Niagara College’s teaching winery is proving it can compete with top wineries across the country after scoring five wins this summer in the WineAlign National Wine Awards.
The college brought home two gold, two silver and one bronze from the national awards.
More than 10 Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries won either platinum, gold, silver or bronze at the national awards. Many won multiple times.
“I just think these awards are really showcasing how much better Ontario wine is getting as a whole,” said Allison Findlay, head winemaker at the college.
It was great to see all the hard work pay off, she said.
The national wine awards had 1,930 entries from 255 Canadian wineries. There were 23 judges from Canada and one from California.
Findlay has been a winemaker at Niagara College since September 2022 and winemaking for more than seven years.
She graduated from Niagara College’s winery and viticulture technician program in 2014.
She was able to have her name on two of the award-winning wines — the 2022 Dean’s List Riesling and the 2022 Dean’s List Cabernet Rosé which won gold and silver, respectively.
“I’m super proud of the results because it is the first-ever riesling off this property,” she said.
The vines were planted in 2019 and fermented in 2022, according to a Niagara College news release.
She said she was happy to show “just how good the quality of fruit is from Niagara College estate vineyard.”
It was also the first Dean’s List Riesling and the first Riesling Niagara College has produced that scored more than 90 points.
Each bottle of wine takes a team to make — and many of Niagara College’s winemaking students take part in the process.
“Students would have had a hand in anything from picking those grapes, sampling them, being part of the cellar operations (and) all the way down to the bottling line,” said Findlay.
As a teaching winery, education comes first, she noted, which sets the college apart from other wineries in the region in its approach to the process.
Up-and-coming students also get the chance to work with industry professionals and learn from some of the best, she said.
“It’s a cool, exciting, beehive of energy and ideas,” she said.
“It’s unlike regular commercial wineries where their number one goal is to grow grapes (and) make a profit — ours is to grow grapes for the intent of learning and produce wines with the intent of learning.”
A full list of winners can be found at www.winealign.com/awards.