• Shelley Boettcher

From construction to cuvees

The Giusti winery

For more than 40 years, Ermengildo Giusti has been making his mark on some of the biggest and most dynamic construction projects in Western Canada.

Now he’s adding fine wine to his list of achievements.

Giusti (“Joe” to his friends and family) is the owner of Giusti Wine, one of the largest single-owner wineries in Italy’s famous Veneto region. Located on the country’s northeastern coast, the region is the birthplace of such famous wines as Prosecco, Valpolicella and Amarone.

And the team at Giusti Wine — led by fifth-generation winemaker Mirco Pozzobon — makes them all.

“It’s very different from construction, but it’s fun,” Giusti says.

“I want to make the best wine in Italy, and to share with people the beauty of this land.”

He has big goals but he’s already well on his way. He bought his first vineyards, a handful of Prosecco vines, in 2002, in Nervesa Della Battaglia, where he grew up. (The small village is located near Treviso, about 45 kilometres north of Venice.)

Then he bought a few more vineyards. And a few more. He now owns about 250 acres of the region’s finest land. He’s added Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay vineyards, too, as well as vineyards dedicated to making the estate reds: Amarone, Merlot and Giusti’s flagship red, Umberto I.

“Umberto was my grandfather. He was one of the most respected men in town,” Giusti says. “Almost 60 years after his death, people still talk about what a good man he was.”

The wine named in Umberto’s honour is just one in the portfolio of 14 multi-award-winning wines, which have been getting attention from top critics around the world. The Giusti Dal Col Prosecco Superiore Brut won best in the 10 to 20 Euro category at the prestigious Drinks Business 2014 Prosecco Masters Competition.

The Giusti lineup is varied: a range of reds, whites and sparkling wines, as well as six grappas, the popular Italian spirit made from the leftover grape pulp after winemaking.

And the label can be found throughout the world, including China, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Sweden, and, of course, Canada and Italy.

Guisti’s wines are fantastic, but then again, so is his story. Born in Italy, he moved to Canada in 1973. He didn’t speak English, and he didn’t have much money.

Joe Giusti at one of the Giusti vineyards

But he wasn’t afraid to work hard and, by the following year, he had started his first company. That first company expanded, year after year, and now includes several offshoots, all under the Giusti Group of Companies umbrella, including Julian Ceramic Tile and Viper Concrete.

And now, of course, the winery.

Yet while the wines are important to Giusti, so is the region’s history. Part of the land is believed to be an ancient Roman burial ground, and he hopes to one day soon fund an archeological exploration of the spot.

This past year, he helped restore St. Jeronimo’s hermitage, located near one of the vineyards. And an ancient abbey, built around 800 AD, is also on his list to save and is being rebuilt this year.

With the help of UNESCO, he recently supported the restoration of an underground bunker, built by the Allies during World War One, and an ancient well, where the Allies hid machine guns from the enemy during the First World War.

And he has commissioned a sculpture by an Italian-Canadian artist, Armando Barbon, to honour a young Canadian bomber who was shot down over the land and killed during the end of the First World War. It is on view now at the winery.

“If it wasn’t for my success in Canada, I couldn’t afford to do all this,” Giusti says. “I want to make the best wines possible, for Italy and for the people of Canada, who have been so good to me.”

Heading to Italy? There are two townhouse-style apartments for rent at the winery.

If you can’t make it to Italy to visit the winery, look for Giusti Wines at better wine shops and restaurants across Western Canada and around the world.