Karl Kaiser was all set to leave for England and the London Wine Fair. It was December and he'd told his vineyard crew at Inniskillin Winery under no circumstances touch the rows of late-hanging grapes braving the tumbling temperatures. That was back in 1983 and Canadian Icewine didn't yet exist.
On his return from a few days in London, Karl was mortified to find not a single precious grape left on the vines! An excited conversation ensued with the crew and the true perpetrators were revealed. Hordes of hungry starlings had made very short work of the tasty, sweet (unprotected) fruit!
And so, it was on to the 1984 harvest and netting was used to protect the delicate fruit, which then yielded delicious Icewine.
This groundbreaking Canadian elixir, created by an Austrian wine genius, was destined to be honored at the Oscars of the wine world, at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, winning the Grand Prix d'Honneur as the world's finest example of this stunning dessert wine.
It was a turning point for modern Canadian wine, our international signature of wine excellence. And it's all thanks to Karl, who died recently at 76 after a stroke.
Dr Kaiser, who received more honors and acknowledgments than you could list, literally brought Canada from its foxy old native grape varieties into the bright light of international acclaim.
He had a passion for all wines but his personal grail was great Pinot Noir, the stellar but difficult grape of Burgundy. Apart from launching boutique winery Inniskillin in 1975 with partner Donald Ziraldo, one of Karl's lasting achievements will be helping establish the internationally acclaimed Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University, St Catharines.
Karl was one of the great pioneers of Canadian winemaking. We'll all miss him.