//Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries Adapt to Covid with Andrea Kaiser

Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries Adapt to Covid with Andrea Kaiser

Introduction

What’s it like harvesting grapes in sub-zero temperatures? Is there really any difference between a vineyard on one side of the road and a vineyard on the other? Is this a good time for you to visit a winery? What’s changed with Covid? How does the Taste the Season at Home initiative allow you to support local wineries?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Andrea Kaiser, Chair for the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Director of Marketing at Reif Estate Winery.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

Highlights

  • What’s it like being part of an Icewine harvest without automation?
  • Which harvest tradition did Andrea start while embracing the Great Indoors?
  • How did Karl Kaiser’s wine press end up breaking during a particularly cold harvest?
  • As a wine consumer, how does the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) benefit you?
  • Is there really much of a difference between geographically close appellations?
  • How can Russian nesting dolls help you understand appellations?
  • What’s Andrea’s earliest memory with wine?
  • Why shouldn’t you feel intimidated by wine?
  • Why should you look forward to 2020 wines from Niagara-on-the-Lake?
  • How have Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries evolved their customer experience during the pandemic?
  • Is this a good time for you to visit a winery?
  • What precautions are Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries taking to prioritize health and safety?
  • Why should you make a reservation to enjoy holiday treats at Drea’s Wine Co.?
  • How has the demand for online sales changed in recent months?
  • How can you take advantage of the wider selection of wines available online versus in the LCBO?
  • How does the Taste the Season at Home initiative allow you to bring the winery experience into your home?
  • What resources can you find on the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake website?
  • How can you learn more about the story of winemaking in Niagara-on-the-Lake?
  • What are the most famous wines you’d want to try from each of the sub-appellations of Niagara-on-the-Lake?
  • How do the climatic and geological features you experience affect the growing potential of Niagara-on-the-Lake?
  • Why should you be especially proud of the Canadian wine industry?
  • What can you expect from Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries in 2021?

 

Start The Conversation: Click Below to Share These Wine Tips

 

About Andrea Kaiser

Andrea Kaiser grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake amidst a transformation ignited by her father’s vision in winemaking. Karl J. Kaiser was none other than co-founder and winemaker of Inniskillin Wines, that revolutionized an industry. He is considered by many to be the pioneer of modern winemaking in Canada. His pursuit of creating exceptional wine revolutionized local viticulture and grape growing sparking a transformation in winemaking.

As the daughter of Karl, she had the unique opportunity to see first-hand the birth of an industry but also an iconic Canadian brand. His influence on her was also great. She was inspired by his vision and his absolute commitment to excellence in winemaking. Her father also understood the value of authenticity and taught her that above all else, it is the foundation of all things exceptional.

While her father’s ultimate career path was born of his passion, like Andrea’s own, it began as a winding road that was cemented by serendipity along the way. Her father first intended to become a priest, was then a teacher and later found his true calling when he by accident, became a winemaker. Andrea’s career began as a restauranteur and along the way she has been a sommelier, politician, writer, teacher, marketer and now winemaker. She recently launched Drea’s Wine Co., making wines in memory of her father, who affectionately called her ‘Drea’.

Andrea’s deep passion for local food and wine has been the common thread in her career path. Her incredible journey has provided her with an insight and a depth of understanding not only of her community and country but a global industry. You could say she was born into a life of food and wine and now shares this passion with others.

About Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to some of the oldest and most established wine-producing vineyards in Canada. Our wineries have been growing and producing world-class wines from vinifera varietals for more than four decades. The efforts of pioneer winemakers in this region were instrumental in propelling Canada onto the world’s wine stage and positioning Niagara-on-the-Lake as a premium wine-growing region.

 

Resources

 

Join me on Facebook Live Video

Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat. Want to know when we go live?

Add this to your calendar:

 

 

Tag Me on Social

Tag me on social media if you enjoyed the episode:

 

Thirsty for more?

  • Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
  • Join me on Facebook Live Video every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern for a casual wine chat.
  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.

 

Transcript & Takeaways

Welcome to episode 101!

What’s it like harvesting grapes in sub-zero temperatures? Is there really any difference between a vineyard on one side of the road and a vineyard on the other? Is this a good time for you to visit a winery? What’s changed with Covid? How does the Taste the Season at Home initiative allow you to support local wineries?

That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m chatting with Andrea Kaiser who grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake amidst the winemaking revolution fueled by her father, the legendary Karl Kaiser, co-founder and winemaker of Inniskillin Wines.

Andrea has since created her own illustrious career in wine and is now the Chair of the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. She’s going to chat with us about how the wineries are coping with Covid, tips on visiting wineries now, and what you can do to support these local businesses, including the special holiday packages of wine you can buy online now. I’ll include a link for that in the show notes.

You can find a link to how you can support these local wineries by purchasing their wines online in the show notes as well as the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, including this evening if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published — we’re tasting some terrific California wines, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/101.

Now on a personal note before we dive into the show…

My six-pack of Queenston Pinot arrived just in time last Friday…

I’d finished my last one the night before.

(No, I don’t drink a bottle a night, I use Private Preserve Wine Spray to spread them out over several nights 😉

And yes, variety is the spice of wine, but right now, I’m finding comfort in old standbys.

