Co-Founder of Cave Spring Cellars, Len Pennachetti has pioneered wine and hospitality in Canada's Niagara Peninsula. From his early days as one of the first farmers to plant the noble grape varietals of Europe in Ontario, to his forward-thinking integration of Niagara wine and tourism, Len has worked to define the future of the Niagara Peninsula.
Growing up working on his family's small vineyard, Len learned the meticulous art of viticulture, pruning and tying the vines alongside his father and grandfather, both hobbyist winemakers. Seeing his son's interest in viticulture, Len's father John, Sr. decided that the Pennachetti family would invest in better vineyards. Together, he and Len scouted the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment by plane and discovered the historic Cave Spring Farm, with its hillside location, clay-limestone soils and ideal proximity to Lake Ontario. Situated on one of the finest slopes of the Beamsville Bench, Len and his father founded Cave Spring Vineyard in 1974, and in 1978 made their first vinifera plantings of Riesling and Chardonnay.
While earning his B.A. from Carleton University in Ottawa, and his M.A. in Italian Renaissance History from the University of Toronto, Len stayed active in the family business, returning often to work the new vineyards. In 1981, recognizing his passion for Niagara's promising wine industry, Len built a house on the vineyard. "I saw a chance for getting back to the land and creating a place where our family could do something special," says Len. There's an allure in cultivating vineyards – you are literally putting down roots. They exist from generation to generation. The way they grow and evolve reflects all the energy and commitment you put into them. What better family business could there be?"
Five years later, Len and the family took the next step, partnering with winemaker and long-time friend Angelo Pavan to found Cave Spring Cellars in the picturesque village of Jordan. Together, this dedicated team has worked to build the reputation of Cave Spring Cellars as one of Canada's top wineries. Believing in the marriage of wine, food and hospitality, Len, together with his wife Helen Young, expanded the company to include On The Twenty Restaurant in 1993, and later added accommodations to the equation with the building of Inn On The Twenty in 1996. In 2003 a new spa facility was added to the Inn and in 2005 the most recent addition to the family’s growing hospitality business was added with the renovation of a local landmark, the Jordan House tavern and hotel. Through all of this, Len has been the driving force in the transformation of Jordan Village from a sleepy hamlet into a bustling tourism hub for Niagara’s wine route, and was recognized for his accomplishments with the Smart Growth Community Design Award in 2007 by the Region of Niagara.
As president, Len actively oversees every aspect of the family's wine and hospitality business. In addition, he maintains a passionate focus on the Cave Spring Vineyard where he still lives. Under his management, Cave Spring Cellars has become one of Canada's most esteemed wineries, best known domestically and internationally for its signature Rieslings. At the same time, Len has been an advocate for the entire region, having played an instrumental role in the founding of Ontario’s appellation control system, the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) in 1989. Between 1994 and 2005 he served as the organization’s President and Chair, overseeing the passage into provincial legislation of the Vintners Quality Alliance Act of 1999. Len continues to serve as a Director of VQA Ontario, and since 1988 has been a Director of the Wine Council of Ontario, the trade association of the province’s wine producers. Len’s commitment to quality Riesling production is underscored by his recent appointment to the Board of Directors of the newly formed International Riesling Foundation.
For more than two decades Angelo Pavan has guided winemaking at Cave Spring Cellars, crafting wines of authentic character and sophistication from the fruit of Ontario’s Beamsville Bench. A passionate and gifted winemaker, with an encyclopedic understanding of Niagara Peninsula viticulture, Angelo has helped pioneer winemaking from noble European grape varietals in Ontario.
Born into a traditional Italian family in St. Catharines, Ontario, Angelo grew up with a European appreciation for the intimate relationship between wine and food. In the early 1980s, while teaching and pursuing his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Guelph, this appreciation evolved into something more. “I took a wine tasting course,” says Angelo. “It was like taking an art history course. It opened up a whole new aesthetic dimension. I started buying wine books, studying winemaking, and exploring the science of viticulture. In my evenings at home I would have my wife blind taste me on wines so that I could refine my senses. One night she pointed out that there were more wine books on my desk than philosophy books. That’s when I knew that I was meant to be a winemaker.”
In 1986, Angelo and his childhood friend, Len Pennachetti, established Cave Spring Cellars. From the beginning, Angelo has worked to craft cool-climate wines in the European tradition of Alsace, Burgundy and Northern Italy. To create classic food wines that authentically reflect their native terroir, Angelo keeps his focus in the vineyards. Working with Cave Spring’s dedicated team, Angelo blends modern viticultural practices with a gentle, handcrafted approach to winemaking to produce wines that express the concentration, minerality and acidity that have come to define Cave Spring Cellars.
As a managing partner and Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Tom Pennachetti has been a guiding force in establishing Cave Spring Cellars as one of Canada’s premier wineries. Involved in every facet of Ontario’s thriving wine community, Tom has helped build the reputation of the Niagara Peninsula as an outstanding cool-climate viticultural region and a thriving tourism destination.
Born in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1963, Tom grew up within the Niagara region’s emerging wine industry. From his grandfather’s basement winemaking, to his family’s initial planting of noble European grape varieties at Cave Spring Vineyard in 1978, Tom’s viticultural roots run deep. Throughout the mid-to-late 1970s he began working in the Cave Spring Vineyard alongside his brothers. During summers in the 1980s while earning his B.A. (philosophy and history) from Brock University, and his M.A. (philosophy) fromYork University, Tom returned to the Niagara Peninsula to help expand the family’s vineyards and establish Cave Spring Cellars.
Whether working in the winery beside winemaker Angelo Pavan, or going abroad to study viticulture in Italy’s comparable cool-climate regions of Trentino and Alto Adige, Tom has dedicated himself to learning the family business. Since 1990, as the managing partner of Cave Spring in charge of marketing and sales, he has championed Niagara’s modern wine and tourism industries. Over the past two decades, Tom has helped guide Cave Spring’s growth from 6,000 cases to the winery’s current production of 60,000. He has also worked actively to develop appreciation for the wines of Cave Spring Cellars outside Ontario, building a distribution network in the USA, Europe, Asia and South America.
In addition to his role as Vice-President of Marketing and Sales for Cave Spring Cellars, Tom is also a hands-on vineyard owner. Together with his wife Anne (of the Weis family, owners of the famed St. Urbans-Hof winery in the Mosel Valley, Germany), Tom operates a 25-hectare vineyard located on the Twenty Mile Bench of the Niagara Escarpment, with production dedicated exclusively to Cave Spring Cellars. “Grape growing runs deep in both our families,” says Tom. “From our decision to plant dominantly Riesling, to the care we take in the vineyard, our heritage and our traditions inform everything we do. Anne and I focus on this Riesling because we both believe that it captures the essence and potential of our appellation. It’s the varietal that will put the Niagara Peninsula on the wine map of the world.”
In the vineyard and in the winery, Tom has remained true to the principles that guide Cave Spring: quality, excellence, and above all, authenticity of origin. In so doing he has been influential in establishing Cave Spring as Canada’s top producer of Riesling. Tom Pennachetti currently serves on the Wine Council of Ontario’s marketing committee and is a past Vice-President of the Niagara Wine Festival.