Pillitteri Estates Winery

This Ontario winery has evolved into a thriving international business

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After years in the horticulture business, Gary Pillitteri fulfilled his lifelong dream of creating a winery, by starting Pilletteri Estates Winery with his son Charles Pillitteri, now the CEO, in 1993. Fully-owned and operated by the Pillitteri family, the company has grown into the largest estate icewine producer in the world and is number one in estate winery exports.

With a focus on premium wines, ice wine accounts for half of Pillitteri's production and the other half is aromatic white wines, such as Riesling and full-bodied reds. In Canada, Pillitteri sells its products to the LCBO, Ontario restaurants and at its winery, which receives more than 100,000 visitors a year.

Pillitteri Estates' location, in the tourist destination of Niagara-on-the-Lake, inspired the company's first exporting venture. "Almost 50 per cent of our visitors are from Japan, China and Korea and we generated so many icewine sales from our Asian visitors that we decided to export there," says Charles Pillitteri. Today the company exports to more than 30 countries worldwide, including China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Germany and the US. Around the globe, Pillitteri's well-known icewine brands are also sold in restaurants, Duty-Free stores and to wholesalers and importers. "Our export strategy focuses on promoting the Canadian identity and branding icewine as a uniquely Canadian premium wine product," says Pillitteri.

The recipient of 600 domestic and international wine awards, Pillitteri Estates is focused on quality and innovation. The company created the first ever successful Merlot Icewine, the first Shiraz Icewine and the first sparkling Cabernet Icewine, among other firsts. "We're the first certified HACCP-certified winery which makes it easier to export," says Pillitteri. "HACCP is a lot of work but, it's been worth it."

As exports continue to become a more significant part of Pillitteri's wine sales, now making up 50 per cent of gross sales, the company continually takes measures to improve efficiency and stay innovative. Pillitteri has been crafting new icewine varietals and is the first Canadian winery to implement Prooftag to protect its brand's integrity against counterfeiting in unregulated markets. The company has also invested in all-natural cross-flow filtration systems that allow it to capture back all of the available juice in its wine and is a leading member of the Wine Country Ontario's (WCO) Sustainable Grape Growing Committee which supports practices to produce the highest quality grapes possible.

As a result of these technological innovations, Pillitteri products are getting even better. "Sometimes when the innovation goes up the quality goes down. You can be sustainable and efficient and buy all the right technology but if the wines don't get better, what is the point?" says Pillitteri. "Our products are getting better because of our technology."

Author: Tanja Raposo
Creation Date: 09 May 2012
Last Reviewed: 09 May 2012