Plus, I get to feel virtuous for supporting local, grassroots businesses…

Okay, on with the show!

 

You can also watch the video interview with Andrea that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.

 

Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed my chat with Andrea Kaiser. Here are my take-aways:

  1. I found it fascinating and heartening to hear how wineries have adapted to Covid and made visiting them more personal like restaurant dining, with reservations and individual attention rather than the crowded tasting bar scene of the before times.
  2. It’s also great to hear that the harvest is going well and this could be a blockbuster year for red wine lovers.
  3. I love Andrea’s stories about helping with the icewine harvest and driving down the road with her father between vineyards. Many of these wineries are family-owned and provide jobs and legacies for generations. They need our support more than ever and I’ll include a link in the show notes so that you can do that, and take advantage of some of the terrific deals they’re offering right now.

You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, head winemaker at Benjamin Bridge in the Gaspereau Valley of Nova Scotia. Since 2008, he’s crafted some spectacular wines, especially his range of sparkling using the traditional Champagne method.

In the meantime, if you missed my chat with Amy Savoury about the wines of Nova Scotia, episode 82, go back and take a listen. That’ll give you a great overview of the dramatic changes that have happened with the province’s winemaking. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips that Andrea shared.

You can find a link to how you can support these local wineries by purchasing their wines online in the show notes as well as the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm, including this evening if you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published — we’re tasting some terrific California wines, and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class — that’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/101.

Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a wine that you purchased from a local winery!

 

Transcript

Andrea Kaiser 0:00
We had closed doing deliveries, our accounting office doing deliveries, like everybody.

Natalie MacLean 0:05
winemaker was doing deliveries closed.

Andrea Kaiser 0:08
And all the wineries are functioning that way everyone was just pitching in. And it was so exciting though, because we were so scared and nervous. And here was this community of wine drinkers coming together to support local. I might do 200 orders in a week traditionally, like fairly decent, but then I think that one weekend, we did like 2000 orders.

Natalie MacLean 0:28
Oh, my gosh, all online. Wow.

Andrea Kaiser 0:29
Yeah. So that was pretty substantial. I mean, it’s reduced a little bit now that people are getting out. But it’s really exciting to see that people are realising they can order direct from a winery and also get wines that aren’t normally available. You can get some really great special lines, but you won’t see any lcbo

Natalie MacLean 0:51
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, do love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations. That’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 101. What’s it like harvesting grapes in sub zero temperatures in the middle of the night? Is there really any difference between a vineyard on one side of the road and a vineyard on the other? Is this a good time for you to visit a winery? And what’s changed with COVID? How does the taste of the season at home campaign allow you to support local wineries? That’s exactly what you’ll discover. In this episode of The unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m chatting with Andrea Kaiser who grew up in Niagara on the lake in the middle of the winemaking revolution, fueled by her father, the legendary Karl Kaiser, co founder and winemaker of inniskillin wines. Andrea has since created her own illustrious career in wine and is now the chair of the wineries of Niagara on the lake. She’s going to chat with us about how the wineries are coping with the lockdown tips on visiting wineries now, and what you can do to support these local businesses, including some special holiday packages of wine that you can buy online. Right now. You can find a link to how you can support these local wineries by purchasing their wines online now, in the show notes plus some really terrific deals they’re offering as well as the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm. Eastern, including this evening. If you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published. We’re tasting some wonderful California and wines tonight. And how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash 101. Now a personal note before we dive into the show, so my six pack of queenston Pinot Noir arrived just in time last Friday. I’d finished my last one the night before. And no I don’t drink a bottle at night. I use private preserve wine spray to spread them out over several nights. And yes, variety is the spice of wine. But right now I’m finding comfort in old standbys. Plus I get to feel virtuous for supporting local grassroots businesses. Okay, on with the show.

So the COVID lockdown has really impacted wineries hard. They’ve had several months where they couldn’t even have any traffic or visitors to their tasting room. So sales went down their restaurant clients have been closed for quite a while, not even back at full capacity. So how are they coping? What strategies are they’re using? We’re going to talk today about how you can support these local grassroots businesses because I believe there’s never been a better time to drink wine and feel really good about it. We’re going to be chatting with someone who is then at the heart of this issue in wine country anagrams on the lake. Andrea Kaiser grew up in Niagara on the lake. Her father is the legendary Carl Kaiser, who was co founder and winemaker at inniskilling wines. He really fueled the revolution of winemaking in Ontario, and arguably In Canada, now Andrea has created her own illustrious career in wine. She’s the director of marketing for rife winery in Niagara on the lake. And also, she co founded her own wine label drays wine company, and that’s where she makes wines in loving memory of her father because her father called her draya. She’s also the chair of the wineries of Niagara on the lake Association. And she joins me now from Niagara on the lake. Hello, Andrea.

Andrea Kaiser 5:33
Hi, Natalie, thank you so much for the lovely introduction. And thanks so much for having me really appreciated.

Natalie MacLean 5:38
Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure. We all want to hear from you and what you and the other folks in the Niagara on the lake are experiencing right now. But before we dive into that, I would love to hear the story about your first ice wine harvest, especially since your father is just so legendary and associated with it.

