Niagara College teaching winery has been an amazing success story
Steve Gill from Niagara College’s teaching winery and brewing programs was our featured speaker this month. Steve gave us the history of the program from its launch in 2000 till present. Among the many highlights for the program, Steve said that half of the wine makers in Ontario now come from Niagara College; Niagara was the first to receive a wine-making license as a college; their first entry won Wine of the Year for their Chardonnay in 2002. Since then they have won numerous awards including winning the award Supplier of People to the Industry. They have students apply from all over the world, and many of their students have won individual awards including Karen Rossi and Jordan Harris who both have won national student sommelier awards and went on to earn bronze medals at international competitions.
As the program grew, the college acquired more land and now has 33 acres of vineyard and, in fact, sells some grapes to other Niagara wineries. In 2007 the college opened its 40-seat wine sensory lab which serves more than just the winery program.
Steve said that Prince Charles was on hand to officially open the school’s Wine Visitor and Education Centre in 2009 and many dignitaries from all over the world have visited.
In addition to wine making and tasting, the school has also developed a Wine Business Graduate Certificate course and has had a student from graphic arts win an award for a wine label.
Steve pointed out that the wine program is not geared to making a profit but is self-sustaining allowing it to cover all expenses. Since its launch the winery program has had almost 500 graduates and has earned more that 200 awards.
He said that the school was approached in 2007 by the Ontario Craft Brewers Association about set-ting up a brewery program. The teaching program was approved for a license in 2008 and the brewery was launched in 2010. Since then the program’s products have won awards at provincial, national and international levels.
The school programs continue to expand. The college released its first cider in 2015 and hopes to launch a teaching distillery course in 2017.
During a question and answer session, Steve said that Niagara College works closely with Brock University which offers a course in oenology and viticulture.
Our speaker at our November meeting will be Leon Evans, the chief pilot at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. He will talk about the historic flight to the U.K in 2014 with one of the two remaining Lancaster bombers still flying.