Ontario Wine Awards present four new reasons to raise a glass to Niagara College

Niagara College winemaker and instructor Gavin Robertson stands proudly in front of the on-campus vineyards holding a bottle of the gold-medal-winning 2017 Gastronomy Chardonnay, with wines that won silver and bronze medals from the competition beside him. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – It’s proving to be a vintage year for the Niagara College Teaching Winery, after a recent four-medal win at the Ontario Wine Awards.

The Teaching Winery emerged from the 25th annual Ontario Wine Awards with a gold, two silvers, and a bronze – each for a 2017 wine that has never before been entered into a competition.

The gold medal winner was the NCTW’s 2017 Gastronomy Chardonnay (Oaked Chardonnay Award Under $20 category). From the College’s on-campus estate vineyard (St. David’s Bench), the barrel-fermented wine was created for Les Marmitons Niagara, a gastronomic and social club of men who share a common interest in food, wine, and the culinary arts.

Silver medal winners included the 2017 Balance Syrah (Quench Magazine Syrah/Shiraz award), a dark ruby-purple cool climate Syrah (13%), Niagara Peninsula VQA; and the 2017 Gastronomy Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillion award) – a 13% white wine also made for Les Marmitons, with grapes derived from a vineyard in Lincoln Lakeshore. The Teaching Winery’s 2017 Balance Gewurztraminer (Gewurtztraminer category) won bronze.

“Canada’s first commercial teaching winery continues to lead the way in the wine industry,” said Steve Gill, general manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises. “The awards are a testament to the applied education that we offer students at our College’s on-campus Teaching Winery, where they gain hands-on experience in creating quality wines that are applauded as among the best in Ontario.”

College winemaker and instructor Gavin Robertson, who is also a graduate of the College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program (2011), noted that he was very pleased with the winery’s success at the Ontario Wine Awards. He pointed out that the College’s wine students were heavily involved in the making of the gold-medal-winning Chardonnay. Grapes were picked, pressed and processed as part of a winemaking lab, and students monitored the barrel fermentations.

The silver-winning Sauvignon Blanc was also part of a valuable lesson for students. Made from the same fruit that they also used to make the Teaching Winery’s first Underground Series Wine – a 2017 Underground Series Sauvignon Blanc released earlier this year – it demonstrated how radically different wines can be made from the same grapes by implementing different winemaking processes.

Robertson noted that some of the new winning wines were experimental; it was his first venture into a Fume Blanc and a Syrah and he was delighted to see that they were a hit with judges and consumers alike.

“The medals are a good barometer for us, showing that we are making wine to high quality standards. I have a lot of respect for the judges and the judging at this competition,” said Robertson. “I’m also proud of the fact that these wines are quite popular and are some of my favourites right now. It’s nice when the expert palate aligns with the consumer palate.”

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Ontario Wine Awards competition and drew a record number of entries – 542 wines from 78 wineries producing VQA wines in Ontario. The awards recognize VQA varietal quality in 25 different categories and acknowledge winners at gold, silver, and bronze medal levels, as well as additional awards of distinction. The award ceremony was held at Niagara College’s Benchmark Restaurant on June 6. The College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute as well as Benchmark Restaurant were gold sponsors of the event.

“Niagara College Teaching Winery has, over the years, been a great supporter of the Ontario Wine Awards,” said Tony Aspler, founder and head judge, Ontario Wine Awards. “So we were delighted to see the number of medals the winery won for its products in our 25th anniversary year. Especially since NCTW was competing this year against a record number of entries.”

The 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 niagaracollegewine.ca.