Herbert Konzelmann, a trailblazer for Ontario’s wine scene who came to Niagara to make his award-winning wines, has died.
It was 1984 when fourth generation winemaker Herbert Konzelmann, then 47, brought his young family to Niagara and followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who started a winery in Stuttgart, Germany in 1893.
He discovered one of the prettiest properties in Niagara, along the shores of Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a spot that reminded him of Alsace, France. Not because of the scenery, but due to the micro-climate, which is similar to Alsace with a wonderful balance of sun, soil, airflow and moisture conditions, ideal for making clean, aromatic, fruity wines. Especially riesling.
Konzelmann Estate Winery was officially the seventh winery to open its doors in Ontario, and now is one of over 180. Production includes over 30 wines with a total output of 500,000 bottles per year, and they have received hundreds of awards and accolades during their time in Canada.
It was only fitting and just that in 2019, Herbert Konzelmann was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ontario Wine Awards – 25 years after becoming the very first recipient of Ontario’s Winemaker of the Year honour.
On Friday, November 5th, 2021, Konzelmann passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 84. The winery’s Facebook page announced the news, posting “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Mr. Herbert Konzelmann.”
The post goes on to read: “Herbert was a kind and generous man who devoted himself to his family and winery. A pioneer in every definition of the word, Herbert was a guiding light for the Niagara wine industry since first arriving from Germany. He was fearless, passionate and dedicated to his craft. Herbert remained active in all aspects of winery operations to the end, not because he needed to, because he loved to.”
Fabian Reis, Konzelmann’s grandson and the family’s sixth generation winemaker, has his own winery called Ferox, but looks back on fond memories spent with his ‘Opa’ and learning the trade. “Today I said goodbye to my dear Opa, Herbert Konzelmann, who not only was a grandfather to me, but rather a father figure,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
“Thank you for choosing Canada and giving us a life here and having such courage with Omi to come to Niagara and lay the foundation for the wine industry it is today,” his post also reads. “I promise to him I will do my part to bring it to the next level. I know you will continue to be with me in the wine cellar and as I walk through the vineyards. Today we celebrate you and hold our glasses high.”