• ZIRALDO Bianco Di Fagagna (Picolit)

    The story of my encounter with Picolit starts officially in 2004 when I was given a ‘Citidenza Honorario’ ( Honorary Citizenship) in Friuli , in the town of Fagagna where my mom and dad were both born in the Friuli region north east of Venice. I actually remember my uncle Batista pouring me some Picolit when I was a young boy visiting Friuli and making quite a fuss about it. Little did I know that later in life this would bring me back to Fagagna to plant a vineyard.

    At the ceremony, there were numerous dignitaries amongst them the President of the region Tesini who said "Donald, this is all very nice. However, you know that over 1200 men from this small community travelled abroad and helped build the great country of Canada. I think it would be appropriate if you came back to Friuli and did something here for your people."

    Following the ceremony I was invited to dinner in the restaurant in The Castello. Which is owned by Count Fabio Asquini. At the dinner, the Count came by to congratulate me and began to tell me about the history of his family and Picolit. He invited me to visit the archives in his family home the next day Picolit, a native, autocton variety was cultivated by the Romans. It became Friuli’s own variety and a symbol of the region. Its original name Picolitto, actually means 'very little' which illustrates the fact that due to genetic sterility of the flower cluster few berries actually pollinate. The low yield per vine is due to the tendency of the berries to ‘shatter’ during flowering, due to pollen sterility, often only yielding 10 to 20 berries per cluster. It requires the perfect site, with nutrient poor soils, south facing exposition to the sun and good ventilation.

    The first official document that shows the name Picolit dates back to 1682. The first Picolit vineyard appears to have been planted by a woman, Pantasilia Capiferro, in Rocca Bernardo, (where I tasted a Picolit in 2000 made by Mario Zuliani that had won the coveted 'tre bicieri' Award.) Count Fabio Asquini di Fagagna is credited with meticulously cultivating Picolit in the mid 1700’s. He selected ideal sites , developed training systems and bottled the Picolit in delicate hand blown glass bottles made in Murano. The delicate wine were transported by donkey to Venice and then on to the Royal Courts of Austria, the Czars of Russia, Kings and Queens of Spain and England and to the Pope. All of this is documented in the book IL Picolit by Valerio Ros.

    Author Burton Anderson wrote "by the mid-19th century, Picolit was undoubtedly Italy's most prestigious wine." It's praises were sung by celebrated Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni, who called it 'the delight of popes, cardinals and emperors.'

    Currently it can only be produced in the DOCG in the Colli Orientali del Friuli area of Friuli-Venezia-Julia. The DOCG limits yield to 40 quintals (22hl of wine) per hectare. There are only about 60 hectares planted. The berry is small, oval with a firm resistant skin and large pips. Budbreak is early while ripening is late which lends itself to good hang time. The grapes are picked, then left to dry in racks, a process known as "appassimento" which again reduces the production of wine, thus its name Picolit.

    Luigi Veronelli stated that "Picolit was to Italy what Chateau d’Yquem is to France." It was Veronelli who suggested to me that I request a D.O.C. Communale designation for Fagagna because under current DOC regulations, the name Picolit cannot be used on the bottle of wine made in Fagagna. Fagagna happens to be where my parents both were born and where Picolit was born.

    Picolit should be drunk alone in order to best savor its freshness and richness of flavor, typical of northern wines, as well as its sweetness and concentration, and the dried fruit aromas.

    So after meeting with Count Asquini and chatting with my cousin Valdi and remembering President Tessini's words, I decided that I should plant Picolit in Fagagna to honour the memory of my mother and father and their birthplace. Valdi also shared with me that there is a road behind my family’s Azienda Agricola called Viniuol (small wine road) where Picolit was grown as a hedgerow supported by 'chiocks' along a south facing stone wall. So we decided to plant some Picolit vines in Fagagna.

    We signed an agreement with the Count Fabio Asquini, oener of the lands around the Castello who is the great grandson of the Count who lives in the restored family home adjacent to the Castello. We planted 1000 vines on the hillside of the Castello for which the rent paid would be twelve bottles of the precious wine produced from the vineyard.

    I did that because it harkened back to when my family were peasants in Fagagna and they paid their rent or stipend by giving a portion of the crop to the landlord.Another vineyard was planted on an adjacent hillside. We also planted some of the vines below the Castello in the original training system ( vignette tradizionale in photos ) illustrated in the photo, with me holding one of the cross arms, that was used by Count Asquini back in the 1700’s.

