By Susan Desjardins
The Konzelmann family delivers consistently good and good-value award-winning wine—10 medals at this year’s Ottawa Wine Challenge and 5 at the Canadian Wine Awards. It’s hardly surprising considering the focus and dedication of 75-year-old Herbert Konzelmann, and his extensive winemaking pedigree.
His great grandfather, Friederich, a successful restauranteur and wine connoisseur, created the Konzelmann Estate Winery in Germany in 1893. Friederich was soon producing over 200,000 litres of wine, and the successful business was passed from one generation to the next. Herbert joined the family business in 1958 and continued its growth, almost doubling production. But as time went on, grapes became harder to source, urbanization and industry increased the demand for land, and vineyards became more expensive to acquire.
As a consequence of a hunting trip to the Canadian West, Herbert began planning in the early 1980’s to move Konzelmann Estate Winery to Canada. He returned to Canada, to Niagara this time, asking a real estate agent to show him some available land on the lakeshore.
As the agent was regretfully stating there was no land available, Herbert noticed a peach orchard – ‘What about this land?” he said through his interpreter. Herbert took a suitcase of orchard dirt back to Germany for analysis. The combination of mineral-rich soil, available sunlight and heat units much greater than in Germany convinced Herbert to purchase that peach orchard, sell the operation in Germany and move to Niagara. He established the 7th winery in the area, participating in the Niagara wine renaissance with such other pioneers as Don Ziraldo, Karl Kaiser, Ewald Reif and Joseph Pohorly.
Today, winemaster Herbert Konzelmann continues the family tradition, planting new varieties, experimenting with different styles of wines and, above all, continuously improving quality from one vintage to the next. He recognizes that expectations have changed over the generations.
“In the old days, there was little competition and wine was made locally using the old methods of our ancestors. Now, with the wide range of wines available to consumers, wine purchasers expect high quality.”
Herbert’s focus is on German-style wines with softer structure, as his customers prefer. The acquisition of advanced equipment, the availability of precision instruments and acquired know-how contribute to the quality of the wines. In addition, he has purchased a second property inland, where the growing conditions and terroir favour the big red varietals as well as Riesling.
Herbert Konzelmann moved his family to Canada when it had a very poor reputation for wine. They arrived with ten 40-foot containers with the family winemaking equipment and all their household possessions.
“We took a big risk coming here. When I went to the Canadian Consulate for our visas, I explained that we were immigrating to Canada to start a winery in Niagara. The officer laughed and told me to go ahead and help make Canada famous,” says Herbert, “I am very glad I bought this land, and I feel great pride that I have created wines that have put Canada on the wine-world map.”
The future looks bright for Konzelmann as Herbert’s grandson, Fabian Reis, returned last year from his grandfather’s alma mater in Germany. He has joined the family business and is actively involved with Herbert in winemaking decisions and operations. Together, they will continue to build on Konzelmann’s successful foundations.
The wines reviewed below, produced from a range of grape varieties, are all available from the LCBO and offer an excellent quality-value equation. The Winemaster’s Collection and the new Family Reserve series are produced only in select vintages from vines of a certain maturity cropped to low yields. It’s hard not to share Herbert’s pride in his wines, as this selection clearly demonstrates that wine purchasers seeking approachable, well-made wines need look no further than Konzelmann and Canada’s Niagara wine industry.
Konzelmann Rosé ‘Methode Cuve Close’ NV, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$16.20 (184176) 12.5% alcohol
A pretty pale salmon, this wine displays frothy and quite persistent effervescence, a whiff of red fruit and sweet pastry on the nose. Tasty, tangy cherry, raspberry and a hint of pomegranate mingle on the palate with a notion of herbs and citrus zest, making for a zesty mouthful and a lengthy crisp finish. Enjoy this excellent value with friends over the holiday season.
Konzelmann ‘Fresco Secco’ Riesling Frizzante 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula $14.95 (193565) 12.0% alcohol
Fleetingly effervescent in the glass, this wine offers aromas of pear, passion fruit and citrus. Crisp, lively flavours of mineral, grapefruit and ripe apple flow across the palate on a gentle fizz, a light touch of sweetness lingering on the clean, tangy finish. Pop the cork of this great off-dry party starter, and enjoy a glass as an aperitif or with light hors d’oeuvres.
Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula $12.15 (219279) 12.5% alcohol
A consistently flavourful and well-made wine, this Pinot Blanc offers quite effusive aromas of flowers, ripe orchard fruit and citrus. Dry, somewhat flinty, the initial roundness of pear and sweet/tart apple flavours mingle with pithy grapefruit on a spine of lively acidity. The attractive flavours and texture, and the extended, refreshing, slightly spritzy finish of this light bright wine make it a great value. If you enjoy crisp, flavourful whites, this is your go-to wine for seafood or white meats.
Konzelmann ‘Winemaster’s Collection’ Late Harvest Gewürztraminer 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula $17.20 (392357) 14.0% alcohol
Like its 2008 predecessor, this is a gorgeous wine for Gewürz lovers. Reflecting the outstanding vintage, the alluring full aromas rush from the glass—spiced honey, rosewater, tropical flowers and fruits. Off-dry, on the full side of mid-weight, the wine offers a luscious texture and flavours reminiscent of sweet spice, apricot, marmalade and grapefruit zest. There’s a lovely balance of fruit and acidity, as the round texture melts into a fresh and tasty pithy finish. The heft and flavours of this wine make it a lovely complement to Chef Michael Smith’s Orange-Ginger Beef.
Konzelmann Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula $12.95 (122946) 12.5% alcohol
A deep ruby hue, aged 7 months in small French oak casks, this Cabernet offers intriguing yet classic aromas of smoke, cedar, dried herbs and cassis. Dry, mid-weight, the perceptible tannins and lively acidity frame a wash of blackberry and raspberry fruit that mingles with subtle notes of spice and vanilla through a mouthwateringly fresh and savoury finish. Enjoy this wine with pork shoulder roast or braised chicken thighs with mushrooms and carrots.
Konzelmann ‘Spatburgunder’ Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula $12.95 (200584) 12.5% alcohol
You may never get the glass to your lips, so beguiling are the aromas of spice, toasty vanilla and ripe cherry/ berry fruit. Dry, mid-weight, nuances of sweet spice and white pepper mingle with tangy, flavourful red fruit—strawberry, cherry, plum and a whiff of pomegranate. A clean, defined backbone of acidity and supple tannins assure a bright, fresh and persistent finish. This is a great value and a fine choice for trout roasted with sautéed mushrooms and spinach.
Susan Desjardins has been involved with the marketing and promotion of wines for the last seven years, as an accredited sommelier. In addition to organizing and hosting both public and private wine and food events, she has participated in the LCBO’s Vintages release tastings for the last two years.
An Algonquin College-trained sommelier and avid amateur ‘foodie’, Susan spends her spare time traveling in Western Europe and the wine regions of Canada meeting winemakers, vineyard owners and other wine industry personalities.
Her background in business, horticulture and wine has created a broad interest in and familiarity with the diverse aspects of the industry. She seeks value and quality in wine tasting, and looks forward to introducing people to varietals and wines with which they may not yet be familiar.