By Adriana Ermter
Welcome to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where vineyards grow, wine flows and, if you’re sisters Melissa and Angela Marotta, business flourishes. Their 15-year old establishment, Two Sisters Vineyards, is made up of more than 130 acres of vineyards, a winery and barrel-filled cellar, as well as a rustic Italian-style estate and restaurant, Kitchen76. While deservedly taking home the National Wine Awards 2018 “Best Small Winery in Canada” accolades, the Marott as are unique for their family-first philosophy that has them leading and living from the heart.
“Our family is Italian, so we’re close and we do a lot together,” says Melissa. “We’ve travelled through Italy and the experiences have been so meaningful that we wanted to bring them back and put everything we love under one roof.” A roof that is purposefully located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. “When we were growing up, we’d picnic here with our parents,” explains Angela. “We loved it and the memories have stayed with us. They inspired us.” So much so that it formed the blueprint for the family bonding, homemade Italian food and lush wines their company provides today.
Nestled in the heart of the Niagara Region’s wine country, Two Sisters Vineyards is a destination spot. Families and friends frequent it to celebrate life’s big events and small moments — all while sipping the sisters’ homegrown Bordeauxs, aromatic whites, Sparklings, Riesling Icewines and more. Surrounded by acres of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines the sisters initially planted back in 2007, the estate is simultaneously cozy and elegant, featuring bespoke touches such as Andrea Palladio-inspired 16th-century Venetian architecture and the Marott a’s 95-year-old grandmother Domenica’s arancini Sicilian rice-ball dish on Kitchen76’ s menu. “We’ve even dedicated a wine to our grandmother — it’s called ‘the Domenica,’” says Angela.
Wines in all varieties are, of course, in abundance here. And when it comes to their terroir, Two Sisters Vineyards is situated in a key location. The Niagara River’s flow creates air convection currents, which moderate temperatures and draw cold air away from vineyards and into the river gorge. For vineyards near the river, like the Marott a’s, these air currents ward off early spring and late fall frosts, extending the growing season and giving the vineyard an advantage on their later-ripening varieties. Their red wines are all estate-grown and craft ed from their own grapes. The sisters have recently extended their vineyards, too, to increase their white wine production so that in a few years they will also produce estate-grown fruit that is owned by the vineyard.
“We focus on best farming practices,” says Angela. “Growing and producing wine like this ensures low yield and small-lot production so we can give our vines the best possible environment to grow in.” Says Melissa, “We’re creating a legacy, producing wines that showcase the region and are the best quality in Ontario, in Canada.”
Ensuring quality , luxury and elegance reign throughout the brand — from training the estate’s staff and managing events, winery and culinary experiences to overseeing the vineyard’s marketing and branding — is part and parcel of Melissa’s day-to-day role. And along with being a cofounder and co-proprietor with her sister, Angela focuses on the winery’s business, guaranteeing high quality while overseeing sales and customer service. “We’re a team,” says Melissa. “Not just us, everyone who works with us, too.” “Our winery is an extension of our family home. Our parents taught us family is first. Our mom is from Calabria, and our dad is from Naples. He came to Canada with no money, but he had a dream. He taught us that with hard work and family values and traditions, we could be leaders, that we could deal with any obstacle and that we can succeed,” adds Angela. “Now, we’ve fulfilled a life-long dream. Celebrating and enjoying food and wine that brings everyone together.”