    One small problem... due to the DOC regulations we are not allowed by law to call the wine Picolit because Fagagna is not in the official DOC region that lists Picolit as an authorized variety, which is in the Colli Orientali. Fagagna is in the Grave region which does not list Picolit as an authorized variety So following Veronelli’s advice I have researched the problem and with the assistance of the Mayor of Fagagna, I started the long process of requesting a declaration of a DOC Communale for Fagagna which would then allow me to put Picolit di Fagagna on the label. The current vintage will be a Vino da Tavola. The same nomenclature used by Peiro Antinori when he ran into the similar problem with his Tignanello which he could only call Vino da Tavola because it also contained unauthorized grape variety for the DOC he was located in.

    As coincidence would have it I met the Minster of Agriculture Ziai when I was at Vinitaly in April, 2009 to receive the Grand Premio at Vinitaly on behalf of Inniskillin. I told him of the dilemma and he indicated he would do what he could to assist.

    Well, after many years I must admit that I finally conceded defeat. Not something I have done many times in my life. However after many arduous e-mails, meetings and inquiries I came to the conclusion that even after my years of learning there is a time when one must compromise. So, I thought that instead of calling the wine by its rightful name Picolit, I would call it Dolce Di Fagagna. I even consulted with my dear friend Larry McQuire, one of the owners of Far Niente, in Napa, who make Dolce wine (www.farniente.com) just to be sure he was Ok with my adding Dolce to make my point. But it was to no avail, That name was also refused. The authorities finally agreed to let me name the wine Bianco di Fagagna. Not very creative but it does speak to the origin of the wine and the birthplace of Picolit, my beloved Fagagna.

    The first vintage of Picolit from the vineyard was vinified in 2008. The grapes were harvested and then dried "appassimento" in wooden boxes, then fermented in oak barrels at my friend Giorgio Colutta’s winery in Manzano.

    My dear friend Manlio Tonutti , Graphice Tonutti, in Fagagna, one of the best label printers in Europe is assisted me with the label concept and design while Valdi continues to tend the vineyard. So after many years, numerous trials and tribulations I am able to present the Picolit which I made in hounour of my mom, Irma and father Fiorello from their beloved town of Fagagne, the birthplace of Picolit.

    The wines are available in Italy and soon to be released at Vintages in Ontario. Others from anywhere in the world who are interested in purchasing it please contact me at donald@ziraldo.ca

    Donald Ziraldo, Furlan; with Canadian skin and Italian blood

    Donald J. P. Ziraldo

    Donald Ziraldo


    Honeycomb, praline, peanut brittle, dried apricot, dried mango and camomile tea, and that's just the nose! Sweet, satisfying, layered and complex, with a finish that is gorgeous, sweet, fruity, and loooong. This may cause you to change your after-dinner plans too! Enjoy with roasted nuts, biscotti, blue cheese, or conversation, or any combination thereof.

    • VINTAGES 318915
    • Price $41.95 / 375 mL bottle
    • Made in: Friuli, Italy
    • By: Azienda Agricola Ziraldo
    • Style: Lusciously Sweet Wine, Dessert Wine
    • 13.0% Alcohol/Vol.
    • Varietal: Picolit
    • Sugar Content: 2 g/L
    • Sweetness Descriptor: S - Sweet

    Donald Ziraldo
  • ZIRALDO 2012 RIESLING Table Wine (Organic Practices)

    This vineyard was planted in 2007 and grown using organic practices for the sole purpose of making Icewine, which is my passion. Planted on the original Inniskillin winery site, this wine consists of five Riesling clones planted on five different rootstocks as an experiment to determine which clone is most suitable to this Niagara appellation. Due to the young vines and an extremely hot summer which caused the vines to be stressed, the grapes matured early and I decided to pick mid-November. This unique off-dry Riesling is the result.

