It is hard to believe it has been thirty years. I would have been 19 at the time I attended the first annual Cuvée.
It was a new concept, a celebration of Ontario Winemaking. A one-of-a-kind event at the time, where you could not only taste the wines, but meet the winemakers. I did sometimes wonder what the fuss was all about. I mean why would anyone care so much to meet my Dad?
Debi Pratt, long time friend of our family, founding member of Cuvée and Director of Public Relations at the time for Inniskillin, insisted however that people wanted to meet the winemakers at the heart of the rebirth of Canadian winemaking. She explained that people were intrigued to understand the changes that were happening in Ontario. Debi understood that what my father was doing was different and that his commitment to quality in winemaking was visionary at the time. But for those of you who knew my father, Karl Kaiser, he was a quiet, reserved man, just as happy to be behind the scenes working in his cellar.
It often took some coaxing by Debi to get my Dad to attend the annual celebration but when someone would take a moment to ask him about his wines, you could tell from that somehow embarrassed smile he often had, that he truly enjoyed sharing his knowledge and passion with others. Perhaps what made him so charming was the fact that he was so humble and unaware of the contribution he was making to Canada. My brother recently shared a story when he asked my Dad what it felt like to have changed the face of Ontario wines – his response – “What did I do?” is year’s Cuvée Celebration in March was bitter sweet as I did lose my Dad this past November and the sting of this personal loss is still fresh. However, it was also a point in time that I finally grasped the number of lives my Dad has touched and understand the inspiration he has been to so many people.
He was quite simply a great man who believed in great things. Always proud to share his wines from Canada, even in times that many were not keen to even try let alone be proud to drink them. His gift to Niagara, Ontario and Canada was his vision for excellence in winemaking. His gift to me, aim high and never accept the ordinary. This past March at the annual Cuvée Celebration we celebrated the 30th milestone of excellence in winemaking and tasted out of the ordinary wines; so be proud and raise a glass this summer to Niagara’s exceptional wines and winemakers!