NC Teaching Winery whites strike gold in national competition

Two wines which won awards at the 2020 All Canadian Wine Championships are pictured on the patio of the Wine Visitor + Education Centre, overlooking the College’s Teaching Vineyards: Balance Blanc de Blanc Brut 2014 and Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay 2017. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – Excitement is bubbling up at the Niagara College Teaching Winery after two wins at a national competition – including a trophy for Best Sparkling Wine of the Year.

The All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC) awarded the NC Teaching Winery’s 2014 Balance Blanc de Blanc Brut the coveted title of Best Sparkling Wine of the Year, along with a Double Gold trophy in the Sparkling Wine (Traditional Method category), while its 2017 Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay won Gold in the Chardonnay Under $20 category.

ACWC director Bev Carnahan noted that this year marked the 40th running of the wine competition – one of the oldest in the world. The 2020 competition drew 805 wine entries from 130 participating wineries across Canada. Judging was held in Prince Edward County beginning July 20 and results were posted on July 25.

Carnahan applauded the NC Teaching Winery for being among three first-time trophy winners this year.

“This is a testament to the calibre of the program being headed by Gavin Robertson,” said Carnahan. “It bodes well for the future of Canada’s wine industry.”

News about the wins was well received at the NC Teaching Winery.

“These latest award-winning wines truly celebrate the knowledge, skills and creativity of our winemakers, faculty and students at the Niagara College Teaching Winery,” said Steve Gill, general manager of NCs Learning Enterprises. “This outstanding national achievement continues to raise the bar for high-quality wine education across Canada.”

First released in early 2019, 2014 Balance Blanc de Blanc Brut was the Teaching Winery’s first venture into the style of Sparkling made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. The traditional method, bottle-fermented Sparkling was made from high quality, handpicked, bunch sorted Chardonnay grapes fermented in steel tanks and neutral oak barrels, and aged for 36 months on yeast lees before disgorging.

2017 Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay is an estate-grown, barrel-fermented Chardonnay, which spent 11 months ‘sur lie’ in French barriques and underwent malolactic fermentation with monthly lees stirring. The wine appears as a bright straw colour in the glass and the nose offers ripe pear, apple, Meyer lemon, vanilla and oak flavours. The palate is rich and creamy with more stone fruit flavours, and undertones of caramelized brown sugar, nutmeg, and a lively acid backbone that structures the wine.

The awards add to previous hardware won by both wines, including a gold for the 2014 Balance Blanc de Blanc and a silver for the 2017 Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay from the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.

College Winemaker Gavin Robertson noted that College Chardonnays tend to do well in competition.

“The campus vineyard Chard block produces really beautiful fruit that we’re able to spend a lot of time working on in the growing season: pruning, shoot thinning, tucking, cluster thinning, and handpicking,” he said. “Students are involved in all of these activities because we use the vineyard as a living classroom for labs that support the viticultural sciences that they are exposed to in lecture.”

The College has won numerous awards from the ACWC over the past few years for many different wines – from Icewine, Brut, and Semi-Dry Riesling, to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Noir.

“It’s important that we win in diverse categories. We endeavor to produce wines in as many styles that are available in the Ontario industry as possible, to showcase as many production techniques to students as we can,” said Robertson, who is a graduate of the College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician (2011) and a Nuffield Canada scholar.

The wines are available for purchase at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre (Niagara College Daniel J. Patterson Campus, 135 Taylor Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake), or online at NiagaraCollegewine.ca  Proceeds from sales support student learning.