    • Appelation: Niagara-On-The-Lake
    • Alcohol: 11.4%
    • Estate bottled: Victoria Vineyard
    • Brix at harvest: 22

    Price $19.95 750ml (12 x 750ml/case) - LCBO #357640


    A zesty Riesling bursting with lemon and lime character, this shows a nice mineral streak and a crisp, lip-smacking finish. Enjoy with freshwater fish or mildly spiced fish tacos.
    - VINTAGES panel, Sept. 2013

    Quite subtle, discreet, orchard fruit skin aromas. Lovely delicacy, with orange/tangerine and peach flavours. Racy fruit quality and lots of precision and finesse. Such a lovely mouth-wateringly fresh and juicy fruit with both minerality and acidity just playing delicately across the tongue. Brilliant Job!
    - Warren Smulowitz, Independent review

    Donald J. P. Ziraldo

    Donald Ziraldo

    To purchase visit LCBO.com

    Donald Ziraldo

    The Niagara Peninsula's unique climate provides the ideal conditions to ripen the fruit. The cold winters naturally freeze the water in the berries to yield an exquisite balance of fruit, acid and an extraordinary array of flavors which results in this fine wine, often called "liquid gold".

    The secret to great Icewine is the ideal balance between the intense sweetness and the inherent high acidity from the cool climate region of Niagara. These Riesling grapes, naturally frozen on the vine, were harvested during the middle of the night and pressed in the extreme cold to separate the juice from the ice crystals, followed by fermentation in a special yeast for many months. This remarkable process concentrates the sugar and acids - intensifying the aromatic flavours in the berries. The aromas are reminiscent of white and tropical fruits, with overtones of peach nectar and mango. You can learn more about Icewine and pairing it with food in my book "Icewine: Extreme Winemaking".

    Donald J. P. Ziraldo

    Donald Ziraldo

    Donald Ziraldo
  • ICEWINE: extreme winemaking

    "Icewine: Extreme Winemaking by Inniskillin Wines co-founders Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser is a beautifully illustrated book that reveals the painstaking methods and skills used to create one of Canada's most desired delicacies - Icewine.

    Niagara Peninsula is renowned for the quality of its Icewine, and from Japan to Europe Icewine is synonymous with the highest level of luxury goods. Donald Ziraldo takes readers on a personal tour through the amazing world of cool-climate viticulture and Icewine-making. Ziraldo draws on his insights and experience to bring to life what is an exacting science, an expressive art and an earthy celebration of regional terroir. The complex factors that determine a fine wine-soil, grape varieties, pressing, cork quality, and the all important cold climate needed to produce Icewine-are all colourfully presented in this handsome keepsake volume.

    Winemaker Karl Kaiser adds a chapter on the scientific aspects of Icewine making. Beautiful photographs complement more than 20 scrumptious recipes from the late, resident chef Izabela Kalabis-Sacco that rely on Icewine as a main ingredient. Food and wine pairings provide the perfect finish for this luxurious volume, designed to immerse readers in the velvety smoothness of Canada's most precious beverage."

    .... excerpt from Key-Porter Publishing.

    For purchasing information visit www.indigo.ca or www.amazon.com

    Icewine: Extreme Winemaking


    • Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, October 13, 1948 to Fredrick and Irma (Schiratti)

    • Graduated Denis Morris High School, St. Catharines in 1967

    • Received B.Sc. in Agriculture at the University of Guelph 1971 (BSc)

    • Awarded Honorary Degree, Humber College

    • Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, Brock University, 1994 (LLD)

    • Order of Ontario, 1993

    • Order of Canada, 1998

    • Top 25 Canadian CEOs of the Century, National Post Business Magazine, 1999

    • Honourary Citizenship (Friuli Venzia Julia), Italy

    • Author: Icewine; Extreme Winemaking (2007, in book stores now)


    • Director, Shaftesbury Films

    • Member of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists

    • Founding Chair Vintners’ Quality Alliance 1988-1995

    • Member, Academie Internationale du Vin (AIV) – inducted December 2000

    • Member Greenbelt Advisory Task Force

    • Director, Cannasat Therapeutics Inc.

    • Chair, Grape & Wine Coordination Research Committee, 2004

    • Board Member/Industry Advisor, CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers)

    • Honorary Board Member, The International Wine Institute, 2005

    • Board of Advisors, Zerofootprint

    • Chair, Vineland Renaissance Advisory Panel – 2006

    • Chair, Vineland Research & Innovation Centre Board – 2007

    • RTN Stealth Software Inc - Board


    • President (1975-2006) Inniskillin Wines Inc., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

    • President (since 1994) Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Inc., Oliver, British Columbia

    • Director, Vincor International Inc. (1993–2004)

    • Member, Team Canada Inc. Advisory Board

    • Member, Canadian Tourism Council

    • Board of Governors, Shaw Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake

    • Co-Chair, Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute Capital Campaign, Brock Univ.

