A student in Brock University’s Oenology and Viticulture program has been recognized as a Rising Star in the wine industry.
Jessica Oppenlaender, a third-year student, was the recipient of the newly established RBC Niagara Wine Rising Star Award, receiving a $1,000 bursary at the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival to continue her education.
Presented at the festival’s RBC reception Sept. 21, the award recognizes top individuals currently pursuing an education in the wine industry.
“I am very honoured,” said Oppenlaender. “I have loved science since I was a little girl, and I grew up on a vineyard.”
The Niagara native comes from a grape growing family and has excelled academically in the highly demanding program. She is a top performer in the classroom, achieving the highest marks amongst her peers in her third year.
“Jessica certainly is a rising star in the grape and wine industry,” said Debbie Inglis, Director of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). “I am thrilled to see her technical expertise, her passion and her ability to lead the next generation recognized with this inaugural award.”
Oppenlaender attributes her experience at Brock to her successes, especially being able to participate at various events to get hands-on experience. She is a regular volunteer at grape and wine events, and said she enjoys those where the public is invited to learn more about the industry.
“I have the chance to talk to people about the industry and get them excited about it,” said Oppenlaender.
This year, she is volunteering with CCOVI at the Educate Your Senses seminars held during the Grape and Wine Festival. She also gives back by mentoring new students in the Oenology and Viticulture program.
Oppenlaender is working hard to be a part of the next generation of professionals who will help the grape and wine industry grow and prosper. She spent this past summer working in CCOVI labs to help develop diagnostic tests, evaluate new equipment, write operating procedures for others in the laboratory and translate those procedures to the grape and wine industry.
“Not only does she have the technical expertise at the bench, but she is also a great science communicator,” said Inglis. “She’s able to get users excited about new technology and explain it in a way that is easy to understand and apply.”
Oppenlaender plans to pursue her master’s degree once she completes her Honours Bachelor of Science. She wants to have her own lab one day.
CCOVI has been partnering with the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival in St. Catharines’ Montebello Park for the past 20 years, offering interactive and educational seminars as part of its outreach initiatives. The Educate Your Senses seminars continue this weekend with sessions on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.