Dining & Wine

Mason Vineyard: Passion & Drive Produce Beautiful Wines

May 1, 2024

We’ve discovered a small-batch, winemaker-led winery in Ontario’s Niagara region that we think you really ought to know about. Mason Vineyard is driven to crafting exceptional estate single vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc wines from low intervention and wild fermentation methods. We chatted with winemaker Kelly Mason to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Why and how did you become a winemaker?

In my early 20s, I immersed myself in wine culture, exploring various bottles and delving into their stories. Unlike my friends who favored beer and spirits, I saw wine as more than just a drink. Discovering that winemaking could be a career, I pursued it passionately. After transitioning from the corporate world to studying winemaking at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture program, I interned in Napa and began my journey. Today, I craft 30 to 40 different wines under my label, Mason Vineyard, while also serving as the Head Winemaker at Domaine Queylus.

What is Mason Vineyard and when did you launch? 

I bought an established vineyard on the Bench in Niagara in 2012 planted with old vines – Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. I began to restructure the old vines and carefully prune them for quality. This was a labour of love for 8 years while I also worked as a winemaker for other wineries (Honsberger Estate, The Farm). Once I had brought the vineyard to a level I was happy with, I felt it was time to make wine from my site. I opened Mason Vineyard in 2020. Our aim is to produce low-intervention wines, fermented naturally with minimal additions, showcasing to the world the excellence of Niagara’s terroir and talent.

What does your Day to Day look like at Mason Vineyard?

As a small business owner, it is important to have a great team. My role is to stay in my lane – focus on my winemaking and vineyard philosophies and execute the vision. I work with an amazing Assistant Winemaker, Brooke Husband, and with a great branding, marketing and strategy company, Insite Design. So, my day to day is handing off as much as I can to the teams and focusing on wine with Brooke. My workday starts early and finishes late. I make a lot of decisions, go to sleep, and repeat. 

Are there any special challenges, or benefits, to being a woman wine?

Having been in the industry for over a decade, I believe the challenges and benefits are similar for both genders. However, the attrition rate among young professionals is concerning, driven by the struggle to attain livable wages. The challenge is the attrition rate of both young male and females in the industry. They study, work hard, and learn their craft, only to leave in their late twenties because they can’t make a liveable wage. Winemaking is not remunerated at the level of say, a trade for example. For medium sized wineries to have room in their margins for higher salaries and bonuses is tough – for young winemakers they often switch careers. They leave the industry and take with them their knowledge of Niagara’s vineyard sites, climate, and winemaking techniques. 

The benefits to being in wine? I meet some amazing people through wine events and industry events. Every growing season keeps me on my toes. The adrenaline is high and when you make a great wine, and you taste it in bottle two years later, it is incredibly gratifying to see your work and the team’s. 

How do you maintain a work-life balance, especially during peak winemaking season?

During harvest, achieving a balance becomes challenging and honestly, I don’t maintain a balance. I just don’t and I am not making any excuses to pretend I have this one figured out. My window is during those two and a half months to work and make wine. Those decisions will last two years in barrel. So, I have to be focused and make sure those around me know I care about them, and I’ll make up for it during the winter months. It helps that a lot of my closest friends are farmers too and run businesses, so they get the agricultural industry. I do what I love: I crush, taste, ferment, sleep and repeat. 

What is coming up/out for you next? 

Our upcoming release, scheduled for mid-May, features the 2022 vintage, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, alongside collaboration wines such as Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and rosé. Stay updated by joining our email list and visiting our website in early June to make purchases.


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