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Brights Winery

What ever it takes to make great wines

Brights President Champagne

The T.G. Bright & Company Ltd can trace its roots back to 1874 when Thomas Bright and F.A. Shirriff founded the Niagara Falls Wine Company in Toronto. In 1911 moved to Niagara Falls and and incorporated 1911 as T.G. Bright & Company Ltd.

Brights today is a brand label owned by Constellation Brands, Inc. a leading international producer and marketer of beverage alcohol brands. Brights wines are made at other wineries owned by Constellations. Until the summer of 2012 they operated under Vincor Canada ( In Canada)

Brights is the second oldest continuously operating winery in Canada, having been founded in 1874 by a pair of lumber merchants, Thomas Bright and Francis A. Shirriff. The Original name was Niagara Falls Wine Co. The winery had steadily grown in size until in the 1920s its 4,000,000 gallon capacity made it the largest winery in the British Empire and one of the largest in the world. Contributing to its growth were the Prohibition years of 1916 to 1927 when Ontario wines were the only legal alcoholic beverages.

The retirement of George Hostetter on June 30, 1986, marked the severing of an important tie between present and past at T.G. Bright & Company, Ltd., in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Starting in 1933, and continuing for more than a quarter century, Brights and the people associated with it provided the leadership that transformed the Canadian grape and wine industry into what it is today. While the pioneering days have long since ended at Brights Wines - the winery spells its familiar name without an apostrophe - George Hostetter was the last link to an important and vibrant era.

Brights wines

When Prohibition ended in 1927, the demand for Ontario wines nose-dived, and many of the smaller wineries went out of business. Even the large wineries found themselves with huge stocks of wine they could not move, and the Depression of the 1930s only made matters worse. At that time, Brights Wines was sold to Harry Hatch, a man with an idea and the money to carry it out. Hatch owned a controlling interest in Hiram Walker, and Hiram Walker in turn represented some of the top wine shippers of the day in Europe. Canadian wineries made only ports and sherries, but Hatch believed that there must be some way to develop a dry table wine.

Harry Hatch lost no time beginning a rebuilding program at Brights. His first task was to dispose of the surplus wine that could no longer be sold as wine. His second step was to hire top-level employees with the technical knowledge to bring back professionalism to Brights. One of the first people hired was a winemaker, Dr. John R. Eoff, a California-trained food scientist with the Food and Drug Administration. He served brilliantly until his death in 1940, but the memory of his contributions was eclipsed by the dominant and colourful personality of his assistant, Adhemar de Chaunac.

From all accounts, Adhemar F. de Chaunac was a temperamental prima donna whose lack of tact and diplomacy combined with a supreme confidence in his own abilities to make him a person who could not - and would not - be ignored. He was born in 1896 in southwestern France and came to Canada in 1907, returning to France to serve in the French army from 1915 to 1919 before returning permanently to Canada. He was trained as a chemist and had experience in the yeast and dairy industries before being hired as chief chemist at Brights in 1933. In 1944, he was appointed Director of Research, a title he held until his retirement in 1961.

From the beginning, de Chaunac had told Harry Hatch that an expenditure of $600,000 and 20 years would result in good table wines being produced at Brights. No one anywhere in the East was able to produce dry table wines of any quality, though there were others who wanted to. Charles Fournier in New York and Philip Wagner in Maryland were two other important figures who were to embark on the search in the late 1930s and early 1940s for suitable grapes that could be grown in the East. Brights had the added economic incentive of needing to remain competitive in its markets in the British Empire.

Another early decision made by Harry Hatch was to institute a research program that would lead to the production of the grapes that would make a dry table wine. Until that time, Brights had bought all of its grapes, and the only grapes being grown in the Niagara peninsula and the Finger Lakes were the Niagaras and Concords used in the making of the ports and sherries that were the chief products of the day.

Following the years after Harry C Hatch purchased the company they purchased assets of numerous wineries, Robinet Freres 1935, French-Italian Winery 1936, Ascot Wine Company1936, Robinson Wine 37, The Winsor Co 37, S Badalaoto Winery 37, Old Fort 39, Hillrust Wine Co 40, Kitchener Wines 51, Fred Marsh 53, and Twin City Wine Co in 1956.

In 1934, Brights began its own vineyard program with the purchase of 1,400 acres of Niagara and Concord. Among the acreage bought was 200 acres belonging to Jacob Hostetter, and Jake was hired as the vineyard manager. The Hostetters had moved from Pennsylvania to Ontario during the American Revolution, and the land had been farmed by the family since 1776.

As difficult as it may be to realize today, the starting point for the research program at Brights was the planting of Agawam, Elvira, Catawba and Delaware. There were a few old plantings of Delaware and Catawba in the peninsula, and very little yield. De Chaunac had chosen Delaware and Catawba as the varieties he wanted to work with during this period because they seemed to lack the heavy foxiness of Concord and Niagara. In addition, Elvira could be treated by concentrating it to remove much of the foxiness. Efforts to buy the grapes had proved futile. George Hostetter, Jake's son, recalls being sent out by his father in the late 1930s to buy 25 tons of Delaware. He drove all over the peninsula and returned with a total of barely 15 tons. In 1940, George began his career at Brights as an assistant to de Chaunac, working full time in the propagation of grapes while attending college at the University of Toronto. He graduated in 1944 with a B.S. in agricultural science.

