There is such a large group of people that fit into this category that it would be almost impossible to name them all. Still, they all bravely and perhaps idealistically did what they did and we, both the Canadian wine industry and all wine consumers reap the benefits of their dreams and tenacity. We should note that Pioneers exist today even though the world-class foundational work has been done in the last number of decades in Canada. There are frontiers still before us and those with vision and courage, venture towards the unknown horizon cutting the way for others to follow. The world is a fast changing place and the wine world within our world is moving almost as fast. Specifically, climate change is dissolving standards all over the globe on which we once all relied. As farmers, and yes the wine industry is made up of a bunch of farmers no matter how glamorous this all looks, we are on the bleeding edge of climate change adaptation and innovation. We must pioneer to survive. The only constant is change and we need pioneers to pull us all forward.
We can easily imagine the first French and English settlers in North America, looking for anything they could ferment themselves. There was a plethora of native vines and grapes to be found so why not? As a matter of fact, the earliest European visitors to North America (Vikings) called the new discovery “Winland” (in old Norse) – or “land of vines”. Sadly these wild varieties that were everywhere produced wines that were wild and gamey. Still, they did produced drinkable alcohol and that is what they needed to have some “preserved” calories during the very tough early years in the new wilderness. That and the “local” homemade wine got them so drunk that they could not find the dock where the ship going back to Europe was moored! Now that is a pioneer,
The first person who started a commercial winery in Canada was Johann Schiller who started his winery near Port Credit in Ontario. He sold his locally produced wine to his community. There is no doubt that the wine would have tasted terrible but it was all they had. Schiller was the first pioneer in the professional Canadian wine industry but he was certainly not the last.