Murder charged laid in Niagara winemaker’s death after cottage incident in Selkirk, Ont. | CBC News

Winemaker Paul Pender, known for his deep involvement in Niagara’s wine community and as the maker of organic wines for Vineland’s Tawse winery, has died and a Hamilton man has been charged with second-degree murder.

Police said Pender died Thursday night following an incident in Selkirk, Ont., near Lake Erie, where he has a cottage. 

A resident of Grimsby, Ont., Pender was the well-known head winemaker for Tawse Wine and Spirits. He also roasted coffee for Hamilton’s Vintage Coffee Roasters.

Ontario Provincial Police said they responded to a 911 call at 8:09 p.m. ET Thursday. Pender, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Bradley House, 31, of Hamilton is set to appear in court on Tuesday, OPP Det.-Insp. Shawn Glassford told CBC Hamilton on Monday.

Police have released few details of the events surrounding Pender’s death, but Glassford said investigators are probing more than one crime scene, and the suspect and victim didn’t know each other. 

Award-winning champion of organic wine

News of Pender’s death came as a shock to his family and friends.

“It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you of the death of our colleague and friend,” reads a statement from Tawse Winery. “Paul died unexpectedly under tragic circumstances… We will all miss him more than words can express. He was not just our manager, but our good friend as well.”

Many described Pender as fun, positive and giving with his time, and someone who could often be found without a shirt on. 

“There are no shirt buttons in heaven,” wrote commenter Amanda Leduc on a Facebook page created in his memory.

“Take off your clothes. And run around naked! It’s what Paul would want you to do!” said restaurateur and friend Ryan Crawford in an article posted Friday on 

Pender’s fun side was in tandem with a dedication to his craft, say his colleagues at Tawse and throughout the industry.

A post on the winery’s website said he joined the business in 2005 and became head winemaker a year later, helping the business obtain organic and biodynamic certifications, and the Canadian Winery of the Year award four times between 2010 and 2016. The Ontario Wine Awards named him winemaker of the year in 2011.

“[A] former carpenter, Paul was in the second graduating class of Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture program,” Smyth wrote in the post. “He adopted a ‘non-interventionist as far as possible’ philosophy and was a firm believer that the start of every great wine begins in the vineyard.”

Tawse, known locally for the chicken and goats that graze in its vineyards, has closed its retail shop and restaurant “until Wednesday next week.”

Pender, shown in the vineyard, was head winemaker at Tawse Wine and Spirits, where goats and chickens are used in maintaining the vines. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

In an email exchange with CBC Hamilton, the winery’s sales and marketing director, Vicki Smyth, said, “Paul Pender was a very talented winemaker and was much respected in the Ontario wine industry. He will be greatly missed by all that knew him.”

Pender leaves behind several children and grandchildren, and his wife Allison Findlay, the winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan Station.

“It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts we share the news that our winemaker Allison Findlay has tragically lost the love of her life,” wrote Flat Rock in a Facebook post. “The sudden passing of her husband and industry legend Paul Pender has shaken us to the core.”

‘Lots of plans and lots of dreams’

To Hamilton business owner Lisa Stanton, Pender was a colleague and friend. Stanton owns Vintage Coffee Roasters on King Street East, near Sherman Avenue North, and Pender was her coffee roaster. 

“I never saw him not smiling,” says Stanton. “He could very easily talk to anyone.”

She said Pender’s nose for wine came through in his coffee roasting as well, and “just having that wine background, it was easier for him to pick out the subtleties of the bean. Timing is everything. He was able to always get a consistent and wonderful roast.”

While Pender’s team will continue his roasting business, Stanton said she’s having a hard time letting the news of his death sink in. 

“When we first met to talk business… he was so excited,” she recalled. “He had a real passion for it and you couldn’t help but be excited by his excitement. In the three years we’ve been working together, especially during COVID, he was just really positive. He had his own work to worry about as well, but he always made sure things were going well with me.

“He had lots of plans and lots of dreams.”

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