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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Niagara College savours sweet success in wine award competitions
Niagara College winemaker and instructor Gavin Robertson stands amid a group of winery and viticulture technician students who hold up some of the Teaching Winery’s latest award-winning wines. From left: Catherine Kangas, Cheuk Yin Ma, Abigail Joy Boldt, Robertson, Natalia Cacioli, Montserrat De Los Rios and Abigail Arabia. (Supplied)

Niagara College’s Teaching Winery continues to produce award-winning wines that are impressing judges at the provincial and national levels.

In June, the Teaching Winery collected a total of nine medals: two silver and a bronze at the Ontario Wine Awards presented at a ceremony at Niagara College and two gold, three silver and a bronze at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

“Being recognized with these kinds of awards demonstrates the high quality of applied learning students get at Niagara College,” said Steve Gill, Niagara College’s general manager of Learning Enterprises.

“Our on-campus Teaching Winery and on-campus vineyards are second to none and they provide an exceptional way for students to gain the skills they need to succeed in the industry.”

The Ontario Wine Awards recognize Ontario Vintners Quality Alliance wines for their quality, distinction and brilliance. This year, 74 wineries from Niagara, Prince Edward County and southwest Ontario entered 600 wines in the competition — the most ever in a single year.

Thirty wines received gold medals, 39 were awarded silver, and 30 received bronze. The judging by 12 panels took place at George Brown College in May.

“I’m happy to see that we took awards across a wide variety of categories in the Ontario Wine Awards and WineAlign National Wine Awards,” said college winemaker and instructor Gavin Robertson.

“Winning medals for sparkling, aromatic whites, barrel-fermented whites, light and heavier bodied reds, dessert wines and both single varietal wines and blends demonstrates an excellence in winemaking in diverse styles,” he said.

“It’s important that we showcase the techniques and quality control standards that allow for high quality products for our students in the Teaching Winery.”

The college’s awards include:

  • Silver for Balance Dry Riesling 2020 (Quench Magazine Riesling Dry Award).
  • Silver for Dean’s List Viognier 2020 (Dry White Varietals Award).
  • Bronze for Balance Gamay Noir 2018 (George Brown Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Gamay Award).

“The Ontario Wine Awards have been called ‘The Oscars of the Ontario Wine Industry,’ annually celebrating the very best the province has produced,” said competition founder Tony Aspler.

“Niagara College Teaching Winery has consistently taken home medals in the competition, which speaks to the quality of instruction and the passion and commitment of the students.”

In addition to the medals, Niagara College alumnus Paul Pender was posthumously awarded the Winemaker of the Year Award for his many contributions to the Ontario wine industry.

Pender, who was murdered in February, graduated from the college’s winery viticulture and technician program in 2006.

In his memory, the Ontario Wine Awards created the Paul Pender Memorial “Rising Star” Award.

Its first recipient was another Niagara College alumnus, Alex Baines (winery viticulture and technician, 2015), who worked with Pender at Tawse Winery and is now working at Hidden Bench Estate Winery in Beamsville.

“I learned from Paul how important a sense of place was in winemaking and that the best wines were those that truly transport you to a location, a place in time and made you reflect on what you were doing the year the fruit was harvested,” Baines wrote in a profile shared at the Ontario Wine Awards.

“He really inspired me to follow organic farming practices and terroir-focused winemaking. This philosophy still holds true today and I have focused my career on producers that follow these practices.”

The Teaching Winery’s success at the provincial level was quickly followed up by more accolades from the judges of the 21st annual WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

Of the 1,890 wines and ciders entered, Niagara College’s 2020 Dean’s List Cabernet Sauvignon and 2020 Les Marmitons Chardonnay won gold medals, while the 2020 Dean’s List Merlot, 2020 Dean’s List Meritage and 2020 Balance Dry Riesling each took a silver medal. The NV Balance Brut earned a bronze.

“The 2020 Marmitons Chardonnay and all three Dean’s List reds that won are new releases, just bottled this spring after careful barrel-aging and blending in the cellar,” said Robertson.

“They’re young but showing well now and will only improve with time in bottle. The Balance Brut and 2020 Dry Riesling have really shown themselves to shine in competition this season, winning at multiple competitions.”


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