In Memory of a Great Fruit Winemaker

Rebecca Goertz began making fruit wine when she was in her teens, and quickly learned how to bring out the best in blueberries, black currants, apples and plums.

But the young Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery winemaker, whose parents Gerald and Vivien own the Lakeshore Road business, wanted to make just one grape wine. She wanted to prove she could do it.

“She wanted to prove to whoever, other people in the industry, that absolutely she can make a grape wine,” said her mom, Vivien.

Sadly, she never got the chance. Rebecca Goertz died of a heart attack in August 2006 after years of health problems. She was 30.

After two years of grieving, and making little wine, the family and the Niagara-on-the- Lake winery is starting to heal.

Enter Rebecca’s Rose, a memorial wine made by her dad Gerald Goertz and Sunnybrook winemaker Antonella Presta.

The wine — the only grape wine in the small craft winery’s portfolio — was released on Feb. 13 — on what would have been Rebecca’s 33rd birthday.
Part of the proceeds from the sale of the wine (which retails for $15.45) go to the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre.

Vivien Goertz said she and husband, Gerald, have been wanting to create a wine in their daughter’s memory for some time, but didn’t have the heart.

Presta began gently encouraging the couple to consider it, and came up with the idea of crafting a rose, a blush wine, which tied in well with Sunnybrook’s all fruit wine portfolio.

“We wanted to keep her memory alive,” Goertz said.

“She made this winery what it is today.”

Rebecca, who loved horses, running and travelling, was a decorated winemaker, who won several awards for her last vintage of fruit wines the year before she died.

Rebecca was a natural talent who earned a degree in biotechnology from Brock University, Goertz said.

“She did so, so wonderfully well. She was such a good winemaker, and we want her to be remembered for the skills that she had and for what she contributed to our business. She was one third of our business. She was a huge part of it.”

Only 54 cases of Rebecca’s Rose were made, but the winery intends to produce it again and keep it as a regular part of its portfolio. It will continue being a charity wine.

The handsketched label, designed by Toronto illustrator, Ron Berg, depicts Rebecca by the stables watching the horses she loved.

Sunnybrook is located at 1425 Lakeshore Rd. Go to for more information.

Established in 1993, Sunnybrook produces about 2,500 cases of wine per year.

Written by Monique Beech

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.