After a period of grieving for her father, Andrea Kaiser now draws comfort from being able to talk about him.
She loves to tell the personal stories that represent the Karl Kaiser she remembers, not as a pioneer of the Canadian wine industry, but as the loving, funny and highly intelligent “grounding force” of the family who loved to debate and discuss all kinds of issues.
To honour those memories of her father, who died in November 2017, to fulfill her dream and carry on a family legacy, she is launching a virtual wine company, with her first vintage expected to be available to the public Friday.
As befitting International Sauvignon Blanc Day, Friday, May 3, and in honour of Karl and his determination to create the perfect “batch” in his home cellar of the wine he knew was a favourite of Andrea and her mother, the first release of the Drea’s Wine Co. is a Sauvignon Blanc.
“I’m dedicating it to my father who, along with my family, affectionately called me Drea,” she said.
One of the stories she loves to relate is the annual ritual that occurred when his cellar wine was ready for tasting. It was so important to him that she and her mother like it he was nervous to see their reactions, and Andrea liked to give him a hard time, particularly about the sugar content. She would tease him about it, reminding him they liked their wine “bone dry” and without oak, as if he could forget.
Drea’s sauv blanc has classic gooseberry notes — her niece Sophia’s beautiful gooseberry etchings adorn the label designed by her brother Max — in memory of her father’s fondness for the fruit. And it is fermented in stainless steel, of course, with a “very, very” small touch of residual sugar, she said.
Referring to her brother and sister, Andrea says, “we’ve all ended up in the industry, and it was our father’s contribution to the wine industry in the early days that allowed us to live here and work here. This has been a wonderful spin-off for us. The amazing foresight of Donald (Ziraldo) and my dad have created this economic viability in the wine sector.”
“The most amazing part” of her journey to launch her own wine, she said, is it’s giving her the opportunity to talk about her dad, to laugh a little, and to reflect on the good times growing up.
“I think the biggest revelation to all of us after he was gone was how much we relied on him, that this quiet person we knew, and had always appreciated, was such a grounding force in our family. He has been honoured as a winemaker, but as my brother said, it’s more important for us that people know what a great father and grandfather he was, and that his family was so important to him,” she said.
“Our family gatherings were never quiet. There was always a lot of bantering and discussion — sometimes heated discussion. He encouraged us to think and to debate. He was an incredibly intelligent man. That’s how we grew up, appreciating that culture of debate. Over the years there were probably 30 different students living with us at one time or another, from different countries. Some were exchange students, some winemaking students from Austria or Germany. My dad loved to share his knowledge, and he was very passionate about learning.”
The opportunity to talk about him is even more meaningful because his personality meant he often took a back seat in his career, said Andrea.
“He was reserved and very humble. For us, this is a chance to celebrate all he did.”
Her foray into winemaking has been supported by her family, and also by Klaus Reif and winemaker Roberto DiDomenico, who have been behind her all the way.
The culture of the wine industry, going back to its earliest days, was one of congeniality and support among colleagues, she said, and Reif and DiDomenico grew up in that atmosphere of mutual respect and working together to build the industry.
“I can’t thank them enough, they’ve been so completely supportive. I feel so fortunate to be there.”