The scales tipped in favour of Niagara College’s Balance Sauvignon Blanc at the recent All Canadian Wine Championships.
The white wine, made by NC winemaker Gavin Robertson and students in the Winery and Viticulture Technician program, won double gold at the 2021 edition of the national competition that saw 1,365 wines entered from 217 Canadian wineries.
It’s the first double gold for a college-produced Sauvignon Blanc, making it NC’s best showing for the varietal yet, Robertson said.
It’s one of four medals the Niagara College Teaching Winery won at the awards, including gold for the first-ever Balance Muscat. The medalling wines in their respective categories are:
• 2019 Balance Sauvignon Blanc (Top Sauvignon Blanc)
• 2019 Balance Muscat (Gold – Other single vitis vinifera whites category);
• 2019 Dean’s List Savant (Silver – Red icewine category); and
• 2018 Balance Gamay Noir (Silver – Gamay Noir category).
All are wines that Robertson and his students don’t make every year, which makes the results particularly notable, he said. The Balance Gamay Noir is only the second Gamay vintage produced in the program.
“That’s satisfying. I’ve been the winemaker here since 2014 and I feel like I’m finally getting my head wrapped around certain grapes,” said Robertson, who graduated from the College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program in 2011. “What I like about this showing is Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay Noir and Muscat aren’t normally grapes I would consider entering.”
Although a grape like Muscat is less commonly used by Canadian wineries, working with such varietals prepares students for what they might encounter after they graduate, Robertson explained.
“Anything our students can graduate into within the industry and have to produce, it’s important to expose them to,” he said. “For a small winery, we have dozens of SKUs with grapes and styles that someone in the industry is making. That’s really important since we’re a teaching winery.”
More than a bragging right, though, these latest awards show that students in the program work with high-quality fruit and turn out vintages that can compete with those from other Canadian wineries. They also speak to the quality of education happening at the College.
“Consistently winning top medals is a testament to our academic deliveries and the abilities of our Winery and Viticulture Technician students at Niagara College,” said Steve Gill, general manager of NC’s Learning Enterprise Corporation. “We are all proud of everyone involved.”
Such a performance isn’t uncommon for the Teaching Winery at the All Canadian Wine Championships.
“The competition results from Niagara College consistently show the calibre of the teaching staff, and the talent of its students,” said Bev Carnahan, All Canadian Wine Championships director. “Year to year, the college comes away with a fistful of medals and on occasion, a trophy. Their Balance Brut is not to be missed.”
The award-winning wines, along with other vintages produced by the Teaching Winery, are available for sale at the Niagara College Wine Visitor + Education Centre, located at its Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or online at ncteachingwinery.ca. Sales of the wines support student education.
Visit allcanadianwinechampionships.com for more information about the All Canadian Wine Championships.
Tasting notes from Bev Carnahan, All Canadian Wine Championships director:
2019 Dean’s List Savant
Rich, creamy, concentrated fruit, good structure, ripe cherry and nicely balanced with a clean finish.
2018 Balance Gamay Noir
Pretty, sippable, cherry-based Gamay. Juicy fruit on palate.
2019 Balance Sauvignon Blanc
Crisp, tart, eminently refreshing.
2019 Balance Muscat
Clean, flavourful, ask for more! Floral, dry, mineral finish, fresh, light fruit — fun. Delightful.
Niagara College’s Teaching Winery is the first and only commercial teaching winery in Canada. It is located at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, along with the NC Teaching Brewery and the NC Teaching Distillery, which were also the first of their kind in Canada.
Niagara College offers more than 150 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, spirits, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
Photo caption: College winemaker Gavin Robertson holds up the award-winning wines from this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships. The NC Teaching Winery scored four medals, including a double gold for its Sauvignon Blanc, the best performance for a college-produced Sauvignon Blanc.