When it comes to the grape and wine industry, even a little bit of distance can make a world of difference.
Oenology and Viticulture students from Finger Lakes Community College in New York State recently made the trip to Brock University to spend two days learning about and comparing the local industry to the sector they study just a few hours away.
“It is an information exchange, an opportunity for students from Finger Lakes to understand a little bit more about what we do and our wine industry here,” said Marc Pistor, winemaker and course instructor at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). “They are able to taste some of our wines and meet some of the students from our program to discuss educational experiences.”
The group of about 25 students spent time last week visiting wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake, including Jackson Triggs, Peller Estates, Reif Estate, Between the Lines and Caroline Cellars.
“For these students, it is the first time they have really seen these massive estates,” said Paul Brock, Associate Professor of Viticulture and Wine Technology at Finger Lakes Community College. “It is also the first time that a lot of them have seen flat vineyards. In the Finger Lakes, they are all on slopes and it is very different topography.”
Students also discussed differences in wines, with back-to-back tastings of Rieslings from Cave Spring Cellars in Jordan and Silver Thread Vineyard in Lodi, N.Y., where Brock is the winemaker.
“Throughout this trip, students have also noticed there are some grape varieties here that aren’t necessarily done in the Finger Lakes,” Brock said. “We have a little bit of Sauvignon Blanc planted but we saw quite a few of them here. We have also seen Gamay, I know that is done a lot more here in Ontario and we only have one or two plantings in the Finger Lakes, so it is not very common.”
This annual trip across the border has become an opportunity for these students and their professors to learn from each other.
“From a geographic standpoint, we are so close together and we share such a similar history, but a lot is different here in terms of the emphasis on vinifera grape varieties and the emphasis on larger production,” said Brock. “It is always interesting learning how two regions that share a climate and are so close can be so different.”
This was Elizabeth Dudek’s third time making the trip to Brock with Finger Lakes Community College.
“It is so beneficial. It bridges the two wine regions and we get to share ideas and learn so much,” she said.
“The estates and larger properties here are so different. In the Finger Lakes wine region, it is more family-based and small. There’s an amazing winemaker and amazing winery that is out of this guy’s garage.”
Not only is the visit to CCOVI a knowledge swap, it is also become an opportunity for students to learn more about the program at Brock.
“We have had students from Finger Lakes, in the past, come to our program to complete some further education,” Pistor said.