Remembering Ontario's Lloyd Schmidt: one of Canada’s great wine innovators

North American wine industry loses a celebrated Canadian wine-making mentor

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There is no way to quantify the impact that Lloyd Schmidt has had on the Canadian wine industry. From being one of the first to cultivate vinifera in Canada to his extreme generosity that lives on through his children, I can say with confidence that the Canadian wine industry lost a great friend this past week. I never had the pleasure of meeting the late Mr. Schmidt myself but I have been touched by his legacy, probably in more ways than I am even aware of.


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Schmidt was as master of his craft. Known famously for his ability to see past the present and look into the future, be it the introduction of new vines into North America or implementing cutting edge wine making techniques, he was and remains to be one of the most impressive Canadian viticulturists our industry has seen. Beyond that, it is an entirely different thing to leave behind a legacy of generosity the way he has. Lloyd Schmidt was aware of the good fortune that was bestowed upon him throughout his life and in return, he extended this good fortune onto others in the industry. If you had an obvious passion for wine or viticulture, it is a documented fact that Schmidt would go out of his way to help cultivate that passion.

Mike Lightfoot from Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia is one of many winemakers who was taken under Schmidt wing.

“Lloyd worked tirelessly on the promotion of Canadian wine and raising its quality. He was instrumental in the discovery of Nova Scotia as a viable quality wine region, and his footsteps will forever be the ones that made the biggest impact in the early discovery days of growing  quality grapes in N.S. He took me on as a mentee very early in our pursuit to develop our vineyards. Although the lessons were many, none more important than the notion that you can’t make good wine from poor fruit. Much of the early success we have experienced, we owe to Lloyd’s gracious patience, teaching, mentorship and connections. Lloyd was a legend in the Canadian wine industry who devoted his life to the pursuit of excellence. He will be sincerely missed and leaves behind an incredible legacy of kindness and passion.” 

I remember meeting Schmidt’s son Brian, vice president and winemaker of Vineland Estates in Niagara, over lunch one afternoon at a restaurant I was managing. While I remember the wines being delicious, I can’t even begin to recall what we drank that day. The one detail that stuck with me from that afternoon many years ago is a story about the sorting table at Vineland. Brian, bursting with excitement, let me know that they had just brought in a state-of-the-art sorting table; he even pulled up a video of it on his phone to show me! He also let me know that they shared their equipment with the community. I, being relatively new to the wine industry, was unaware of the how winemakers across this country held each other up. Years later, after a day spent touring through Niagara, I had multiple winemakers and vineyard owners tell me that their success was in great part due to the support they received from Schmidt and his family while rooting themselves.

These are just a few stories of many of a man that cared so fervently about his craft, having lived a life filled with joy and accomplishment. Schmidt’s memory is etched into vineyards across this country and to say he will be missed is a great understatement.