Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Foreign Affair Winery

The sun tipped my nose, flashing through the hot windshield glass, as we slowly drove around & over an arched rock bridge;  creek gurgling, sparkling below.  A logo in modern contrast announced our arrival in black and white.  The Foreign Affair Winery.  Tucked in behind regal buildings, driveways, studied botanicals and abundant Autumn greenhouses. In truth, my truth, the Canadiana sensibility to their graphic branding lured me to this place of bottled goodness, but once inside a warm, Italian-styled tasting room, informed and entertained, I knew there was much, much more to this selection.  Plus, I was so very fortunate to be greeted my Owner, Len Crispino and his professional, smiling & knowledgeable Wine Expert, Caitlin Prior. 

By Niagara standards, their 40-acre vineyard is a relatively small parcel of agricultural land. It is, however, some of the Peninsula's finest land for the purposes of their endeavour. Be prepared for a uniquely different taste experience. Their wines confound even the most discerning palate. Highly concentrated and richly coloured, our appassimento method wines are dense with flavour, leading you to think that they are sweet on the palate when, in fact, they are not even remotely so. Their wines have been described by some as a "blind-taster's nightmare". They encourage their friends and guests to initially share the wines blindly and then wait for the reaction.

Len writes it best: 

"When first my lips caressed this Old World temptress, I realized in that very moment that I was entranced deeper than I could fathom. Passion ignited within my heart, and I knew my life was about to change in ways I never imagined possible....but what was I to tell my dear wife of 35 years?  The straight truth - I had fallen in love with Amarone-style wines; a Northern Italian winemaking tradition whereby winemakers dry the grapes before they are transformed into wine. From this unique appassimento process comes wines of incredible depth, richness and complexity. Upon returning to Canada... I set my mind and passion upon seeing how the appassimento process would translate with grapes grown on home soil. The result? Let's just say that many more hearts are about to be set alight.

.......................In the early 1990's, my wife Marisa, our daughter Stefanie and I had the privilege to lead the lives of expats in Italy. It was a richly cultural experience for us. So much so, that Italy has become a major reference point when considering our lives retrospectively.

Italy introduced us to a whole new world of fine food, wine, and the simple joys of everyday life. We discovered the wonders of Amarone styled wines in the northern part of the country. The more we learned about them, the more excited we became at the prospect of bringing this incredible craftsmanship back with us to Ontario.

And so we did. In 2000, with the kind encouragement of a dear friend, John Howard, we acquired some prime farmland in the Vineland area of the Niagara Peninsula. We then sourced and planted 40 acres of Amarone-inspired vines. After three years of carefully nurturing the vines, our first crop was harvested in 2004. In the time-held tradition of Amarone, we then proceeded to delicately dry our grape stock in a barn until each of the varietals were perfect for winemaking.

We are very proud of the fact the our wines are Canadian and home grown. But make no mistake, we were greatly influenced by the rich Italian (Veneto Region) history of appassimento (drying process). It was in Veneto where it all started and reference to amarone or recioto belong only to those winemaking visionaries. They were and still are the legendary pioneers for whom we have huge respect and admiration. Our Canadian stylistic interpretation with locally grown vinifera varietals are referred to as appassimento (grape drying or Reductio Method) rather than the uniquely owned names found in Veneto

A glass of our wine tells the rest of the story. " - Len Crispino

The Foreign Affair Winery operation is very much the story of passion, belief and defiance. Their first, inaugural production was born, literally, in a metal-clad barn. And while they have now moved on to a more welcoming and warm winery home (thanks to Marisa Crispino's creativity), they have stayed true to their beliefs and passionate beginnings. 

The limited volumes are clearly focused on premium quality. This is their niche, this is the winery's point of differentiation. Their boutique winery and retail store are located on the beautiful grounds of the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre.

A must-visit Canadian destination. A must-taste a Canadian wine.  A must-share Canadian winery.  A must-request wine in your local restaurants!

Your Invitation to the Exclusive Release of the Foreign Affair's Vintages: On behalf of the entire Foreign Affair Winery team, it is our pleasure to invite you to the release of our vintage wines, on 

You will have the opportunity to sample these, as well as a number of our other wines. One catch: we need you to RSVP by November 1st, as space is limited during this busy harvest season. Once confirmed, you will be placed on our entrance list for the day.

To rsvp please call us at 905.562.9898 or email

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