Andrea Kaiser 5:55
Of course, of course. So you know, him and his partner Donald’s rolled over well known for their iconic ice lines and winning the Grand Prix Donner in France with the 1989 vintage, which there’s a couple of bottles still in the basement really have to find a special occasion to open those up. Yeah, so the early days I sign was all by hand. And it’s interesting because it is partly mechanical. Now. It’s pretty cold out there. So looking for creative ways. to not have to handpick, but in the very early days, it was all hand picked. And so I was very excited to be part of the ice mine harvest. My first time i was perhaps a teenager at the time. 1516 I must admit, sadly, that I only lasted about two and a half hours. Really cold. So I created a new job for myself on the iPhone harvest the annual tradition was that I would make chilli for all of the icewind harvesters.

Natalie MacLean 6:53
You are so smart. We’re kind of soul sisters in that when everybody goes skiing. They all go up the slopes, I get the drinks ready back at the chalet? Exactly. Not a big fan of indoors is terrific. Exactly. So

Andrea Kaiser 7:08
that was my big contribution each year, I would stay in the boutique and make a nice big pot of chilli and keep the coffee going with the payments at the end of the show. So that’s really

Natalie MacLean 7:18
cold out there, isn’t it? There’s a harvest night. colder than minus eight degrees Celsius. I mean,

Andrea Kaiser 7:25
yeah. And I recall interestingly, I mean, you talked about temperatures, you know, minus eight minus 10. I remember when you’re my dad is coming home in the morning and saying we had to stop. It got too cold. I was like, What do you mean? And he’s like, well, the grapes are like marbles. I can’t get anything other though. So he went to bed for a few hours woke up in the morning when the sun started to rise. And slowly the grapes started to melt a tiny bit so that we could even get the extracted juice out of these marble heartbreaks. Because once you get past minus 16, there’s just nothing that comes out of the grave. So Wow. And I remember talking to your father in person at inniskillin was one of the most memorable interviews I ever had Andrea, and he talked about those ice marbles and the fact that one harvest I forget which one it was that it broke the wine press. They were so hard.

Natalie MacLean 8:11
It actually broke the press

Andrea Kaiser 8:14
on Samia, when he came home and somebody had to go back in the morning, we just can’t do anything with these grapes. So So yeah, it was of course a learning experience for him as a winemaker from the very beginning. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen there’s an old CVC video in the archives that shows one of the first harvest they had and just to see the technologies they were using the tractors, everything. And it was such a learning curve for both the table wines and the ice line. Right. So it was really interesting time

Natalie MacLean 8:43
that there was one other story I wanted to hear and you were driving down concession one road, how old were you and what was happening and,

Andrea Kaiser 8:52
you know, I got a loader at that time. And this was after he had done a lot of work on becuase. The QA was a vision that both him and Donald shared, it was really born out of the original idea of exploiting our wind.

Natalie MacLean 9:04
And let’s just define that for somebody who might not know the porters quality Alliance, the QA.

Andrea Kaiser 9:09
Thank you. Yes, Toby QA does two things. One of the most critical aspects of it, though is is it guaranteed a place of origin, also quality seal, but I think the origin especially in these times is even more important to consider that this guarantees for consumers that they are 100% locally grown wine, so all the fruit comes from Ontario, if you see a BBQ and that’s we’ll talk more about that in terms of supporting the local industry when we talk about COVID. But in understanding like, you know, in my early 20s, just the idea of sub appellations, I had done some wine studies and understood that you know, in Italy, they have the DLC they have the AOC in in France, and it is an overwhelming and confusing topic. People try to understand this French word terroir, an appellation like what does that mean? And for me, this story really defined it. We were driving down concession one and I went Oh, Peppa, look at the behind. I can’t even believe it. We were heading out towards balls. And on the right hand side, all the vines were starting to brown. And obviously they’re not producing anymore. And on the left, they were still green as the leaves. And I said, that’s like, unbelievable. And he said, Oh, yeah, he goes, Well, you know, think about it. Appalachians, of Appalachians, really, that’s just a place. And he had done a lot of work on mapping the different regions and grid growing areas in Ontario. And just to see that difference of that spot, one kilometre from the river, where the flow of the air no longer continued path. And it would just happen to be along concession, one that you could see the difference.

Natalie MacLean 10:44
So it was just the distance of a road like on one side, it was so dramatically different, that really does bring to light or really illustrates the whole idea of Appalachians. And they talk about in France, just how a few metres can make the world of difference. Yeah, I think of this analogy too, sometimes when I’m trying to understand Appalachians. So the big Appalachian is like those Russian dolls, you know, one fits inside the next one. So they say the big Appalachian is Ontario. Within that, we could drill down to Niagara, then we can drill down to Niagara on the lake, then we can drill down to Niagara lake shore. And then we drill down to vineyards. So it’s like one little Appalachian it nests within the larger ones. But that’s a great story to illustrate that point, Andrea?

Andrea Kaiser 11:29
Yes, I’ll never forget that because it just defined it in my mind.

Natalie MacLean 11:32
Yeah. Good visual. So do you have another memory like your earliest memory of wine?

