniskillin: Setting the Quality Standard in the 1980s
1982 - NOW DOUBLING UP
Innisikillin buys 50 acres of the prestigious Montague Vineyard, later doubling the size in 1991.
1984 - PIVOT AND PAY-OFF
Inniskillin's first Icewine harvest of naturally frozen Vidal grapes after the first attempt in 1983 went to the birds -- literally. Pivoting to netting protected the crops in 1984 and beyond.
1988 - SETTING THE STANDARD
Led by founding chair Donald Ziraldo, VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) was established, ensuring quality and credibility in the region.
Inniskillin: Big-Picture Thinking in the 1990s
1991 - C’EST IMPOSSIBLE!
Inniskillin brings Canadian wine into the international limelight by winning the Grand Prix d’Honneur at Vin Expo, France for Karl Kaiser’s 1989 Vidal Icewine.
1994 - CROSS COUNTRY EXPANSION
Inniskillin Okanagan began as a collaboration between Inniskillin and the Inkameep Indian Band (Okanquen Tribe). The label design reflected the heritage of the land.
1999 - RAISE A GLASS
Riedel Glassware and Inniskillin collaborated to create the ultimate Icewine glass. Its shape was perfected to guide the wine to the parts of your palate that best interpret the nuanced flavours of Icewine.
1999 - NEXT GEN WINEMAKERS
The Inniskillin Hall at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) opened at Brock University. This is the training ground for some of our future winemakers.
Inniskillin Innovates into the Next Century
2000 - A SPARKLING NEW MILLENNIUM
Kaiser launches a VQA Sparkling Icewine to celebrate the millennium.
2003 - READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Inniskillin is named the New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
2007 - ADDING TO THE ROSTER
Bruce Nicholson joins Inniskillin as Winemaker and Inniskillin Niagara switches to clean, renewable electricity from grape skin and seeds.
2011 - TOP 50 IN THE WORLD
Drinks International Magazine names Inniskillin one of the World’s 50 Most Admired Wine Brands and Top Ten in North America Wines for the first time.
2014 - STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM
Derek Kontkanen is promoted to winemaker at the Okanagan Estate after training at Brock, assisting at Inniskillin Niagara and learning from Bruce Nicholson.
2014 - THAT’S GOOD, EH?
IWSC names Inniskillin the Top Canadian Producer of the Year.
2020 - INTERNATIONAL CLOUT
San Francisco International Wine Competition: International Winery of the Year.
2021 - WINEMAKER 3.0
Nicholas Gizuk becomes the new Niagara Estate Winemaker after honing his craft under the watchful eye of Bruce Nicholson.
2021 - SWEET SUCCESS
International Wine and Spirits Competition: Sweet Wine Producer of the Year.