History

The Reif family tradition of winemaking began nearly half a millennium ago in the small winemaking town of Neustadt, located in the heart of the world renowned Rhine River Valley in Germany. In 1977, this tradition transcended to a new continent, when founder Ewald Reif purchased a plot of land on the fertile banks of the Niagara River.

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After carefully nurturing the land for six years, the potential of these young vineyards became evident when the doors of Reif Estate Winery officially opened in 1983.

In 1987, Klaus W. Reif took over the reins from his uncle Ewald, as the President and Winemaker after graduating from the world famous Geisenheim Institute in Germany with degrees in both Oenology and Viticulture. Having been born into a winemaking family with roots tracing back 12 generations Klaus' future as a winemaker may have been preordained. In 1990, Klaus was joined by Roberto DiDomenico, a graduate of the University of Guelph with a specialized Honours Microbiology degree. Roberto's winemaking philosophy of 'letting nature make wine' married perfectly with Klaus's belief that "...today we are growing wine in the vineyard."

These beliefs, partnered with a commitment to produce predominantly estate bottled wines from our 125 acre vineyard are the cornerstone of the quality and integrity of Reif Estate wines.

Philosophy

Klaus Reif's philosophy that "great wines start in the vineyard" is the cornerstone of the quality and integrity of Reif Estate wines. This belief, partnered with a commitment to produce predominantly estate bottled wines from our 125 acre vineyard, has provided our winemaker Roberto DiDomenico with the tools to produce world renowned wines.

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Klaus and Roberto believe that over time a vineyard will express its 'terroir', loosely translated as 'a sense of place'. Many agree that as a vineyard matures its personality (or characteristics) of both climate and soils will be expressed in the wines over time. We believe Reif's terroir is best expressed by the wines produced in the First Growth Collection, with grapes harvested from our oldest vineyard blocks.

There is no doubt that today we are growing wine in the vineyard.

Sustainability

Reif Estate Winery has a long history of innovation and development in sustainable winemaking practices. We are a founding member of the Vintner's Quality Alliance and partner in the development of the Environmental Charter for the Sustainable Winemaking Committee for the Wine Council of Ontario.

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In 2009 Reif received an award as a Canadian Innovative Leader from the National Research Council of Canada. We began working with the council in 1986 on projects like improved development of Icewine, low sulphite wines, optimal closure and most recently the use of recycled tobacco technology kilns for the production of appassimento style wines. Our commitment to sustainability is practiced both on the farm and in the winery and begins in the spring when soil samples are retrieved from over 125 locations on the farm.

Ron Bertrand, vineyard manager for over 30 years, knows exactly where to provide extra natural nutrients with compost comprised of the previous harvest's pruned and chipped vines, grape stems, leaves, skins and seeds. Nothing is wasted on the farm. In the cellar Roberto and Klaus believe that it is necessary to work with nature rather than against it, with minimal intervention in winemaking.

Milestones

  • 1977
  • Vineyard founded by Ewald Reif.
  • 1982
  • Winery opens and is housed in 1870's coach house.
  • 1987
  • Klaus W. Reif moves to Canada to take over the reigns.

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  • 1988
  • Robert Parker Jr. names 1987 Vidal Icewine on top ten wine list.
  • 1989
  • Winemaker Roberto DiDomenico joins Reif.
  • 1991
  • New production facility and underground barrel cellar opens.
  • 1997
  • Tesoro takes Gold at International Wine & Spirit Competition.
  • 2002
  • Best Canadian Winery at Wine & Spirit International Competition.
  • 2004
  • Vidal Icewine is Wine of the year at Ontario Wine Awards.
  • 2005
  • First Growth Collection is released showcasing Reif terroir.
  • 2007
  • Best Meritage at Cuvee for 2002 First Growth Cabernet Merlot.
  • Three Gold's presented at Ontario Wine Awards.
  • Best Sweet Wine Trophy awarded at Cuvée for Vidal Icewine.
  • Installation of Wine Sensory Garden to commemorate 25 years of winemaking.
  • 2008
  • Best Sweet Wine Trophy awarded at Cuvée for Vidal Icewine.
  • Grand Opening of New Wine Boutique.
  • 2009
  • Launch of TREND wine collection.
  • Production of Niagara Raisins, a first in Canada.
  • First vintage of kiln dried wines including passito-style botrytis affected wines.
  • 2010
  • Klaus W. Reif receives Lifetime achievement award from Ontario Wine Society.
Klaus W. Reif