Andrea Kaiser 11:39
Oh, my earliest memory of wine. So there’s some photos of me helping out in Austria, which I don’t myself recall, but sort of have those memories of being in Austria at the time, where we were helping to wash bottles. And it’s funny, because my father was a chemist, a teacher wanted to be a priest. So he had all these different sort of plants that he had. And it wasn’t until he met my mom. And he decided, Okay, the priests no longer something I’m considering fell in love. And it was her father that actually made wine at home. And so we had that very European culture, it was like a big family square in the middle, washing the bottles, you know, they use the space for everything from making sausages to head cheese to making wine. And so that was sort of a family trip we had taken way back when I was quite young. And then of course, the Enniskillen days, actually, one of the biggest memories I have, obviously, is the harvest. Because it’s always an exciting time, just visualising at the time, those big trucks rolling in with the grapes into the waystation. The refractometer coming out, which for those who don’t know, a for measuring the sugar of the grave. So what they do is they squeeze a little bit of juice on it look up in the sign, and then it gives them a reading and the sugar content is really an indicator of ripeness. That’s also then an indicator of the quality. So having my dad talk about the Brix, which is the sugar level that you measure in. And it’s really funny when I do talk about different things with friends who are interested to learn and they’re like, how do you know all this stuff? like we talked about it at dinner?

Natalie MacLean 13:12
Like osmosis growing up in it, like, grew up in a barrel rather than a? I don’t know, cradle or whatever, you’re born in a barrel? That’s so great. What do you think the wisest advice your father ever gave you about wine or life? Or maybe they’re intertwined? What do you remember most?

Andrea Kaiser 13:29
Yeah, I mean, you said you met my dad. And I think what really resonated with people was that he was the most genuine, authentic person you could meet in life. Obviously, that taught me a lot about being myself and being comfortable with who I am. But he also felt like that in terms of when he talked about his wines, he did not have a lot of errors about them, which is interesting, because wine obviously has this sort of mysterious error about it that makes people feel very intimidated. And he never, ever wanted to make anyone feel intimidated. He loved sharing information. You love helping people digest it in a way they can understand, because he wanted them to enjoy wine. He loved to share. It’s like when you cook for someone a chef cooks and and he was the winemaker. And you Oh, do you like it like he always worried about you liking it. And that was what was really neat. And he really brought wine down to a level for everyone. Key traditionally was at the kitchen table with a big jar of olives with a big scoop slotted spoon to just grab those all out of the jar. And besides how to glass wine in a water glass. You know, we’ve got very much it’s part of lifestyle, it’s a food, it’s something you enjoy with a meal. You don’t have to feel intimidated by it. And really the key fact was that you should drink what you like not when someone tells you you should drink and that’s okay to say I like this or I don’t like this. And we just wanted to inspire confidence in people to really enjoy wine.

Natalie MacLean 14:57
That’s so great I can visualise in there with the big gervasio

Unknown Speaker 15:02
great picture.

Natalie MacLean 15:03
He’s right behind you. Is he not? yet? He still got your back there? Yeah, there he is. That’s great, Andrea. All right, so let’s jump forward to 2020. And how is the harvest this year going? How is it out in the fields, what’s happening, what’s impacted it spring through summer, that sort of thing.

Andrea Kaiser 15:23
You know, what 2020 has been a really exceptionally good year great, traditionally, like very dry season. We know obviously, a little bit of rain, we had to do a little bit of irrigation in the summer, because as you recall, it was super hot summer very dry, which is very ideal for grape growing, because what we want is we want the grades to dig really deep. And for those vines to get deeper and deeper into those those nutrients and soils. And then what we hope for obviously, that continues on and Indian summer is all of a and exceptional. We’re having a little bit of that now I’m looking out my window and seeing the sunshine and the breeze is actually really great as well, just keeping that airflow pattern moving through the winter,

Natalie MacLean 15:59
prevent if there’s good airflow,

Andrea Kaiser 16:01
yes, that prevents any kind of impacts to the grapes. It keeps it clean essentially from any kind of backhoe needs or rot. So because it just keeps it very, very clean and

Natalie MacLean 16:11
dry. Like prevents mould or

Andrea Kaiser 16:13
whatever. Yeah, exactly. Yes, sir. That was the word I was looking for. So that exceptional for the harvest. And with it being so hot, I often get asked at the winery, what’s the best vintage and what makes a great vintage. Of course, there are exceptional years. But we also want to keep in mind that there’s certain wines that do better in certain vintages. So I was like to find a wine like always say, you know, 2019 was an exceptional vintage for whites and sparkling, because a little cooler. So you get that higher acidity and lower sugar. So that’s going to create those nice food friendly wines with bright acidity, whereas this year is a little hotter and more extended. So we’re going to see a really great vintage for red. So we’re going to see the Reds be a little fuller bodied, higher sugar content, which is the natural sugars that found then increase the alcohol when you’re fermenting. So really, there’s always a great story for every vintage, it’s really looking at personality, kind of that vintage, and what styles are going to show that’s

Natalie MacLean 17:11
terrific. That’s good to know, like, yeah, that 2024, reds, 2019 for whites and sparkling so that’s great. harvest time is a time when a lot of people like to visit wine country, of course COVID is affected everything. Is it still a good time to visit right now? Are the wineries open? What’s happening?

