Remembering Paul Pender
Paul Pender was, quite simply, one of the most genuine and generous individuals that the Canadian wine industry has and may ever see. His tragic passing last week is being mourned by the wine community from coast-to-coast and beyond.
Friend, colleague and icon, Paul was one of Canada’s most talented winemakers. A mentor and beacon, he was always the first to offer support and lend assistance. As the director of viticulture and winemaking at Ontario’s Tawse and Redstone wineries, Paul led the way with respect to organic and biodynamic farming practices and helping to gain international recognition for the Ontario and Canadian wine industries. He and Moray Tawse (owner of Tawse and Redstone) shared an uncompromising vision to grow elegant, quality wines that spoke of a place and to put Ontario wines on the world stage.
An incredibly thoughtful and talented winemaker, Paul was an even better human being. Humble and soft-spoken, he was a kind, gentle soul who generously and without hesitation shared his time and knowledge with so many. And when you heard Paul speak about viticulture and winemaking, it was impossible not to be inspired because his passion was infectious.
Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Paul’s family, friends, colleagues and all who were touched by his gentle, generous soul and love for life.
Some of our writers and contributors have shared their thoughts and memories of Paul:
I loved speaking with Paul – usually over a few beers or cocktails – about “big picture” things, how to drive the Canadian wine industry forward, raise its profile internationally or how to make good wine more accessible to the everyday consumer. There would always be stories and laughter… lots of laughter. It’s difficult to accept that he is actually gone. Words cannot adequately express the impact he made, and the loss felt by the wine community and everyone who knew and loved him. Rest peacefully my friend.
Gurvinder Bhatia, Quench Magazine editor-in-chief
Paul was a friend I could always turn to if I had a question about winemaking. He was an inspiration to young people in the industry. To celebrate Paul’s tremendous abilities as a winemaker and his unstinting mentorship of younger colleagues, the Ontario Wine Awards is inaugurating ‘The Paul Pender Memorial Award’ – to recognise the talents of an aspiring young winemaker.
Tony Aspler CM
Like many of us in the Ontario hospitality industry, I got to know Paul through trade tastings and events, at a time when I was just building my foundation of wine knowledge. I remember a visit to Tawse with IWEG, and how generous he was with us students; explaining the layout of winery equipment, his day-to-day routine, yet doing so with a soft-spoken passion and an energy that was contagious. He was that way with guests too, and I’ve been so fortunate to have spent many memorable evenings with him in front of a captive restaurant audience, admiring his skill of making people feel comfortable with wine – a task that is much harder than it seems. The opposite of pretentious, the definition of considerate. These are things in hindsight that I wish I could be saying to him and not about him. We are lucky to have known him, one of a kind and one kind soul.
While I met Paul briefly on a couple of occasions prior, it wasn’t until Gurvinder Bhatia’s Northern Lands festival in 2017 that I got to know him. Judging, presenting, eating, drinking and dancing together, we became fast friends. It was easy to like Paul. He had no airs or pretention. When he or his wine received accolades, he was gracious and humble. Above all, he was always willing to help out. I emailed him in a panic one night before a winemaking exam and asked if he could describe his sulfur dioxide protocols at the winery. Within half an hour he replied with a long, detailed message. And as luck would have it, there was a question about SO2 on the exam. I remember feeling grateful – not that I had that extra nugget of wisdom to include in my answer, but that Paul was there for me as a friend.
I had the pleasure of speaking to/interviewing Paul on a number of occasions, both at the winery and at events in Toronto. An extremely personable guy and a superlative winemaker (and Cabernet Franc champion). He could also fashion a fantastic beef tartare – in fact, he picked up top spot in the amateur chef category at the 2012 Grapes For Humanity-sponsored RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off. His talents in the cellar, in the kitchen, and in conversation will be missed but never forgotten.
Two words kept cropping up during my many conversations with Paul about Ontario’s fine wine future. Care and intention. This is how he defined the ethos of the region’s best winemakers. For me, these qualities best sum up Paul. He exuded a sense of caring and intention in every discussion I was privileged to have with him.
Jacky Blisson MW
What devastating news. I was touched by Paul’s gentleness and willingness to share his knowledge. I met him while judging. His wines always shined at the national wine awards competition and when I travelled the world, I was always proud to share one of his wines to show how great Canadian wines can be. He was a leading force in the wine industry. May his soul continue to inspire many.
I had the opportunity to taste Paul’s wines on a visit to Ontario a few years ago, and I was very impressed with them. Like many writers, I asked to spend more time and taste more wines than we were scheduled to do. It was a weekend; Paul could have told me to bugger off and gone home to watch hockey. But because I was enthusiastic, Paul was also enthusiastic. He was also very forthcoming with information. I went to his winery wondering if Ontario could make world-class Pinot Noir and left it not only knowing that it can — and does — but where it needs to be planted, what the risks are, how much money a winery needs to absorb a potential off vintage, what might happen as the climate warms, and more. Paul was a great spokesman not just for his own wines, but for the entire region.
W. Blake Gray