“As a family owned and operated winery we are dedicated to producing wines grown from the distinctive soils and climate of the Niagara Peninsula and most specifically the famous and well regarded Short Hills Bench. We are fiercely committed to consistently growing and making only the finest wines by focusing on constant improvements in our vineyards and winery, low yields and wines that have true elegance, finesse and age ability.”
Choosing not to live the life of quiet contemplation, Paul and brothers Matt and Daniel, planted the early vineyards and began the business development of Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery. In 1989, Paul became President of Henry of Pelham Winery and set it on course to become a 75,000-case per year producer of fine Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) wines.
Paul is a founding director of VQA, and continues to play an active role in promoting and developing the premium wine industry in Niagara and Ontario, as current Vice Chair of the VQA, former Chairman of the Wine Council of Ontario, and as a former director of the Canadian Vintners Association. Paul received his BA from St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland in Classical Philosophy (with Mathematics as a minor).
Matt began work at Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in the early 1980s. He planted, posted, wired and grew 65 acres of vinifera and vinifera hybrid vineyards along with brothers Paul and Daniel. Beginning in 1992, Matt assumed the role of Viticultural Manager and Vice President at Henry of Pelham Winery, and has continued to develop the vineyards into some of the finest in Niagara. His viticultural work was recognized when Matt was named Grape King at the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival of 2000-2001.
Matt was educated at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland (BA, Philosophy and Mathematics double major) and Annex Village Campus in Toronto, Ontario.
Daniel is co-owner and one of three brothers who as children shovel planted the modern-day vineyards that became Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery in Niagara’s Short Hills Bench. The Speck brothers founded the winery with their parents, a family venture which began in 1984. Daniel spent the years from age 8 to 22 in the vineyards. He studied philosophy, math and science at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, then returned to work on the farm/winery upon graduation. After fourteen vineyard-years he migrated from the farm to the marketplace when a key sales person left the company. Today he is Vice President, Sales and Marketing. Daniel actively promotes and sells his family’s wines while still participating in determining each wines final composition with his two older brothers and the winemakers.
Pioneers settle a new land. Henry of Pelham Winery is family owned the three of us, Paul, Matthew and Daniel Speck. We founded the winery with our parents in 1988, but the land was first deeded to our great, great, great grandfather, Nicholas Smith (ca. 1778). Nicholas was a United Empire Loyalist who fled his home in Pennsylvania to serve the Crown and defend Upper Canada. Part Iroquois and fluent in the language he served as a translator and a fifer (that’s the guy who plays the bugle) with Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolution. For his service he was granted lands and bought others which he settled, the same land which the winery sits upon today.
A new generation plants the first vineyards. In 1842 Nicholas’ youngest son Henry built an inn, tavern and carriage house (which serves as our tasting room and wine boutique today). The construction of the inn approximately coincided with plantings of vineyards, some of Niagara’s first. When signing for the taverns liquor license Henry Smith dropped his last name, choosing the moniker Henry of Pelham to both recognize his ownership of the toll road he lived along and what must have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to the recent British Prime Minister, Sir Henry Pelham. The joking moniker stuck and Henry Smith was referred to thereafter in official archival documents as Henry of Pelham.
The descendants chase the sheep off of the land. This is where we come into the story. More than two centuries after our Smith ancestors settled in Niagara, in 1982 our parents Paul and Bobbi Speck bought several contiguous parcels of the original family farm, which still remain the ownership of the family. Over the next few years, as teenagers, we spent weekends and summers clearing the land of Henry’s original vineyards, orchards and a sheep farm. We replaced the vineyards with modern wine producing grape varieties. The oldest shovel planted vines contribute the fruit for our Estate and Speck Family Reserve wines.
Sibling revelry. In 1993 our father passed away after a long illness, leaving all remaining operations in the hands of his three young sons. Since that difficult time we have expanded our family’s holdings to a total of 300 acres of forest and vineyard land, all in the premium Short Hills Bench. This land is stewarded with a minimal footprint.
You can learn more at the Dirty Hands Project website.