Name- Brian Schmidt, Winemaker at Vineland Estates Winery
Farm location(s) - Twenty-Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench Sub-Appellations
Favourite varietal make into wine- Cabernet Franc
Favourite food and wine pairing- A barbequed rib-eye and Cabernet Franc “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy”
Favourite part about being a winemaker? – “Being able to rise to the challenge and maximize opportunities as Mother Nature is always trying to throw curveballs.”
Whether spending time in the vineyards getting to know his vines, interacting with consumers via social media, working on producing over 30 vintages, or travelling across the globe promoting both Ontario and Canadian wines, Brian Schmidt is a great activist for the Ontario wine industry.
Born in British Columbia to a family who were pioneers in the establishment of the Okanagan Valley wine region, you could say that wine flowed in Brian’s blood. It wasn’t always this way though. While working for his family’s winery in B.C., Brian was unsure about a career in winemaking and instead became a commercial scuba diver on the west coast.
In 1986 his family decided to make the 3000 mile move to Ontario. Brother Allan Schmidt accepted a position as winemaker with Vineland Estates Winery in 1988. Brian wasn’t planning on joining the family across country until a 2-week vacation in 1991 to visit his brother and help with the grape harvest changed his mind. Brain says, “It turned into a 25 year vacation of doing what I love.”
Taking over the title of winemaker at Vineland Estates in 1993, Brian is a true believer that wine happens in the vineyard. From bud break on the vines to harvest time Brian is a part of the vineyard crew, tending to and nurturing vines so that the best possible fruit comes from each block. As much as he tries to plan ahead and work with the conditions of the day, he must react to what Mother Nature throws at him.
From September to December Brian can be found on the crush pad of Vineland Estates. His commitment to excellent wines goes as far as hand sorting the grapes and working with his crew to ensure that nothing other than the very best grapes are made into wine. Spending time within the cellars is equally as important; Brian says, “My job is to render the soul of the vineyard into liquid music.”
In the time between growing seasons when Brian is not blending wines in the cellars, he is often visiting other countries promoting Canadian wines to share the unique stories Ontario wines have to tell. Brian notes that Ontario table wines in addition to our icewines are becoming recognized internationally. Brian also spends time inspiring those close to home with vintage tastings to show vineyard crews and retail staff the differences in a hot vs. cold, or a wet vs. dry summer, and the effect that weather has on the fruit.
Brian’s own knowledge comes from what he claims is a childlike curiosity and a passion to learn something new everyday. He still regularly consults with his father who is a 2nd generation grape grower living nearby the Vineland Estate vineyards and his brother Allan, President of Vineland Estates.
Another way that Brian inspires people to get in touch with Ontario wines is by sharing his curiosity and passion of wine growing via social media. He appeals to a more visual and emotional side of consumers by posting his daily views and things he finds interesting around Vineland Estates. A trend Brian has started is called “#tWactortweets”, where via Twitter and Instagram he will post pictures of vineyard sights from his tractor. Brian recognizes the power of social media and its ability to encourage people to try new wines.
The Grape Growers of Ontario congratulate Brian Schmidt (@BenchWineGuy on Twitter and Instagram) for winning Winemaker of the year at the 2014 Ontario Wine Awards.