It was a beautiful brisk day when we visited the Jackson-Triggs Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Winter isn’t here yet, but it’s in the air.
For Marco Piccoli, it is his favourite time of year. It’s the time of year when his romance comes alive, all the courting is put aside in preparation of that one magical evening… when the temperatures drop below -10 celcius.
Marco has a mistress that brought him from the vineyards of Italy. She flirted with him when he was a young man studying in Germany, Argentina and California and once she got her cold, fingers wrapped around his heart he was unable to break free of her grasp.
Marco Piccoli is the winemaker for Jackson-Triggs winery and his long journey brought him across the ocean to Canada to commit to learning the mysteries of making Icewine.
Marco loves Italy and misses his friends and family, but wine is in his blood and in his soul. When he took a job in Italy during high school it was with an old, traditional winery. He loved the craft and learned a great deal about their process… and the smell of the cellar that reminded him of being a young boy and spending time with his grandfather while he made wine.
Marco wanted to learn and needed to expand his mind. He worked for a couple of Italian wineries, became a Sommelier and went on to a university to increase his knowledge and gain the confidence he knew he would need to become a great winemaker.
As he learned more, he kept coming across mentions of icewine and became fascinated by it. He went to Germany to pursue his Masters degree during a winter that they failed to produce an icewine harvest. He kept chasing this knowledge only to find it remained elusive.
Finally, a technical English course, led to an opportunity to work as one of the translators on Donald Ziraldo’s book into Italian. The partnership between his school and Brock provided an invitation to come to Niagara and learn more about the process. He requested an opportunity to stay for an internship with Inniskillin which eventually led to winning the winemaker role at Jackson-Triggs in September of 2005.
It was the winter of that year that he finally got the opportunity to make his first Icewine.
Marco’s eyes light up when he talks about the process, he laughs as he explains how he and Frank Hellwig went out that first winter in the middle of the cold winter night. It was -10 and Frank explained to him even though the temperature was cold enough, the grapes weren’t yet frozen solid. Here was Frank, an Australian winemaker, explaining to the Italian winemaker that it wasn’t quite a cold enough Canadian winter evening to harvest the icewine grapes.
He said he needed to come up a with a new definition for cold, because in Italian that kind of cold temperature doesn’t translate.
Marco realizes it was the mystery and the intrigue that caused him to pursue winemaking in Canada. So much depends on Mother Nature, maybe more with icewine than any other kind of winemaking. You are so dependent on the right weather and the exact moment can’t be predicted in advance. You prepare all season and educate yourself but you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. That is the part he has fallen in love with.
Marco was also quick to point out how grateful he was to learn so much about winemaking in Niagara. This region is as respectful of traditional winemaking as any place he has ever been, but there is a willingness to share knowledge and a humble nature to the winemakers here. He has learned so much and has been inspired and encouraged throughout his career in Niagara.
He has also enjoyed becoming somewhat of an ambassador for Niagara wines as he travels to Europe several times a year. He has been able to share some of what he has learned and watch as the Niagara wines have gone from being hard to find to becoming renowned worldwide.
Marco Piccoli travelled across the world to come to Niagara to do the thing that he loves. And very early one morning, he will stand in a field and squeeze a frozen grape between his fingers and he will smile like a young man staring across a room at his true love, knowing he has it all right here.
JUST THE FACTS:
Jackson Triggs Winery is located at 2145 Regional Road 55
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Phone Number: 905-468-4637
Open daily and year round.
Closed major holidays only.
Summer: June through October
10AM-6:30pm | 7 days a week
Winter: November through May
10AM-5:30PM | 7 days a week