In 1952, John and Adrianna (Nanny) Marynissen came to Canada from their native Holland. With not much more than a couple of nickels to rub together, John took on a number of jobs, first with Schenck Farms in St Catharines, ON, then the Port Weller Dry Docks as a welder, until they were able to piece together enough money to purchase a plot of land in Niagara on the Lake on Railroad Street (later known as Concession 1). This land was mixed agriculture, from fruit trees and labrusca grape vineyards to pasture. The farm eventually became more versatile when a barn was erected and pork was the chosen pot of gold for the Marynissen’s.
Throughout the years, John developed a real penchant for winemaking, initially producing some very good wines for personal consumption. His penchant soon turned to passion and he started to enter his humbly made wines into amateur competitions. To no one’s surprise; especially to those that enjoyed his wines on the front porch, John excelled. Through the years he became a multiple gold medalist in amateur competitions throughout North America.
In 1976, John tore out his labrusca grapes and planted the vitis vinifera varieties: Gamay, Chardonnay, Merlot, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. In 1978, two years later, he planted, what is now the oldest commercial planting of Cabernet Sauvignon in Canada. He was the target of some criticism at that time as the “experts” of the day told him he was foolish to plant these varieties as they would not survive our harsh winters, Yet that same year, John was named the Grape King of Ontario, an honour bestowed upon the Grape Grower of the Year.
Decades of watching over the vines with his wife Nanny, hand farming and harvesting with a family of contracted Mexican workers ( Severiano, his son Celestino and son-in-law Wenceslaus), John created the vineyard now known as Lot 31. This outstanding vineyard produced some of the best red wines, in not only Niagara, but Canada. One of John’s biggest triumphs, as an amateur, was winning Best Estate Bottled Wine at the American Wine Society’s competition in Pittsburgh in 1989 for his 1987 Riesling. A year later, his 1989 Chardonnay took the Konstantin Frank Award for the Best Vinifera Wine at the Society’s competition in Philadelphia.
In the early 90’s John was convinced by Ken Douglas(13th Street Winery), a pretty fine winemaker in his own right as well as his family, to convert the old Pork Barn into what is now Marynissen Estate Winery. In 1992, the doors officially opened at Marynissen and was an instant success!
Over the years, John and his daughter Sandra made some commercially awarded wines and developed a huge following. In 1997, the final variety was planted. Again against popular wisdom, Syrah was added to the arsenal of big red varieties. In the early 2000’s John stepped aside from winemaking and watched as his daughter Sandra lead the winemaking until 2007, when current winemaker Jeff Hundertmark took over the reins.
Sadly John passed away in January 2009, but his legacy remains intact through the vinous stylings of our Winemaker Jeff. His critically acclaimed Red blends; Bottoms Up and Solstice have become the new flagship wines, along with Syrah and Merlot and the aromatic white blend, Summer Solstice with his buttery Chardonnays completing the Marynissen Portfolio.
In May 2012, the Marynissen family’s torch was passed to a new family and the exciting changes can be noticed. A total facelift has taken place with plans for an expansion of retail and tour boutique as well as an updated production facility. Soon you will see Marynissen wines available both domestically and internationally.