    • Campaign Chair, Niagara College Foundation “Future Ready” Capital Campaign


    • Ontario Hostelry Institute Chairman’s Award, 1991

    • TAMA Marketer of the Year, 1993

    • Silver Ladle Award, Toronto Culinary Guild

    • Honorary Bachelor of Applied Studies Degree, Niagara College 2004

    • Winery Management Magazine; Distinguished Achievement Award, 1994

    • Outstanding Business Person of the Year, St. Catharines Adv. and Sales Assoc., 1994

    • Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, Institute for Enterprise Education, 1994

    • Awarded Medal of Achievement at Guelph

    • Grindley Medal, Agricultural Institute of Canada (AIC), 1995

    • Entrepreneur of the Year for Community Contribution: Enterprise ‘95, 1995

    • Award of Merit, Ontario Grape Growers; Marketing Board, 1997

    • Special Recognition Award, The Elsie Awards, LCBO, 1997

    • Lifetime Achievement Award, Enterprise ‘98, Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

    • Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Wine Institute, 1999

    • Lifetime Achievement Award for Food and Beverage Excellence,

    - The Sixth Annual New World of Food and Wine Festival Singapore, 2002

    • Niagara Wine Festival Royal Bank's Business Citizen of the Year, 2002

    • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee Award, 2002

    • Award for Business Excellence, Canadian Italian Business Professional Association, 2002

    • McGill Management Achievement Award, McGill University, 2003

    • Canadian Italian National Award, Ottawa, 2003

    • Business Excellence Award, The Cdn. Italian Business & Prof. Assoc. of Toronto, 2005

    • VinCambridge Award of Excellence, Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, 2006

    • Lifetime Achievement in Tourism Award, Ont. Tourism Marketing Partnership Corp., 2007

    • 1991 - OHI (Ontario Hostilery Institute) Chairman's Gold Award

    • 2008 Premio Masi Award, Verona, Italy

    • 2010 Folio D'Oro Award; Friuli, Italy

    • 2012 Diamond Jubilee Award

    • 2012 Brock University; Faculty of Business Distinguished Leader Award, January 20





    Donald Ziraldo
  • Donald Ziraldo Consulting

    I am available on an advisory basis for various disciplineswith the wine sector; particularily marketing, publicrelations, winery design and strategic planning. I would be particularily interested in challenging start up operations and restructuring existing wineries. I am only interested in the advisory role as opposed to day to day management. My interest in architecture and my international experience in Icewine is what I would be most qualified in contributing .Additionally, I have a strong network of associates from whom I can draw to provide specific expertise such as: finance, accounting, engineering, distribution, vineyard management and many other areas that I can bring to the discussion.

    $2500.00 per day/ or $300.00 per hour.
    The intent would be in a more advisory capacity in the form of discussion as opposed to a structured consulting type of arrangement. In the many years that I have built a very successful wine company I have relied on the knowledge that I had gained from experience and I would make that knowledge available. I would apply it on a case by case basis to achieve above standard expecations.

    Donald Ziraldo
  • Where To Buy

    Ziraldo Table Wine avaiable at Wine Online and LCBO.com

    Ontario - Signature Wines , Brian and Louis Banyrad, 905-815-8865 select L.C.B.O. stores
    BC, Alberta - Barcbees Fine Wines, Jordan Barclay, barcbees@hotmail.com, 205-509-0367
    Quebec - SAQ - www.saq.com

    Milon Wine- www.milonwine.com.hk
    Andy Lee - www.sinolinkfw.com

    The Perfect Cellar Ltd - Tel 0203 617 6945 - info@theperfectcellar.com

    Frank Pironett, Talent e Terroir - (33) 698800364 - frank.pironett@wanadoo.fr
    Valade & Transandine, 1 Domaine Lisennes, 33370 Tresses, France - Tel: +33 5 57 19 17 52 - www.transandine.fr

    West Coast Wine Cellars - Perth Northern Suburbs - (08) 94463575

    Country Seasons - Tel/Fax 056/664 8808 - www.countryseasons.ch

    Donald Ziraldo