The next time you pour a glass of Canadian wine, raise a toast to Donald Ziraldo. Recognized as the pioneer of the Canadian wine industry, Donald is responsible for putting Canadian table wines and icewines on our table and on the international stage.
Donald first made headlines in 1975 when he and business partner Karl Kaiser were granted the first winery license in Ontario since the days of prohibition.
The Inniskillin Wines brand was born and Canada’s grape and wine industry was headed for a huge transformation. The use of vinifera grapes gave Canadian growers a new opportunity to produce and sell new varieties of grapes, and the stage was set for Canadian vintners to begin making world class, award winning wines that were historically dominated by European wineries.
Born in the heart of Ontario’s wine country, Donald studied agriculture at the University of Guelph earning a degree in applied horticulture and horticultural business services. Through his 40 year career, Donald’s leadership, initiative and drive have served up lasting results and an outstanding international reputation for Canada’s wine industry. Inniskillin Wines has locations in Ontario and British Columbia, and is now part of Constellation Brands – the largest producer and marketer of wine and related products in Canada and among the largest in the world.
In the 1980s, Donald founded Vintners Quality Alliance, a framework to uphold the quality and authenticity of Ontario wines. While pursuing the art of excellence in winemaking, Donald has boosted the entire Canadian grape and wine industry to international prominence, and along the way forged important links between tourism, restaurant, agricultural and wine industries. Canadian wineries welcome more than 3 million visitors every year, generating $6.8 billion of tourism-related activity for the Canadian economy.
Donald has used his knowledge and international acclaim to further research and education for Canada’s grape and wine industry. He was the driving force behind Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, a teaching facility focused on cool climate grape growing and winemaking. And was instrumental in getting the Niagara College Culinary Tourism Institute off the ground in June 2004 – to provide education in culinary arts and complement Canadian wines. From 2007 to 2011, Donald was the chair of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, a world-class solutions centre addressing the needs of the horticulture industry and advancing research and commercialization for the sector in Canada.
Throughout his bountiful career, Donald has been honoured with top recognition including the Order of Ontario, the Order of Canada, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Wine Institute, as well as Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee Awards by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
A dedicated, passionate, tireless advocate for Canada’s wine and grape industry, Donald Ziraldo continues to make his mark on the world of wine here at home and around the world.