Klaus Reif

President and Oenologist

Born into a winemaking family of twelve generations, Klaus W. Reif may have had his future preordained. Tucked amidst the vineyards in Neustadt, Germany, stands Klaus' family home, where his childhood was spent learning the trade of winemaking. In 1978, Klaus traveled to Canada to visit his Uncle Ewald Reif. Ewald had arrived in Niagara the year prior and joined other pioneers in the Canadian wine industry by planting a vinifera vineyard.

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During this summer trip, Klaus fell in love with the scenic beauty of Niagara, deciding to explore a career in winemaking, upon his return to Germany. The following year Klaus enrolled in a specialized business school and later worked for a government research winery that focused strongly on the elements of winemaking. In 1984, Klaus applied to one of Germany's most prestigious winemaking schools, the Geisenheim Institute. Two weeks after graduating with degrees in Viticulture and Oenology, Klaus immigrated to Niagara-on-the-Lake. In 1987, he took the reins of Reif Estate Winery from his Uncle Ewald. By adopting the philosophy that "great wines start in the vineyard", Klaus focused on creating small batches of exceptional wine; a fundamental element to his continued successes.

Klaus keeps Reif Estate Winery on the cutting edge by selectively combining innovative technologies with traditional winemaking techniques. With Reif Estate's recognition in the wine industry and continued successes enjoyed over the past 25 years; Klaus still has dreams for improvement and movement into the future.

Roberto DiDomenico

Roberto DiDomenico

Winemaker

From an early age, Roberto was no stranger to the world of winemaking, as his father had been producing wine for decades. As a small boy, Roberto was always found at his father's side, as winemaker's assistant. Learning everything about home winemaking from his father, he found both success and enjoyment as he excelled as an amateur winemaker.

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In 1985, Roberto began his post secondary education at the University of Guelph, where he was accepted into a specialized Honors Microbiology program, focused on fermentation technology. As a student, Roberto accepted an internship position at Reif Estate Winery as a research assistant. During his time at the winery he participated in many research projects that would continue through to his final year of university. After graduating in 1989, he was offered a position as the newest winemaker at Reif Estate Winery.

As a professional winemaker, Roberto decided to visit the wine regions of Italy and France where he established his philosophy of "being true to the grape varietal with minimal intervention, letting the wine make itself". Here, he would find his true passion for reds, later expressed through his 1995 Meritage aptly named Tesoro, translated as 'my treasure'. This wine received both national and international acclaim, leading to a long-term plan to build a tradition of awards of excellence for the red wines at Reif Estate. In 2001, the "First Growth Collection" was first released. The collection debuted with 3 red wines; a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Pinot Noir. These wines were revered by critics and recognized with multiple awards, as they were intended.

Ewald Reif

Ewald Reif

Founder of Reif Estate Winery

The Reif tradition of winemaking can be traced back to 1636 in Germany's Rheinphalz region. In the late 1960's, this tradition transcended to a new continent as Ewald Reif traveled to Canada to survey the land in the emerging viticultural area of Niagara. On his first visit to Niagara, Ewald fell in love with the area. On this same visit he met John Boese, the owner of Boese cannery. At the time, Ewald found that Mr. Boese was interested in selling his fruit orchards located in a prime area along the Niagara River.

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In 1977, Ewald immigrated to Canada, shortly after purchasing the land that would eventually become Reif Estate Winery. He began uprooting the existing vines native to Ontario and began replacing them with premium vinifera varietals; such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. By planting the finest Vitis vinifera varietals alongside French hybrids, Ewald's role was that of a pioneer in the Niagara wine industry. Gradually he expanded the acreage of his vineyard, eventually growing to a 125-acre farm.

In the summer of 1978, Ewald's brother Gunter and nephew Klaus visited Ewald and helped him plant one of the area's first vinifera vineyards, which would later prove to inspire Klaus to pursue a career as a winemaker. Ewald continued planting vines and opened the retail store in 1983. The winery was sold to Klaus in 1987, with Ewald staying on as vineyard supervisor. Officially retiring in 2000, he then sold the remaining acreage of vineyards to Klaus.