Aleksander Estate Winery Winemaker Izabela (Bemben) Muzzin
A Polish family builds a winery in the Lake Erie North Shore region
Izabela Muzzin doesn’t remember leaving Poland. She was too young to understand that the country where she was born was under Communist rule. When her parents, Aleksander and Genowefa (Genny) Bemben saw an opportunity to leave, they packed up Izabela and her brother Lukasz and headed for Austria. There, her father took a job in a vineyard and winery, setting in motion a series of events that would result in the family one day owning their own winemaking operation.
After a year in Austria, the family moved to Canada and settled in St. Catharines, Ontario. Then, in 1982, Aleksander was offered a position with Pelee Island Winery.
Muzzin’s immersion in the world of wine had officially begun. Her summers were spent working at the winery — everything from production and lab work, to retail sales and tours.
After high school, Muzzin initially chose to study biomedical science, but her time in that field would be short-lived. “I liked the creative part of wine. I loved the beauty of it. I loved the science behind it,” she says. “It was an interesting job; it wasn’t ever stagnant.”
Aleksander, meanwhile, had purchased land in the Lake Erie North Shore region in 1997 and, although he was still involved with Pelee Island, he began planning grapes. During that time, Muzzin furthered her education at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University and, in 2005, the Bemben family launched Aleksander Estate Winery.
While their homeland isn’t exactly a hotbed of winemaking, Muzzin believes that the family’s current venture lets their roots show. “Poland doesn’t have a huge wine industry by any stretch, but it’s just bringing that culture of family, friends, food, music, community together,” she says. “The wine industry allows for you to enjoy and appreciate that, and share that culture with others.”
Ultimately, it’s that integration of Old- and New-World culture that gives our homegrown wine industry its unique flavour. “We have winemakers from all around the world," she says.
"That’s great because it broadens our perspective and helps us be more competitive and interesting.”
Izabela Muzzin’s Canada Day Wine Pick
Aleksander Estate 2008 Riesling
The weather in the Lake Erie North Shore region is traditionally hot and humid on Canada Day, so the perfect Canada Day wine is something “cold, crisp and refreshing,” like a dry riesling, says Muzzin. “The acidic backbone is there to make things alive and interesting.”
For more profiles of winemakers in Canada, check out our Oh! Canada feature from the June/July 2011 issue.