Andrea Kaiser 17:30
It’s a great question. And we get lots of phone calls. And essentially, this summer was almost like honestly creating a new business, going from no tastings, to tasting bar being open. And even in the notating points that are modifying our online sales processes due to increased volume and figuring things out. It’s been an exciting year, I’ve learned a lot. And there’s some really interesting things and found a way to really reinvent herself.

Natalie MacLean 17:56
What have you learned most like what have been a couple of those key learnings? And

Andrea Kaiser 18:00
I think that was the idea of reservations. And that’s when you asked about what’s happened, how to visit, you know, the evolution of the industry from popping in for a tasting and trying to figure out how you’re making your way up through, you know, the bar with 30 people and having to go through those crowds. I mean, the crowds are not here. But yet we’re still seeing customers who are coming in for a safe and reserved experience. And so it’s giving us time to really spend with our customers.

Natalie MacLean 18:25
So it’s more like a restaurant experience. Like you make a reservation. you plan your trip.

Andrea Kaiser 18:30
Yes, yes, you get your designated spot. It’s booked for 45 minutes. You know, you know you’ve got that space, you don’t have to worry that you’ve got time to chat with your wine consultant are going to help you with your also your purchases from start to finish because we want to keep everybody compartmentalise in terms of their social distancing. So you’re getting that really amazing one on one experience that you wouldn’t have normally got in a sort of a busy season.

Natalie MacLean 18:55
That’s true, Andrea, because I remember pulling up two parking lots in wineries around the world. And like if there’s a big tour bus, I’m leaving, I’m not even going on there.

Andrea Kaiser 19:05
For cars or buses at the back. It’s strategy. But yeah, certainly we’re not seeing bugs this year. But yeah, it is it’s overwhelming, right. And people often feel nervous in the first place. They’ve never maybe never been to a winery before. They don’t know how it works. So the reservation really sort of prepares them for the experience what the expectations are. And they’re going to get that key thing that’s going to really uncover what their desires are what they enjoy. And that’s what’s really been really, really interesting and amazing about the season.

Natalie MacLean 19:37
And I’ve seen various pictures of various wineries. They’ve got like plastic shields up the way a lot of our grocery stores do and everybody’s wearing masks. I mean, what other precautions have been taken those reservations, obviously, they’re limiting the number of people in the wineries anything else that they’re doing along those lines?

Andrea Kaiser 19:55
Yeah, so we do contact tracing. So that’s really important. We obviously also whenever team members come in, we make sure we do a health check with them. They’re all of course wearing personal protective equipment. We have high level of cleaning processes in place, leaving time even within reservations to clean the tasting cause and disinfect. So lots of new processes as far as that is concerned. And of course, we have a byline nirguna Lake, for example, that does require you to wear a mask, so everyone’s wearing a mask both on site until they’re seated. And that’s the other part of it. So that’s helped to, we don’t have people walking around doing tastings anymore other than outside, we have them seated at a table either or at the bar so that it really minimises that and create those social distancing spaces. And then a lot of wineries have, of course you live through the season, the outdoor experiences a lot of attend event spaces that we no longer were using. So we created a reservation much like you said, with a restaurant experience where you could book a table to have a West wine has some cheese and charcuterie and again, everything very socially dispensed.

Natalie MacLean 20:57
Right. And I presume into the fall, you’ve got tents and heaters to extend.

Andrea Kaiser 21:02
Exactly, yeah, in fact, we’re just setting up for our Christmas market. And I noticed that teller just posted about their new winter market. So we’re all getting creative about what can we do in winter as Canadian fans. So we’re setting up some beautiful barrel chairs and heaters we’re going to have like chimney cakes and Bavarian almonds and just really, you know, sort of have a little bit of Christmas music, holiday music playing and you can book that barrel chair for an hour to come in and enjoy the trees. Then we’ll do mould one wine, some blue wine, the stone in Germany and some ice wine cider. So look to kind of spice things up first. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean 21:38
that sounds really festive. And so during this period, how did you pivot, so to speak to online sales? I mean, I’m assuming that they really grew like, Can you give us an order of magnitude? Like, how important did they become? What did you do to take advantage of it, you and the other wineries.

Andrea Kaiser 21:57
It was such a critical aspect of our business in the early days with COVID. Obviously, with the shutdown when the tasting rooms were closed, obviously very fearful time for so many businesses, we were very fortunate as compared to, let’s say, restaurants, where as an Alcohol Beverage manufacturer, we were deemed an essential service like the lcbo. So while we couldn’t do tastings, we had our store open, we were doing a lot of curbside pickup. So for local, big lineups at the lcbo for those people who were close to a winery, they could just call ahead order their wine, pick it out out front. So that was very popular for a number of months. And then of course, the online sales took us by surprise, but in a very good way. I mean, be that support of people wanting to support local or to direct from the winery. So you know, I had been working from home for a little bit up until that point where sort of everything took off. I mean, I had to come back into the winery to work from here. We had closed doing deliveries, our accounting office doing deliveries like everybody, here winemaker

Natalie MacLean 22:58
was doing deliveries close. Oh, gosh.

