Calgary’s Joe Giusti aims to create Italy’s top winery
By Shelley Boettcher
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. Last year, 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.
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.
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.
“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. Go to giustiwine.com to find out more.
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.
Giusti 2014 Dei Carni
Delicious and great value — one to consider buying by the case for your next house wine. From the Dei Carni vineyard, this 100-per-cent unoaked Chardonnay is medium-bodied and well-balanced, with a long finish and fresh, pleasant notes of pear, green apple and melon. It’s lovely to drink by itself, but it will pair well with a variety of dishes, including grilled seafood and fish, or roast chicken. We finished the bottle with some salty pecorino romano cheese and a fresh baguette. Serve chilled. About $20.
Giusti 2012 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore
The word Ripasso on the label refers to the winemaking style; Ripasso wines are made by “repassing” the red Valpolicella wine over the dried and pressed grapeskins of a winery’s Amarone. The result is a full-bodied, rich wine that’s spicy yet smooth, with gorgeous, bold dark fruit notes. Like the Amarone, it will pair beautifully with slow-roasted red meats or hard cheeses. About $40.
Giusti Cuvee Extra-Brut
This non-vintage sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Montello hills near Venice. It is medium-bodied and refreshing, with fine bubbles and pleasant notes of apple, pear and fresh bread dough, thanks to six months spent on lees. This pretty aperitif wine will pair with a variety of hors d’oeuvres, especially seafood dishes — smoked salmon, scallops, that sort of thing. Serve chilled. About $35.
Giusti 2008 Umberto I
For decades, wine critics have been talking about Super-Tuscans — non-traditional red blends made in Italy’s Tuscany region. But recently, we’ve been hearing about Super-Venetians, too. Similarly, these wines are red blends made from non-traditional grapes in Italy — in other words, grapes that aren’t indigenous to Italy, but make mighty fine wine.
Umberto I (“Primo”) is one of those wines. The flagship of the Giusti estate, this incredible red blend is Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, French grapes that are obviously thriving at Giusti. A dark ruby red, it has notes of vanilla, spices, wild strawberries and plum. An homage to Joe Giusti’s hardworking grandfather, who played a major role in the younger Giusti’s life, it will pair beautifully with red meats and major occasions. Buy a few bottles for the cellar, too. About $120.
Giusti 2010 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico D.O.C.G.
You’ll know why Amarone is one of Italy’s most famous red wines when you try this classy, complex red wine. An ancient Italian style of winemaking, Amarone is made by partially drying a blend of red grapes (Corvina Veronese, Corvinone and Rondinella) before pressing them. The result is a rich and lush dark garnet-hued wine, with silky tannins and layers of flavours and aromas: cherries, raspberries, a hint of graphite. And the finish? It just goes on and on and on. Pair with prime rib, slow-roasted lamb or venison. Or just enjoy a bottle with a good friend by the fire on a snowy night. About $110.