Fred Di Profio | Winemaker
Fred’s official title is Winemaker, but at heart he’ll always be a Cellar Rat. This means that he’s most likely to be found (if one has a quick eye, that is) scurrying about the cellar, or on warmer days scuttling around the vineyard. Any rare appearances in the more public areas of the winery usually result in his being shooed away, most often at the business end of a broom.
- My favourite part of PondView Estate is on the far side of the pond where, on warm and breezy days in June, I can go and bask in the sunlight and breathe in the scent of the Cabs in bloom.
It was the late 1990s when, not really having my first career (something vaguely to do with my education in economics) off the ground, I decided to change tack and explore the Niagara wine industry.
Within a few hours of arriving in Niagara, I managed to secure a harvest job as a cellar rat at Pillitteri Estates Winery. I like to think that this quick success was due to my wit and charm. In reality though, it's mostly attributed to my “having a full set of teeth, and being skinny enough to fit through the side door of a tank,” as noted by my first boss in the industry, celebrated Winemaker Sue-Ann Staff.
After a couple of vintages, I was sufficiently intrigued by the complexities of growing grapes and making wine to enroll in the Oenology and Viticulture program at Brock University. Throughout my studies at Brock, I continued to work at Pillitteri, where I was fortunate enough to meet and get to know Lou Puglisi, their grape supplier at the time.
It was in the process of helping to make wine from Lou’s grapes that I discovered my love for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon is not the most challenging grape to grow in Niagara, but may very well be the most challenging to grow well. I have a kinship with this grape, a late-bloomer that can produce wines with depth and complexity that are simultaneously bold and subtle. Enigmatic? Perhaps.
After years of working with Lou and his grapes, I felt honoured when he called me at home in the summer of 2009 to ask if I could help him build a winery, process and make wine from his grapes.
I am privileged to work with Lou, who has more than two decades of experience and plenty of accolades. I have found in Lou a kindred spirit in his unyielding desire to learn more, and I consider my collaboration with him to be not just an opportunity to grow and make great wine, but to learn how to do it better and better each year.
In Lou’s own words, “Every day’s a school day.”
After all this talk of grapes and grape growing, it should come as no surprise that my favourite part of PondView Estate is on the far side of the pond where, on warm and breezy days in June, I can go and bask in the sunlight and breathe in the scent of the Cabs in bloom.
My current favourite wine is the Bella Terra Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This is a wine that is delicate on the nose, but get to know it, and you'll discover layers of complexity, the components of which are perfectly balanced to delight the senses.
This wine is wonderfully enjoyable all on its own, but it's also the perfect complement to Delmonico steaks, grilled rare to medium rare, with mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic. Yum! While you're at it, throw some sweet red (and orange and yellow) peppers on the grill as well. Use a grilling basket lined with tin foil so the peppers can fry in lots of olive oil. And don’t forget to invite your friends; after all, the best pairing for great wine and delicious food is good company.
For those wanting to visit the Niagara Wine Region, I humbly offer this insider’s advice for a perfect day in Niagara:
Start your day by visiting the Niagara Bench for those breath-taking views of the lake you know so well, and of the city you probably just left a short while ago.
Sip some lovely mineral-driven Riesling and maybe some Pinot Noir. Try some Cab Franc, if you can find it. Make sure what you are sampling came from grapes grown nearby. Ask about the soils and micro-climates these wines came from. Take notes.
After a leisurely lunch enjoyed with a delicious Niagara wine, visit the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Take more notes.
And after dinner that evening, over some more Niagara wine, discuss your findings with your friends and family. Were you able to discern trends among the wines you tasted? Does Riesling from the Bench taste the same as Riesling from the plains? Can you trace any differences back to specific terroirs?
For me, this is fun.