Open that Bottle...with Joe Giusti
“My life story is the story of many immigrants,” says Joe Giusti. “They had the opportunity to come to this great country of ours in the ‘70s, to a country that if you are an honest, hardworking person, you can grow and get somewhere. And I think it's the only place in the world you could do that, so forever thanks to Canada.”
As a child, Giusti heard about his relatives in Vancouver who had done very well, and was fascinated by Canada, so when his chance came in 1973, the 17-year-old didn’t hesitate to immigrate. He was fortunate - it was the right time and the right place.
Giusti came as a welder, but friends would tell him, “You want to make money in Canada? You have to be in construction.’ “The easiest thing to do was to start framing,” he says. “In Italy I had the best professor, and was well prepared. I could read a drawing and design a house when I was in grade eight.” Success came quickly, and by 1975 Giusti had 170 young Canadians working for him in the Fraser Valley: “It didn't take us long to be known from Hope to Richmond.”
They spent 25 years in Vancouver, opening Julian Ceramic Tile in 1978, and expanding to Alberta in the early ‘90s. “With the construction company, Giusti Group, we came here in ‘97 because some clients asked us to work on a project at Mount Royal College,” he explains. “Within few days we moved 58 people here, and we were all staying at the army barracks on Crowchild Trail.”
It wasn’t until 1998 that Giusti started buying property and investing in Italy. Both his father and father-in-law made wine, but the modern wines were not as good as he remembered. “My greatest memory is from the vineyards,” he recollects. “I got upset and said we have to produce better wine because in the last 23 years, it seemed to me that in Italy, which is a very tiny country, we are known for quality.”
At the beginning Giusti sold his grapes to other wineries, but after his father-in-law passed away, he decided to produce his own wine. Giusti Wine developed rapidly: “We invested a lot of millions there in Veneto, and it was calculated. We want to be the best winery in the north of Italy, and I think we’ve succeeded. We supply a lot of juice to our partners in the industry.”
“I'm very outspoken, and pushing to raise the quality of wine that we produce in our country,” Giusti says. “And without chemicals - I'm against pesticides. If we can produce less quantity, more quality, and away from chemicals, that is something I would like to see happening. I can see the change right now; the fauna, the birds, the partridges, and the quail, have returned to our land after they disappeared for 34 years. It makes me very happy because nature heals itself very quick if we stop abusing it.”
Giusti is grateful that he’s been fortunate in life from the day he arrived in Canada, and says, “the least that I can do is give them a good bottle of wine.”
What bottle is Giusti saving for a special occasion?
While their traditional Veneto wines – prosecco and amarone - are revered all over the world, the winery’s most iconic wine is Umberto I, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and Giusti’s favourite. In 2011, they produced 30 12-litre bottles, and he kept one.
“When Massimo, my oldest grandson, graduates from university, we’re going to have a big party because he's the first of the next generation. He's 15 now, so I hope in 10 years we are going to open the bottle. We grow so fast all over the world, and most of the wine is sold out before the next vintage is ready, so we never give the wine chance to grow up. It would be nice to see a bottle put away for 20 years, especially the Bordeaux-style wine, and I'm looking forward to it.”