Co-op gives award-winning student winemaker a career boost

Having already produced an award-winning wine and taken the next step in his career, Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) student Nick Pappas will have plenty to celebrate when he graduates Friday.

Pappas, who completed his OEVI degree in the summer, is working his first harvest at Inniskillin winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake as a harvest intern.

The role was fitting for the 22-year-old Markham native thanks to his co-op experience working production and retail at Marynissen Estates Winery last year.

“My co-op experience helped me decide that I want to be a winemaker,” Pappas said.

During his time at Marynissen, he had the chance to make his own Riesling thanks to Brock alumnus Marc Pistor (BSc ’06), owner of Vendimia North — a contract winemaking and consultation service for Ontario wineries.

“I got really nervous and anxious when Marc first gave me control of it,” said Pappas. “In the back of my head, I went back to Wine Processing and Equipment class, where my group did an arrested fermentation Riesling that didn’t turn out well. But I wanted to do it again because I knew what I did wrong, and how to fix it.”

Pappas was given the juice and control of the fermentation process and said he knew he had to bring the temperature down slowly to stop the fermentation at his target sugar level. With Pistor’s approval, Pappas decided to make an off dry-style Riesling, leaving a bit of residual sugar.

“All my classes were a great foundation for learning about everything in the vineyard and everything in the cellar, and how it all comes together to make wine,” Pappas said.

The hands-on experience he gained during his co-op placement allowed him to make an award-winning wine. His Marynissen Estate Winery — 2017 Heritage Riesling won a bronze medal at the All Canadian Wine Championships in June.

“When we finished that wine, we could tell we had something of very good quality,” Pistor said. “It says a lot about Nick’s understanding of the process of winemaking.”

They made 150 cases, and his Riesling is part of Marynissen Estates “Platinum Series” — its top-tier wines.

As a winemaker, Pistor said he enjoys working with students of the Oenology and Viticulture program inside Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), and that they are well prepared to enter the workforce.

“I normally don’t have to go through too many instructions with CCOVI students and know they have an idea of what they are doing,” he said. “In the winery, I’m always impressed by how quickly they pick up stuff, how many of the right questions they’re asking and how willing they are to ask those questions.”

During his time at Brock, Pappas also experienced academic success as the 2018 recipient of the $5,000 Cuvée Award for Academic Excellence.

He said he is able to take a day off from the busy harvest season to cross the Convocation stage on Friday, Oct. 12, and is ready for the next stage in his winemaking career.  

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