Andrea Kaiser 23:00
Yeah, Jen fully and all the wineries are functioning that way every week is pitching in. And it was so exciting, though, because we were so scared and nervous. And here was this sort of community of wine drinkers coming together to support local. I would say like, for example, I might do 200 orders in a week traditionally, like, you know, a fairly decent, but then I think that one weekend, we had a read. So we did like 2000 orders. Oh my

Natalie MacLean 23:25
gosh, all online. Wow.

Andrea Kaiser 23:27
Yeah. So that was pretty substantial. I mean, it’s reduced a little bit now that people are getting out now. But it’s really exciting to see that people are realising make an order direct from a winery and also get wines that aren’t normally available. You know, you can get some really great special wines, but you won’t see any lcbo. And there again,

Natalie MacLean 23:43
you’ve got the restaurant experience, especially as people want to sort of elevate their home dining experiences. Yeah, again, restaurants are unfortunately closed again right now as we speak. But even when they go back, a lot of people are still nervous of going out so they can try these new wines the way they would go to a restaurant to try new wines and be guided that

Andrea Kaiser 24:01
way. Yeah. And you can often do like a mixed case of different wines from a winery six bottles or 12.

Natalie MacLean 24:07
Right. So it’s not a huge commitment. Yeah, no, no, six. Yeah. Cool. So you’ve got a new initiative tastes the season, which I just love feeling festival ready. Tell us about what that involves. There’s 24 Niagara on the lake wineries, right, and they’re all participating in this. So what’s involved and

Andrea Kaiser 24:25
I’m currently Chair of the winery of Niagara Lake, which is a marketing cooperative, and we work together to really tell the story of the NIH are going to Lake Appalachian when we were talking about, you know, that sort of overarching wine growing area. And every year we traditionally have our signature events. But in looking at our traditional model of pace of season in understanding the health impacts, potentially bringing like 3000 people down to visit just really didn’t make sense for our team members, guests or the community. So we created a virtual version of taste to season at home to your point of You know, cooking and trying new recipes. So normally we offer a food pairing. But what we’ve done instead of we’ve included a recipe from a local chef in your wine shipment box, and then that recipe has wines paired in the box. Our box, for example, has three wines and three recipes. So you can do your food matching and pairing at home comm great holiday wines and great recipes you may have not tried to before. So those are all kickbacks to be offered on our new website, which is really excited to share as well.

Natalie MacLean 25:29
Oh, absolutely. It’s a gorgeous new website. I love that idea of packaging the experience to the wines with the recipes. And is there a cost for shipping or

Andrea Kaiser 25:38
it’s a little different for each sometimes the shipping costs are included. But if you visit our cases, even at home landing page on our website wineries of Nariman league comm it has all the costs and you can choose from 24 it tells you two different ones. Yeah. So yeah,

Natalie MacLean 25:53
because it’s been my experience, because I’ve been ordering directly from your region. And most the time, it’s free, but as you say, can vary by winery, but it’s so reasonable. I mean, the shipping isn’t going very far. Anyway. So you’ve got this new website, and why would people want to visit it? What’s new there? What resources can they find?

Andrea Kaiser 26:11
Yeah, so we’ve always had traditionally a lot of information about our members, obviously, in terms of their offerings, I think for visiting, it’s a great resource to understand what the new COVID world of tasting looks like. So we’ve got some guidelines of sort of best practices and coming to visit, you know, reserving ahead planning your day how many wineries to come to, we also wanted to start to focus a little bit more on telling our story of the Appalachian so of the wine growing region. So there’s so many different I mean, we were sort of the original wine region. And now there’s so many different regions over time, which has developed which are all exceptional. But as you said, each one is a little bit different, has its own wine personality. And so we really wanted to tell that story and share what’s unique and different about knives in the lake and the wineries here, and that really relates to the grapes that we grow and the unique climactic conditions. So that is all housed on the new site. We have some amazing videos that tell the story of why making knives in the lake. So it’s a really great site.

Natalie MacLean 27:12
So if we do back to my Russian doll, Ontario, Niagara Niagara on the lake, within Niagara on the lake, there are four sub appellations, maybe you can just name those off one or two wines for each that they’re sort of famous for.

