Canadian Wine People - Andrzej Lipinski


One question that often arises in the wine world is: “Where did your love affair with wine begin.” For me the answer was in a glass of 2006 Foreign Affair Cabernet Franc. This Niagara wine was made from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes to which an appassimento process had been applied. While a true appreciation of this wine cannot be had through a breakdown of its components, it had aromas of raisin, licorice and black cherry and a palate of raisin, chocolate, black cherry and plum, with a luxurious, rich mouthfeel. Most importantly, it was a wine which left me wanting much, much more.
Since then, I have come to love the whites even more than the reds because they are like no other wines I have encountered. This winery specializes in Amarone style wines and applies the appassimento process to all of its varietals (including the whites) save for their icewine. Foreign Affair’s white wines are also rich with a full mouthfeel, and a lingering finish. They are not for the typical white-wine drinker. I doubt they are designed to simply be quaffed; instead these are wines which should be taken seriously.

As a student of oenology and viticulture at the time, I needed to know more. How was this wine made? What made it so much better than everything else I had tasted before? Why were all of the wines at this winery so spectacular?

And thus my quest began. My journey led me to discover that the winemaker, Andrzej Lipinski, also was working for another winery – Organized Crime. While the wines at this winery were very different in style (more reminiscent of Bordeaux), they, too, were spectacular. The more of Andrzej’s wines I tasted, the more I needed to know about the man responsible for the wines I had grown to love.

 What I found out was as interesting as the wines themselves. Andrzej Lipinski came to be a winemaker quite by accident. He was born and raised in Poland. As a young adult, he achieved much success as an auto-parts salesman. In 1989, he decided to emigrate to Canada. Prior to moving, he quit his job in order to learn construction. Upon his arrival here, he worked odd construction jobs and supplemented his income by picking grapes. Later, he worked doing maintenance for John Howard at his home. In 1992, John Howard bought shares in Vineland Estates. After the carriage house burned down, Andrzej was hired to do renovation work. The winter of 1993 was very cold and there was little construction work available. In order to support his family, he asked John if he could work in the cellar. Over the course of the winter he began cleaning and organizing and was eventually asked to stay. He then began the process of developing his palate as he had never really been a wine drinker. After two years, in 1996, Andrzej became the assistant winemaker. Finally, in 1998, Andrzej was asked to make his own wine.

He was permitted to choose any white varietal and had full control over the winemaking process. He chose Chardonnay due to both its popularity and the vinification options he had available to him at the time. Like everything Andrzej does, he gave this project his full attention. Every decision he made had a focus on quality; he chose old vines, watched the vineyard daily, hand picked in bushels, hand sorted and destemmed. He made eight barrels of this wine and when complete, it was chosen to be the reserve Chardonnay for the 1998 vintage. The winery decided to submit his wine to Vinitaly in 1999 and his wine won a gold medal.

In 2002, Andrzej left Vineland and has since gone on to win many awards and much acclaim at wineries such as Legends, DeSousa, Fielding, Megalomaniac, Foreign Affair and Organized Crime. He feels it is important to keep moving in order to keep evolving as a winemaker. Andrzej’s need to learn and apply himself can be easily seen in his love of winemaking in poor vintages because of the challenges that they present, and cool climates for their need to adapt to each vintage. His much deserved pride in his work was evident when I asked him what he finds to be the biggest problem facing the Canadian wine industry today, and he replied the lack of a true free market. He feels as though Canadian wine should be treated as a food product as it is elsewhere in the world and that if this were to happen, then Canadian wine would be able to compete with wine from anywhere else in the world.

Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber once said, “What I love about wine is the joy of discovery. It’s the fact that wine is so obviously affected by what people do to create it.” I feel that as long as Canadian wine continues to be made by individuals such as Andrzej, he is correct in his assumption that there is the potential for Canadian wine to be among the best in the world, as his wines have clearly already demonstrated.


Naomi Laurie

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: 6R57
    291133 1

    I have tasted many a wine made by this accomplished Polishman. I wonder even though not raised making wine if the Polish are just very gifted in the art of wine making. Here in North Carolina in Morrisville there is another Polishman that has made inspiring wine Marek Wojciechowski of Chatham Hill Winery. I will continue to enjoy one glass at a time.

    Nov 02, 2009 at 1:12 PM

  • Snooth User: slats
    154678 1

    These remarks inspire me to have a glass. Where do I find it in Texas?

    Nov 02, 2009 at 2:16 PM

  • Snooth User: LisaTillis
    221025 13

    Although I have not tasted the wines of Andrzej -- I too am a fan of the wines of Marek Wojciechowski at Chatham Hill Winery in Morrisville, NC. He is a very accomplished wine maker producing outstanding reds (cab sav, cab franc, zin, syrah and merlot) and whites (chardonney, viognier, riesling, and pinot grigio). In addition, Mark Friszolowski at Childress Winery in Lexington, NC is another Polish wine maker who has achieved much success in making fine wines.

    Nov 02, 2009 at 3:04 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Fantastic information. The adolescent wine worlds of places like Canada and the southern States sort of remind me of what I've read about Californians in the 60's. A few people making a huge impact and sharing information with anyone who is interested!

    Nov 03, 2009 at 11:06 AM

  • @ Slats - I contacted Andrzej and he said to contact the winery. They can probably ship directly to you. They are only open on the weekends, so I'd suggest calling on Saturday. Their number is 905 562 9898 or 1 877 AMARON1 (262 7661). Let me know what you think.

    @ Gregory - Thanks. I'm glad you found it informative!

    Naomi :)

    Nov 03, 2009 at 5:35 PM

  • Snooth User: Loznoc
    293439 4

    Let's not forget Warren Winiarski who won first place at the historic Judgment of Paris with his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Nov 05, 2009 at 5:44 PM

  • Snooth User: BMP
    155195 3

    I just returned from Niagara Peninsula visiting the wineries. As a Sommelier, I like to keep up on new wineries and their products. Colaneri Estate Winery is one of them and a huge Tuscan stone facade building greets you as did Betty Colaneri and Andrrzej Lipinski. He is also their winemaker and they specialize in appassimento, ripasso and recioto style wines. Their hospitality, care for their products and equally their guests is unmatched, as were the many wines I tasted. In particular, I was impressed with Andrzej 's reasonably priced 2008 Chardonnay, 2010 Pinot Grigio and 2009 Cabernet on this trip...can't wait to try the other premium wines in the portfolio!

    Sep 24, 2011 at 7:41 PM

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