Inniskillin’s Bruce Nicholson Receives the Inaugural Karl Kaiser Canadian Winemaker Award

Many readers of Good Food Revolution will be familiar with Karl Kaiser, the late co-founder and longtime winemaker for Inniskillin Estate Winery in Niagara. A real icon in the industry and at the winery who, alongside marketing genius and partner Donald Ziraldo, kickstarted the modern Canadian wine industry with the establishment of Inniskillin in 1975. Karl passed away unexpectedly late last year, and it is very fitting that the recipient of the first Karl Kaiser Canadian Winemaker Award is Bruce Nicholson.

Bruce Nicholson returned to his home region of Niagara after almost two decades in British Columbia, to replace Karl Kaiser as winemaker back in 2007. This was a task with tremendous shoes to fill, to say the least, and Bruce rose to the challenge with aplomb and style.

Bruce was presented with this prestigious award at the Canadian Vintners Association’s 51st Annual Meeting in Kelowna, B.C. on July 10th. Many in the industry who worked with Bruce issued testimonials on his behalf in nominating him for the award, including Donald Ziraldo.

Donald had this to say about Bruce: “Replacing Karl was no easy task as he was the genius behind introducing Icewine to Canada and then having Icewine become a global luxury brand around the world creating a truly Canadian icon. Bruce, who was working in the Okanagan at the time, applied for the job and requested that he work with Karl during the transition, especially with Icewine. Not only did he commit himself fully to achieve the high standards set by Karl but he went on to win numerous awards of his own to showcase his talent and creativity. He achieved such recognition with his Icewine by winning the Premio Speciale Gran Vinitaly in 2009 for his Sparkling Icewine and Riesling Icewine. Bruce is a true artist – quiet and reserved but extremely focused in his winemaking. He has kept both Inniskillin and the Canadian wine industry in the forefront in the international wine world.”

Bruce’s work mentoring others was also noted in his nomination. He has taken significant time and effort to mentor all those around him, especially his assistant winemakers who have included Brooke Blair and Derek Kontkanen in B.C., and Marc Pistor, DJ Lewis, Nick Gizuk, Chris Canavan and Jessica Canavan in Ontario. His impact was well noted by west coast wine writer John Schreiner, who dedicated his Wines of British Columbia book to Bruce.

I would personally add that Bruce has been a wealth of information and guidance for me as I successfully progressed through the many stages of the Master of Wine program. For that I am very grateful.

Finally, here are some of Bruce’s own words of wisdom from his acceptance speech in Kelowna: “[At] an awards luncheon in London a few years back, I happened to be seated with both Wolf Blass and the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Among the wines being poured, was Inniskillin’s Shiraz and our Icewine, which had won awards at the event. As these two iconic figures savoured our wines, I could not have been more proud than to inform them that these were Canadian wines. And they could not have been more surprised!”

Salut, Bruce!

Eugene Mlynczyk MW for Arterra Wines Canada

P.S. For the official announcement, please click here.

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