I started home winemaking in high school, then studied winemaking and viticulture at Niagara College. Then, I went to Weinbauschule University in Weinsberg, Germany to further my studies. At Between the Lines, we try and combine best of two worlds: the old world traditions and new world innovations adapted for the Niagara grape.
My brother and I get along very well, so our business works. Greg has always liked talking more than I do. I’d rather be in the background, the quiet one, so it’s nice to disappear into the cellar sometimes and work by myself. We’ve worked together in the vineyard for 14 years, so something must be right.
Greg is very good with planning. He develops our business strategy and is great at forecasting. He designed our retail spaces himself. We want people to feel comfortable visiting us. They shouldn’t feel out of place walking in wearing a pair of shorts.
In Germany, my grandfather had an old-style, mixed farm — agriculture, livestock, and grapes. When we came to Canada, my father purchased the farm and we went back to our roots. We actually tried to get out of the wine world at first — I was looking at computer programming and my brother started studying microbiology. I just couldn’t stand being inside, staring at a computer screen all day.
I have a good start, but no one can know everything about wine. The winemaker’s job, simply put, is to not screw up. There is no ‘better’ wine, just different wines. It’s fun producing the varieties we have here. We make a lot of unique wines.
For our main line up, we wanted to be as down to earth as possible. People like easy drinking and don’t always want a heavy, complex wine. We only barrel-age our reds three months. Some people get fussy about it, but I’m allowing the region to speak for itself instead of influencing it through aging or other winemaking processes. Most of the quality comes from the grape itself and I aim to maintain and flatter that quality. The grape influences 60% of the final wine. 30% is the fermentation, and the last 10% is the art of finishing.
There is no ‘better’ wine, just different wines. It’s fun producing the varieties we have here. We make a lot of unique wines.
We finish our wines through our wine club. The first year, we got 50 people together, a mixed group of casual wine, beer, and spirit drinkers. We poured different wines and when even the beer and spirit drinkers liked one, we knew we were on to a style. With our wine club, we want to invite different people in for their insight. They’ll taste five versions of each wine blind and then pick their favourite of the group. The highest score dictates the wine we move forward with. We will engage our community in the wine styles we produce.
I do love meeting the people who tour the winery. I’ve gotten quite good at bringing people in to what we do. Most people are very interested in our wines, so there’s a lot of great conversation. It’s long hours, but it’s one of the most rewarding jobs. You see it through everything, from planting to harvest to finishing to watching people enjoy it.
I’ll tell you a secret… part of my studies was also distilling. I want to make schnapps someday. There’s so much fruit that’s wasted in the region and it’s perfect for schnapps.