The Master Winemaker 100: Katie Dickieson, winemaker, Peller Estates Winery, Andrew Peller
Earlier this year, the drinks business published a new guide to celebrate the talent of winemakers who have all scooped the highest accolade of our Global Masters tasting series (judged almost exclusively by MWs), and been named a Master Winemaker. Each week we profile an individual behind these medal winning wines – the creatives, scientists, mavericks and dreamers who are at the pinnacle of winemaking.
Katie Dickieson, winemaker, Peller Estates, Winery, Andrew Peller
Dickieson started working with the Peller Estates Winery team in Niagara in 2006 before moving to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley as a winemaker. She then spend time at Omihi Hills in Waipara, New Zealand, and Man O’ War Vineyards on Waiheke Island, learning about cool climate Pinot Noir as well as red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. She later moved to France, working at Domaine du Monteillet, Vignobles Montez in the Rhône Valley, before returning to Niagara, where she became the Winemaker at Peller Estates in 2012.
What or who inspired you to become a winemaker?
I took a wine sensory course in University that really sparked my tasting interest and it seemed a perfect fit to find a creative career that matched my first love of agriculture. I was born and raised on a farm and always knew I wanted to work in the industry.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
As a winemaker there are literally no two days the same. Because the growing season really drives my work it changes with the time of year. In January I am most often busy with Icewine but in May we are monitoring bud break. Come August maturity control and sparkling dominate each day. I love the seasonality and dynamic parts of the job. We get one shot at each vintage and I love that challenge.
What’s the hardest part?
Because no two seasons are the same, we are constantly in a ‘new’ position reacting to the weather, fruit and vintage. Niagara is truly a cool climate region and we have a long harvest season that stretches from sparkling to Icewine so the harvest season is long and intense.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
This depends on the time of year. From August to October, I am usually after a cider or perry. Come winter you’ll find me with any number of red wines, Hawkes Bay Bordeaux blend, Rhone Syrah and in spring I am all about a G&T or glass of rosé.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a winemaker, what would it be?
No compromise! We are constantly faced with decisions about canopy management, picking decision or ferment vessels and it is important not to compromise. All of those decisions add up to the final wine being average, good or amazing. And Pay attention to the details.
What was your greatest winemaking mistake?
Over-thinning Gamay Noir in a hot vintage. Our beautiful bright fruit leaned toward stewed that year – I’ve learned from that one!
What wine-related achievement are you most proud of?
In 2014 our winery was named Canadian Winery of the Year and the wines that helped earn that title really showcased our range as well as some of my favourite wines to make: rosé, Gamay Noir, Sauvignon Blanc. It was great to receive that nod from our industry.
Who is your inspiration in the wine world today?
I would say I draw inspiration from all sorts of places, great tastings and conversations with industry leaders (Austalian winemaker Ed Carr had a big impact on me when he visited Niagara, I think his wines are stunning) but I am also inspired by the farmers and crew I work with every day. Niagara is young and there are some great winegrowers here pushing boundaries and really challenging what we do.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be doing and why?
Farming, or jingle singing…I love a good radio jingle!
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
Gewürztraminer is a love-hate for me in Niagara. It is a tough one to get through our cool winters and then balance is the battle.
How has your taste in wine changed over your career?
Texture is my focus now; how can we improve in the vineyard and winery to develop the texture of our wines?
What type of wine do you drink most regularly?
Riesling – all styles and from everywhere
What wine would you most like to drink, and who would you share it with?
Northern Rhône, with my husband Nik.