Andrea Kaiser 27:26
Yeah, so there’s the lake shore, which you would think of some iconic wineries that you might know like strewn and konsumen, who has actually one of the few vineyards that are right on the lake. So Herbert farm would have that influence of the lake. And that really defines those Lake Shore vineyards because of the proximity and the closeness of those warmer winds. As you come around the bend from the historic town, on the eastern side, you would have Niagara River where we’re located with inniskillin with ourselves right to state lelee down the road, pillars just kind of off a little bit upwards. So that’s the Niagara River sub appellation, and that’s really defined by the influences of the lake, but also the river even more so. And those currents that are coming off of the Niagara River, and then you move up around the edge perimeter towards St. Davids, the St Davids bench area, you would have iconic wineries like Chateau de charm, and then you have a newer winery, for example, like queenston mile, but that has had farm there for for many, many years. And the bench is really nestled up against the escarpment. So that provides it some very protected, where you might see some varieties like sheraz, much like we might see sheraz in the Niagara River because those morning factors, protective factors provide for a little protection for some of the tender bridle. And then you have the formal Creek area in the middle, which is the largest producing I think, perhaps even Ontario, the largest producing sub appellation and you get some great, nice expanse of sunshine throughout the day. So you get really great development of the fruit because we’ve got that exposure on a regular basis nice airflow patterns happening in there as well. But the one thing that really defines neither the lake overall, obviously there’s all the little pockets but we are in what’s been ordered is a specialty crop area. And this is protected by the province because of these unique climatic conditions that are really created by the escarpment, the river the lake and also the soils which if you think about the escarpment it used to be the lake shore of Lake Iroquois. And then over years it receded back to where Lake Ontario is now. So we’ve got all these amazing oils from the original lake bed of Lake Iroquois, which is essentially Niagara on the lake. And that’s where all the vines are growing. So some great geological factors and one of the warmest the most protected and that’s why it’s really denoted as specialty we can grow tender fruits here unlike a lot of areas in Ontario and that was

Natalie MacLean 29:54
by tender fruit sorry.

Andrea Kaiser 29:56
So Peaches Pears. Yeah, sorry. And then great. Stars had their fruit as well. So that’s one thing that kind of, we’re well known for is like a fruit belt. And then because of these factors, we can also grow more tender bridles, so mirlo, around Sauvignon Blanc that may not do as well in other parts of Ontario, just because simply, we’re a little bit warmer and we have a little bit of a longer growing season. And then also really important is that we don’t necessarily always get the same temperatures in the winter, that would drop down to like minus 18 minus 20 and cause damage to those tender varietals. So they become a little more risky in some of the other parts of Ontario, because they just are a little less winter Hardy. That’s a fact of just their buying itself, though.

Natalie MacLean 30:41
Right, that really puts it into context in terms of where the different sub appellations are. So many changes have happened this year. What are you looking forward to? Or what do you anticipate in 2021? What are you doing more of what are you doing less of? Or what changes do you expect? Or what’s your outlook?

Andrea Kaiser 31:00
Yeah, so we have a pretty positive outlook in the sense that we’ve been really boiled by the desire for Ontarians Canadians to buy local, like we were talking about earlier in the COVID pandemic. So people seeking out the QA wines, knowing that those are 100% local. So that’s something that we hope that carries through, not just connects here, but for ever, really, I mean, in the long term that Canadians become very excited about and prideful of their wines. You know, Canadians are often known to not be a sort of a proud type, and we’re a little bit more shy and to not stand up for ourselves. So we want Canadians to be very like with the Olympics, you know, that was really exciting when we were like, hey, yeah, we’re Canadian. We’ve been ours. Yay. moment with our Canadian wine, like, you know, to really be excited and proud of it if we have one of the most exceptional grape growing regions in the world. And we should be really excited about it. And amazing wines, great people to meet, you can visit and get to know winemakers like clothes, or Herbert compliment or Paul Boff. Like there’s so many great rates of people in the in the community of pioneers Ben, new up and coming winemakers. It’s a really exciting place to be.

Natalie MacLean 32:16
It is Yeah, it reminds me Andrea of I call it the Shania Twain or Celine Dion syndrome, they need to go make it big somewhere else. And then then we embrace it. Now we’ve got big publications like the Wall Street Journal and others saying, This is the undiscovered gem right here in Ontario. The winds here are remarkable. So maybe now we’ll truly embrace and hopefully, this whole COVID thing has been a good thing in a way in that you’re developing more direct relationships with customers and this stronger sales channel, if you will, and not so dependent on other means.

Andrea Kaiser 32:54
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I do think that in terms of what’s to come, certainly, I think a lot of the experiences we’ve created through COVID will remain like in terms of what we’ll offer in the years to come by reservation, really taking that time to engage and connect with consumers. We can share these stories and we can share about the people about the wine. And you’re right. I mean, sometimes it does take someone else to tell Canadians. I mean, it’s not the Canadians though, either. I remember that Kim Crawford’s wife, and she spoke at a conference and she was telling us about how she built her business. And it was really interesting to know. Number one, it was a virtual winery. I never knew that. I was like, Oh, he was. So they were having their wine made elsewhere for many, many years. And the reason they became so successful in the US in Canada was because they could not sell their wine in New Zealand. Wow. So you know, very familiar. A little familiar. Yeah. So it wasn’t till they received some international awards for their why logged in through the US and Canada. And voila, there you go. Now, you know, it’s like when iconic New Zealand brand as they’re they’re proud of and yeah, I was like, it was such an interesting story to hear her tell that it was very similar to the Canadian story in my mind. Yeah,

Natalie MacLean 34:10
absolutely. The comparison. Oh, my gosh, this has been terrific. It um, is there anything that you wanted to mention that we haven’t? I’ll definitely include a link as to where people can buy the wines directly from you online from all of those wineries tastes the season at home for sure. And a link, of course, to your website. But is there anything else you wanted to mention as we wrap up?

