Meet Ontario’s leading women winemakers
Although certainly not an exhaustive list, here are a few women making a splash in Ontario’s wine scene.
Lydia Tomek, Head Winemaker at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
At just 23 years old, Lydia Tomek became one of the youngest winemakers at the time in Canada. After completing her degree in the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture program at Brock University, she demonstrated her talent and expertise at several wineries. Notably, while at Burning Kiln in St. Williams, she worked on creating ‘appassimento wine’ formed from partially dried grapes resulting in a higher concentration of flavour and a more intense structure.
Tomek now brings her passionate, sustainable and innovative approach to the collection red, white, sparkling wines and Icewine, as well as peach, apple and pear ciders at Ravine.
New release 2019 Ravine Chardonnay won gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC) 2021.
Location: 1366 York Road, St. Davids
Kelly Mason, Head Winemaker at Domaine Queylus
After interning under a Burgundian winemaker in Napa Valley, studying winemaking at Brock University and working at several wineries in the Niagara Peninsula, Kelly Mason joined the team at Domaine Queylus where she has refined the production of elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The Caber Cabernet Franc Réserve du Domaine is a recent International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) winner.
Location: 3651 Sixteen Road, Saint Anns
Emma Garner, Winemaker at Thirty Bench
Emma Garner found her way to Thirty Bench, a small-lot winery on the Niagara Escarpment's Beamsville Bench after gaining winemaking experience in Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and British and completing Brock University’s Oenology and Viticulture program. With Garner at the helm, Thirty Bench has earned gold and platinum at both national and international competitions, making it one of the most decorated wineries in Canada. And Garner herself has claimed the distinction of Winemaker of the Year.
Exclusively hand-picked and organically farmed, the Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2016, a best-in-show winner at Decanter World Wine Awards.
Location: 4281 Mountainview Road, Beamsville
Mackenzie Brisbois, Winemaker at Trail Estate Winery
Mackenzie Brisbois graduated in Arts and Science at the University of Guelph, completed the Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College, travelled and worked at wineries in Ontario, British Columbia, New Zealand and South Africa, before returning to her roots in Prince Edward County. She directs all her experience into the production of flavourful Chardonnay, as well as Riesling and sparkling wines perfectly suited for the local terroir with minimal intervention at Trail Estate Winery.
Their new white Pét Nat (pétillant naturel or naturally sparkling) is described as a lightly aromatic and exotically spiced wine, perfect for a Canadian summer.
Location: 416 Benway Road, Hillier
Allison Findlay, Winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars
In Flat Rock vineyards you’ll find not only incredible views of the Toronto skyline and 360-degree views over Lake Ontario, but you’ll find Allison Findlay hard at work in the cellars. Findlay began her journey in the winemaking world as a tourist to Niagara’s wineries. Inspired by the incredible wines she experienced, Findlay pursued and received her Bachelor of Biology from Lakehead University and then completed a Winery and Viticulture Technician program at Niagara College. She further grew her experience locally and internationally and ultimately secured the position of winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars, developing terroir-driven wines using sustainable methods.
The three varietals of focus are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Sample reserve and estate collections or opt for a bottle from their Twisted family of wines, made with a splash of whimsy.
Location: 2727 Seventh Avenue, Jordan Station
Allison Christ, Winemaker at Colio Estate Wines
Armed with an Honours BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Windsor, Allison Christ gained experience at small-batch vineyards as well as large winery operations before joining the award-winning team at Colio Estates in Southwestern Ontario’s picturesque wine country. She focuses on blending approachable reds, a beautifully balanced Sauvignon Blanc and traditional method sparkling wines.
Choose from fun and unconventional series like the fruit-forward, flavoured ‘Girl’s Night Out’ or easy-sippers like Backroads or Hopetown wines.
Location: 1 Colio Drive, Harrow
Alyssa Bator, Winemaker at Riverview Cellars Estate Winery
Head winemaker at Riverview Cellars Estate Winery, Alyssa Bator is just a stone’s throw from her family’s fruit and grape farm. After earning her BSc at McMaster University and completing the Grape and Wine Technology Certificate at Brock University’s Oenology and Viticulture program, she returned to what’s she knows best - the vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Bator is committed to creating award-winning wines at Riverview Cellars and is eager to share the process and product with visitors.
