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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Wine guru Andrea Kaiser to speak about icewine and its history at NOTL festival
Andrea Kaiser showcases a tasting flight of icewines at Reif Estate Winery on Sunday. Julia Sacco

Andrea Kaiser was born into the wine industry. The daughter of Inniskillin co-founder Karl Kaiser, she definitely knows her way around a grape. 

And this year she’ll be sharing her expertise, and a bit of history, with guests who attend the Niagara-on-the-Lake Icewine Festival.

Her wine journey began here in NOTL, just down the road on Line 3.

“(The winery) was where my dad worked, so obviously we spent a lot of time over harvest hearing about things and learning at the dinner table,” Kaiser says.

As a teenager, she started her career in the industry by giving tours of the family winery, eventually receiving her education on wine in Bordeaux, France, leading to her purchase of the now-closed Anchorage restaurant. 

Between then and now, Kaiser has worn many hats, including chair of Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake and retail manager at Reif Estate Winery, a role that Kaiser cites as one that “encouraged (her) to keep (her) career evolving.”

Now, sitting as regional councillor for the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and being the proprietor of her own wine brand, Drea’s Wine Co., she has more than a little bit of experience under her belt.

“What I like about icewine is that it is such a complex wine, the layers and the complexity of the flavours are so intense, unique and elegant,” she said.

“This festival really showcases the variety of things you can do with icewine, of course you can drink it on its own, or you could try a classic pairing which most people think is weird: blue cheese and icewine.”

“I always used to tell people at the winery, if you think you dislike icewine or you dislike blue cheese, I promise when you taste them together you will be converted,” Kaiser laughed. 

Those in attendance at the festival this weekend can look forward to hearing personal anecdotes from the daughter of one of icewine’s pioneers.

“The very first time my father made icewine, he would go and check on the fruit every day,” Kaiser began.

“One morning he ran into the house saying ‘Oh my gosh, the grapes, they’re all gone, the birds ate them!’”

“He lost the entire icewine harvest that year and that’s why when you drive around Niagara-on-the-Lake, you have to understand that the nets are there to keep hungry birds away.” 

More than anything, Kaiser expressed gratitude for her father for introducing her to the wine community and all of the people she has met along the way, from our little community in NOTL, all the way to California.

“The people that I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had, always make me think back to what my dad and his partner Donald did for the Niagara wine industry,” Kaiser reminisced. 

“I look back 50 years and think I could never have met and had so many people from around the world touch my life in this industry, and I’m so grateful for my dad because he really opened that whole door to the world, beyond even the NOTL wine industry.” 

Andrea Kaiser will be presenting the history of Niagara icewine at the NOTL Icewine Festival Jan. 21 to 22 and the following weekend Jan. 28 to 29. 

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