De Chaunac used these native American varieties to make the first new Ontario table wine since Prohibition in 1939 and 1940, and 5,000 gallons were released in 1941 as Manor St. Davids Sauterne. The research stations at Geneva, New York, and Vineland, Ontario, were doing little research work in the breeding of new varieties apart from North American hybrids. Some of these were planted at the test vineyards at Brights, along with southern European varieties that fared no better there than elsewhere in the East. There was, however, one test planting of Seibel 1000, later to be named Rosette, a French hybrid red variety. After making an experimental batch of red wine from Seibel 1000, de Chaunac noted that this was the only variety he had tried that made an acceptable red table wine.

The outbreak of World War II in 1939 closed off France as a source of French hybrids. There were test plantings of the French hybrids in the East, however, and during the war, Philip Wagner, Adhemar de Chaunac, Charles Fournier, Richard Wellington and others would get together periodically in the Finger Lakes. Some of the wines Philip Wagner brought along that had been made from the French hybrids removed any doubt that these were the grapes that could be grown in the East that would make a good dry table wine.

As soon as the war ended in 1945, de Chaunac ordered 35 French hybrid varieties, most of them early maturing. When these arrived in 1946, they were planted and George Hostetter was put in charge of the viticultural research program at Brights. Based on the success of these trial plantings, Brights made the decision to begin commercial plantings of the French hybrids, and 40,000 vines were planted at Brights in 1948.

The use of sulfur to control powdery mildew had been known for a long time, but it had always been applied at the time when the mildew had become evident. George Hostetter theorized that trying different spray schedules might bring about a marked improvement in the control of powdery mildew, and using sulfur from the start of the season worked. The combination of new sprays and new methods of applying sprays enabled the trial plantings of vinifera to succeed. In 1951, ten acres of Chardonnay were planted: this was not only the first commercial planting of the vinifera in the East, but it became the first successful vinifera vineyard in the East.

Meanwhile, back in the winery, de Chaunac was coming out with his own list of firsts. Manor St. Davids Claret, a blend of Chelois and Rosette, was released in 1949, the first French hybrid table wine to be marketed commercially in Canada. The first commercial vinifera wines to be produced in the East were released by Brights, a Pinot Champagne in 1955, and a Pinot Chardonnay in 1956. The world's first 7% sparkling wine was developed about 1950 when the Liquor Control Board of Ontario approached de Chaunac with the suggestion that a low alcohol wine ought to be produced. Working in nominal partnership with the Fred Marsh Winery, which Brights acquired in 1953, de Chaunac's technically stable 7% Winette and 6.5% Dubarry Sparkling Rose, were put on the market by Brights in 1953.

Brights Winette. a low alcohol wine produce in early 50's

photo provided by Fred Couch

 

De Chaunac was responsible for the first bottle-fermented champagne produced in Canada when the first President champagne was released in 1949. Originally named President because it was made from the President grape, a Munson hybrid, the cuvee eventually came to include Catawba, Dutchess, Delaware, Rosette, and Seyval. The list of winemaking "firsts" accumulated by Brights during this period is a long one.

In the experimental vineyards, Warnerhof Experimental Farm, during George Hostetter's time, more than 500 grape varieties were brought into Canada and tested, and more than 1,000 new Canadian seedling varieties were developed. A superior clone of Baco Noir, know as "George's Clone," has produced wines that have won more gold medals in international competition than any other red varietal from Brights. In 1947, a program was started to provide growers with the services of a team of professional viticulturists to help growers improve grape quality. Brights, which started a large scale grafting program after the war, also became the first Canadian winery to supply growers with grafted vines.

Much of the success in the vineyard was due to the experimentation that led to the development of viticultural practices that would work in the East. Controlling crop production to increase the quality of wine was pioneered in Canada at Brights in 1952. Extensive pruning experiments were also being carried out at about the same time. During the 1950s, cuttings from the French hybrids were shipped in quantity to the United States, primarily to New York State wineries, and most of the hybrids planted during those years came from Brights.

 

Adhemar de Chaunac retired in 1961, and George Hostetter subsequently took over his duties as Director of Research. Both men have been honoured for the roles they played during this pioneering period, winemaker Adhemar de Chaunac by having a grape variety named after him, and viticulturist George Hostetter by having a wine named in his Honor. Each tribute was fitting in that it underscored the vital and unalterable link between good grapes and fine wine - the goal Harry Hatch had set when he purchased Brights in 1933.

1993 Cartier and Inniskillin merge with T.G. Bright to form Vincor. Also in 1993 they launched their very successful Jackson-Triggs brand

See Vincor History

Today the label is owned by Constellation Brans formerly Vincor Canada.* This label on the left is from a wine produced in 1960.

Today the label brand is been replaced.
2014 maybe the last time you see the name on a bottle of wine.

Constellation sold their Canadian interest to Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund in 2016.

 

 

 

For more return to History

* Constellations Brand Inc in the summer of 2012 announced they would no longer use Vincor Canada. All North American operations will conduct business under Constellation Brand.

 

Related Links

History
Vincor History
London Winery
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The Beginning

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