Through The Grape Vine is the CPC’s newest addition to our current programming. Our in house Sommelier, Dave Amundrud, and Food and Beverage Manager, Frank Krsek, have been closely working with winemakers and agents near and far to bring you this exclusive series of events.
Born and raised on a family farm in rural Manitoba, Elaine left her farming roots to study Home Economics at the University of Manitoba in 1962. While studying in Winnipeg, she met her future husband, Don. Following their marriage and subsequent move to Ontario in 1966, Elaine then worked as a fashion educator at Seneca College in Toronto. Taking eight years off to raise three daughters, she went back to school in 1985 and achieved her CA designation in 1992. After five years of private-sector accounting work in both Vancouver and Toronto, she nonetheless began to feel the pull back to her family farming roots. So, in 1998 Don & Elaine purchased a 100 acre apple orchard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, creating ‘Delaine Vineyard’ as a research project to determine effective viticultural techniques for growing high quality wine grapes in the Niagara Peninsula. It was then that she developed a real passion for vineyard management. Even though Delaine Vineyard was sold in 2006, enough fire remained for her to want to start another project rooted in the land soon thereafter.
In addition to Elaine’s love of the wine industry is her appreciation for good design, and her understanding that beauty also lies in the detail. She has been involved in a number of design projects in her career, including the development of a Niagara-based winery with Frank Gehry, and the hospitality area for Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate. Elaine’s appreciation for good design, detail, and finance, combined with her passion for the land and her love of great wine, provide not only the backbone for Culmina’s business but also act as the glue that keeps the Triggs family working together. When Elaine is not at Culmina, she can be found visiting her four grandchildren, or indeed spoiling them from afar; filling her basket at local farmers markets, cooking sumptuous meals for her friends and family; attending a seasonal premier at the Shaw Festival Theatre; or vacationing with Don to far-off destinations.
Growing up in rural Manitoba on the family farm, Don developed a passion for the land very early in life. Encouraged by his mother, Margaret, to believe in himself and follow his dreams, he left the farm in 1962 to make his own way. Working numerous jobs to put himself through university – from painting houses, to digging soil sample pits, to working as a research assistant – he graduated with an Honours Agriculture degree in 1966. It was there that he also met his future wife, Elaine, with whom he shared a vision for a life beyond the family farm.
Having been turned on to Economics during his undergrad, and encouraged by his professors to further his education, Don applied and was accepted into the University of Western Ontario’s prestigious Ivey Business School. Don and Elaine consequently headed to London, ON immediately after their 1966 marriage so that Don could start his MBA.
Following his graduation in 1968, Don embarked on a high-trajectory career path in Marketing and Management, first working in consumer packaged goods for Colgate Palmolive, and then transitioning into the wine business with John Labatt. For the next 10 years, he worked in John Labatt’s wine division, eventually as President of the Canadian business, followed by 3 years as President of the US division. These experiences not only sharpened Don’s understanding of the Canadian wine industry, but working in California also gave him a strong International perspective. Wanting to return back to Canada, Don left Labatt’s in 1982 to lead Fison’s struggling North American horticultural business, spending the next seven years growing Fison North America to a market and category leader.
When the chance to start up his own wine business emerged in 1989, Don could not pass up the opportunity to build and develop his own business. Don, three friends, and 26 fellow employees then pooled their life’s savings to purchase John Labatt’s wine business. With the impending North American Free Trade deal looming, many in Don’s extended network, including those in the banking and investment communities, questioned the timing and rationale behind their decision, suggesting it was absolute lunacy to enter into the Canadian wine industry at that time.
Don only saw opportunity, however. Leading the new business, Don partnered with Alan Jackson to co-found Jackson-Triggs, which then went on to become the most powerful wine brand in Canada. By June 2006, this part of Don’s career came to a close. Instead of retiring, Don opted to apply his 35+ years of experience as a wine industry leader to once again pursue his entrepreneurial passion in the business he loved. With that, Don embarked on the next chapter of his life – the culmination of his life’s work – to start with his family Culmina Family Estate Winery in 2006.
Don now leads Culmina as Co-Proprietor & Principal. His experience and knowledge serve as a lighthouse not only for the family business, but also for the Triggs family itself, providing the strategic guidance and support that everyone needs to stay on track, ensuring that everyone involved is able to see the big picture and not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Don can be found walking through Culmina with his dog, Barry; salmon fishing with his twin brother off the coast of BC; wandering through contemporary art galleries; visiting antique furniture shops looking for rare wine glasses; traveling with his wife Elaine to visit his four grandchildren, or listening to opera in the living room as he peruses one of his art books.