Niagara College sparkles at National Wine Awards

The seven winning wines from Niagara College’s Teaching Winery, from left to right: Balance 2014 Blanc de Blanc Brut, N/V Balance Brut, 2017 Balance Gewurztraminer, 2017 Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine, 2017 Marmitons Gastronomy Pinot Noir, 2017 Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay Ziraldo, 2018 Balance Rosé. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – It is proving to be a vintage year for applied learning at the Niagara College Teaching Winery, with seven new medals from a national wine competition – two for sparkling alone.

The Niagara College Teaching Winery recently won a gold, three silvers and three bronze medals at the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. The competition, known as the Nationals, is the largest wine awards in Canada.

The College’s awards include:

  • gold for Balance 2014 Blanc de Blanc Brut (Sparkling category);
  • silver for 2017 Marmitons Gastronomy Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir category);
  • silver for 2017 Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine (Icewine category);
  • silver for 2017 Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay Ziraldo (Chardonnay category);
  • bronze for 2017 Balance Gewurztraminer (Other Single White including Gewürztraminer and Viognier category);
  • bronze for 2018 Balance Rosé (Rosé category); and
  • bronze for N/V Balance Brut (Sparkling category).

“Winning seven medals at the Nationals is a real achievement, more so when they are spread among different styles. That speaks to winemaking consistency,” said David Lawrason, co-head judge of the competition.

Lawrason particularly noted the College’s two medals for sparkling wines, including a coveted gold for the Balance Blanc de Blancs 2014 Brut.

“Niagara is positioning itself as a star for traditional method Chardonnay-based bubblies, and the College is now on the leader board,” said Lawrason.

“Winning seven medals at one national competition is an outstanding testament to the high quality of applied learning at Niagara College,” said Steve Gill, general manager of the College’s Learning Enterprises. “Our wine students gain the skills they need to lead and succeed in the industry right here at our on-campus Teaching Winery and on-campus vineyards.”

College winemaker and instructor Gavin Robertson, who is also a graduate of the College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program (2011) noted that the Nationals marked the first win for both sparkling wines, the rosé, and the Marmitons Pinot Noir. He pointed out that he chose only current vintages to submit to this year’s Nationals, as a way to calibrate the College’s winemaking operations relative to the Canadian industry at large.

He was particularly pleased with the 2014 Blanc de Blanc’s gold medal because it was the Teaching Winery’s first sparkling wine made from 100 percent estate fruit – in this case, Chardonnay, from the NC Teaching Vineyard.

“The fact that the fruit was grown on campus allowed us to have complete control over all aspects of the wine, from bud break through to disgorging, and to involve several cohorts of Winery and Viticulture Technician program students in the nearly five-year production process at various stages.”

Robertson noted that first-year students picked the fruit in early September of 2014, and were in the winery while the base wine fermented, and was stabilized and filtered. During the spring of 2015, they helped bottle the wine for the secondary bottle fermentation, along with some second-year students.

Students from the classes of 2017 and 2018 disgorged the wine early – a process that removes the yeast sediment from the bottles and tops the bottles up. Students also determined the dosage rate – the amount of wine and sugar added at disgorging.

“It’s great to see that all of the work and time involved was recognized by the judges of the National Wine Awards,” said Robertson.

This year’s Nationals drew 1,815 entries from 259 different wineries from six different provinces. Held in a different Canadian wine region each year, the 2019 competition took place in Prince Edward County (Ontario) between June 10 and 14.

WineAlign awards manager Sarah Goddard noted the high calibre of judging at the Nationals. Judging takes place over five days with two days dedicated to re-tasting the top-scoring wines.

“The Nationals bring together the best of Canadian wines and Canadian wine critics under one roof,” she said.

For details about the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada visit

The Teaching Winery’s award-winning wines are available at Niagara College’s Wine Visitor + Education Centre, located at its Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus (135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON). Proceeds from sales support student learning. Visit