Andrea Kaiser 34:31
Yeah, I think I just want to finish with the you know, there’s I really can’t talk enough about my passion for local, you know, that something that was really instilled in me talk about the influence of my dad, I think I have to definitely sort of come full circle and bring it back to him. In the video that I was talking about earlier with him in the 70s. He demanded that people drink his wine because it was good, not because it was Canadian. And he wanted you to drink it because you liked it. And he was Never use any kind of other appellation terminology call his line of shrubbery or champagne, or Bordeaux or Beaujolais because he was like, No, those are places in another country. We’re in Canada, I’m making wines from Canadian grapes. And I want you to drink some, yes, it’s great to drink them because they’re Canadian. And you know, there is an incredible economic impact that we need to think about in these COVID times, you know, by love each way, wine contributes approximately $100 of an economic positive spin off to the local economy versus less than 10 for an import, dramatic difference. But at the end of the day, while he of course, always loved local, loved doing what he was doing, because it was authentic, he wanted you to drink the wine because it tastes good. And you know, the wines are delicious. And so you can drink great wines. And you can also support your local neighbours. And it’s a great story. And it’s a great thing that we can all be part of, you know, as Ontarians, not just with wine, but with everything that we choose whether it’s you know, local strawberries that are now being grown in greenhouse, as opposed to import it, it’s a really important thing we can do for our fellow Canadians really at this point in time.

Natalie MacLean 36:11
And I’ve said this before, but wine is the only thing I can think of where we put it on the dinner table in its original package. We don’t like keep this stickers on the oranges of the apples, we don’t put a cart of strawberries there. So you can see what fermier they came from. But why it’s a billboard and it sits on the table amidst all the other food. I think that speaks to how important the story is how important the origin is, and how our connection to wine is very much. I don’t know, it’s it’s so deeply rooted, excuse the pun, but also, it has so much value add as an agricultural product. It’s there with his packaging, because it’s a complete package and story.

Andrea Kaiser 36:52
Yet forget, you know, there is that great. You know, when I came on to work here and be part of the race team, the philosophy that Klaus always had was that great wine start in the vineyard, and he’s a farmer first. And sometimes we forget that with winemakers because we have that manufacturing side. But we are farmers first and we have a great agricultural base here. That’s really like any other part of Ontario. I mean, it’s a specialty tender fruit crop area that’s been preserved as a greenbelt. Which is amazing for generations to come and and so supporting it feels good and drinking wine is

Unknown Speaker 37:28
even more. You feel

Unknown Speaker 37:29
good, it tastes good. The two things

Andrea Kaiser 37:33
and I love that you called and talked about it being a food you know, it’s a part of a meal you know, it is

Natalie MacLean 37:38
so liquid condiment, I choose my wine first and then the food let’s get the priorities straight people but I also choose earrings first than the outfit so I don’t know. Maybe that’s just weird. Adria this has been absolutely delightful. Thank you so much for joining me here and I can do you get this out on the podcast. We’ll also publish this throughout the social media channels and post your links so that everybody can get together and support local and show their pride in their glass or however you put it. But fantastic taste the season at home with Niagara on the lake wineries. Thank you, Andrea,

Andrea Kaiser 38:14
I appreciate it. Thank you. So good to see you, Natalie. So good to see you too. Bye for now. Bye bye.

Natalie MacLean 38:25
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Andrea Kaiser. Here are my takeaways. Number one, I found it fascinating and heartening to hear how wineries have adapted to COVID and made visiting them more personal like restaurant dining with reservations and individual attention rather than the crowded tasting bar scene of the before times. Two. It’s also great to hear how the harvest is going this year. And that it could be a blockbuster year for red wine lovers.

Unknown Speaker 38:57
Yay.

Natalie MacLean 38:58
And finally, number three, I love Andrea’s stories about helping with the ice wine harvest and driving down the road with her father between the vineyards. Many of these wineries are family owned and provide jobs and legacies for generations. They need our support more than ever right now. And I’ll include a link in the show notes so that you can do that. Plus take advantage of some terrific deals they’re offering right now. You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be chatting with john Ben Juan deloria, a head winemaker at Benjamin bridge in the gaspereau Valley of Nova Scotia since 2008, has crafted some spectacular wines, especially his range of sparkling wines using the traditional champagne method. In the meantime, if you miss my chat with Amy savoury about the wines of Nova Scotia, that’s Episode 78. Go back and take a listen. That’ll give you a great overview of the dramatic changes that have been happening with the provinces one Making interest the past five years. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Unknown Speaker 40:06
That’s 22 winners for a really fun a Canadian skill. But if the risk taking and if the excitement and the passion and the innovation, for connecting with a place to produce wines that are distinctive of who we are, what really makes us unique, that being young, we really don’t have a lot of rules and a lot of boundaries. And so folks are just kind of playing with it and seeing how it works out. And so far, I would say it’s been working. Great.

Natalie MacLean 40:36
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips that Andrea shared. You can find a link as to how you can support these local wineries by purchasing their wines online in the show notes, as well as the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm including this evening. If you’re listening to this podcast on the day it’s published. We are tasting some terrific California wines tonight. As well as how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash 101 Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a wine you purchased from a local winery.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Natalie MacLean comm forward slash subscribe,

Andrea Kaiser 41:51
maybe here next week. Cheers

 

 

 

 

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