In the early 1990s Len and Marisa Crispino were living as expats in Italy. They found it such a rewarding cultural experience that it became a major reference point in their lives.
They discovered the wonders of Amarone-styled wines in the Valpolicella region of the country. This style of wine is made using the appassimento process whereby the grapes are dried prior to pressing. The more they learned about this process, the more excited they became at the prospect of bringing this incredible craftsmanship back with them to Ontario. And so they did.
In 2000, taking a leap of faith, the Len and Marisa acquired prime farmland in the Vineland area of the Niagara peninsula. They then sourced from Europe quality vinifera varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling), after three years of carefully nurturing the vines, the first crop was harvested in 2004.
The process of making an appassimento wine means that at harvest the grape bunches are placed on racks for drying for two to six months. That allows some of the water to evaporate which produces a more dense, concentrated juice. All the grapes go through this appassimento process and are then crushed and fermented. The entire ‘slow wine making process’ is very labour intensive and significantly reduces the yield. This means that the best quality and more grapes are required to produce a bottle of appassimento wine. The final outcome produces more concentrated flavours and deep intense colour.
Even the Foreign Affair Winery’s labels have their own story. A Canadian artist was commissioned to paint an Italian landscape and then Canadian animals were superimposed onto the picture. It shows an extension of the Italian experience, the love of this Canadian homeland and the belief in an innovative approach to winemaking here in Canada.
The entire Foreign Affair Winery team is proud to have been recognized as the first winery to make appassimento wine in Canada. In 2013 it was chosen for the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for pioneering a new wine style in Ontario by using knowledge that was developed in another part of the world. The Canadian stylistic interpretation with locally grown vinifera varietals has created the rich, elegant and full-bodied wines the winery is now know for…and a glass of the wine tells the rest of the story.