Riverview showcased their 2018 Cabernet Franc Icewine at the 2022 Niagara Icewine Festival, paired with a beef brisket slider, maple bacon jam and blue cheese.
Location: 15376 Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Katie Dickieson, Winemaker at Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant
Katie Dickieson credits her appreciation for agriculture and her love of the harvest season to growing up on a farm. After majoring in Food Science at the University of Guelph, she developed her winemaking skills along her travels to Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, vineyards in New Zealand and the Rhone Valley in France. Since taking on the winemaker role at Peller Estates, Dickieson has led the winery to several awards including Winery of the Year.
Check out Peller’s monthly feature for the Winemaker’s pics, favourites and new recommendations.
Location: 290 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Dianne Smith, Winemaker at GreenLane Estate Winery
Dog lover and winemaker Dianne Smith brings her passion and expertise to crafting unique and sophisticated vintages using sustainable biodynamic and organic practices at GreenLake Estates, a Twenty Valley winery located along the Niagara Escarpment. Smith’s credentials include a Viticulture and Winemaking certification from Niagara College and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Geology from McGill University and the University of South Florida.
New releases include a second vintage of the popular film noir-inspired Betrayed Pinot Grieving series and a luscious, Rhône-inspired rosé.
Location: 3751 King Street, Vineland
Ann Sperling, Director of Winemaking at Southbrook Organic Vineyards
No stranger to the Canadian wine industry, Ann Sperling is a trailblazer and pioneer in the adoption of environmental, organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking processes. Originally from Kelowna, British Columbia, she has been studying, exploring and pushing the boundaries in the world of winemaking for decades. Sperling has racked up accolades and awards, including Winemaker of the Year.
Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, the Triomphe line is a great introduction to the range and quality of their organic wines.
Location: 581 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sue-Ann Staff, Owner and Winemaker at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Fifth-generation grape grower, Sue-Ann Staff has won a staggering number of national and international awards, including Ontario Winemaker of the Year. Her family knowledge, formal training from around the world and innate passion and pleasure for the land and its bounty make her one of Canada’s brightest stars in the industry. She runs her family’s 200+-year-old winery estate, perched on the Niagara Escarpment in Jordan.
Famous for her Icewines, Sue-Ann Staff’s Fancy Farm Girl series include a flamboyant red, a frivolous white and a foxy rosé.
Location: 3210 Staff Avenue, Jordan Station
Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli, Co-Proprietors at Two Sisters Vineyards
Siblings Angela Marotta and Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli run Two Sisters Vineyards, a vast estate located at the northern tip of the Niagara River. The estate spreads across almost 25 hectares, growing Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A curated collection of wines and Italian-inspired cuisine make this a delightful destination for wine lovers.
Currently in the spotlight is their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine that comes accompanied by custom cocktail recipes.
Location: 240 John Street East, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sherry Karlo, Founder and Estate Vintner at Karlo Estates Winery
A sustainable winery in southwest Prince Edward Country, Karlo Estates is the world’s first vegan-certified winery, established as such since 2008. Sherry Karlo and her late husband, Richard Karlo, founded the Estates together and built the winery into an award-winning, critically acclaimed business. Sherry Karlo serves as the Estate’s Vintner and curates a unique, artisanal collection of hand-harvested, naturally fermented wines with minimal intervention.
Exceptionally difficult, a Sextus is when the six old-world varieties are all incorporated into one bottle. Considered a ‘unicorn’ wine for how rare this is, Karlo has achieved the holy grail of wine.
Location: 561 Danforth Road, Wellington
Catherine Langlois, Founder and Winemaker at Sandbanks Estate Winery
One of the original Prince Edward County vineyards, Sandbanks Estates was established back in 2001 on the scenic shores of Lake Ontario with a vision to create fruit-forward approachable wines that reflect the rural essence of the County. Propelled by her passion for good wine and a love of the land, she put her viticulture studies and experience working in France’s Burgundy vineyards to good use and planted a variety of grapevines, including Baco Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Sandbanks was recently purchased by ARTERRA Wines Canada.
Long-standing favourites include full-bodied reds and crisp whites. Current features are the French Kiss, a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend and their Shoreline white, a perfect Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio varietal.
Location: 17598 Loyalist Parkway, Wellington
Last updated: January 3, 2023