Thanks to what she learned in a new course from Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), vineyard owner Nicki Hughes has the foundation needed to start making her very own wine.
“I had lots of questions — from governing regulations, equipment and supplies, processing grapes, fermentation of the juice and must, and the final finishing of the wine — and the course did not disappoint,” said Hughes, who works in Prince Edward County and was among the first group of students to complete the Institute’s Foundations in Winemaking course earlier this year.
The popular 10-week course is now back for a second offering beginning Monday, Oct. 11. It covers the entire winemaking process, from receiving grapes to packaging the final wine, and students are given winemaking and faults kits, the latter of which was specially designed by CCOVI, to make their own wine. Students in the upcoming instalment of the course will also be able to have their finished wines professionally tested by CCOVI’s Analytical Services for the first time.
“Our first group of students told us they were looking for this type of feedback on their wines, including analysis for pH and free SO2, and this is a valuable learning benefit that CCOVI is in the unique position to provide,” said course instructor Steven Trussler.
Continuing Education Manager Barb Tatarnic said that thanks to its systematic approach, the course is applicable to a wide range of students looking for a foundation in the scientific concepts and practical applications of winemaking.
“The course has been popular with people looking for a stepping-stone to enter the wine industry in cellar, winemaking, retail or marketing positions, as well as with home winemakers and members of the general public looking to learn more about the winemaking process.”
The course will again be offered in an online format this time around, making it accessible for continuing education students across the country.
Stephen Valente, a sommelier from Montreal, said the flexibility of online learning combined with live weekly review sessions and course-tailored video content “created the sense of a small classroom” for him while taking the course remotely. The online interactions with other students, instructors and guest speakers also quickly became the “highlight of his week,” he said.
Providing that sense of community in an online environment was critical to the success of the “purpose-built” course, Trussler said.
“You can’t ignore the social aspect of learning when providing virtual education,” he said. “We worked very hard to ensure it still had the feel of an in-person course and that our community of learners were able to connect and learn together in a meaningful way each week.”
Guest speakers, such as Dave Sheppard, retired winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars and former winemaker at Coyote’s Run and Inniskillin wineries, also provided students with the opportunity to learn from top winemakers in the industry.
“It is very inspiring to see first-hand not only the passionate interest of students in the Foundations in Winemaking course, but also the quality of industry-relevant course material and instruction given by CCOVI experts,” said Sheppard, who has 40 vintages under his belt. “The program continues to deliver the right tools for the next generation of wine producers to meet the needs of the industry today and well into the future.”
Brock alumna Vanessa Agbonwaneten (BSc ’15), who is the Assistant Winemaker at Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, said she “jumped on the opportunity” to be a guest speaker in the course and share some of her practical experience in the industry.
Her advice to students who are now ready to practically apply their knowledge from the course to the winemaking process was to not get discouraged or overwhelmed with how much there is to know. There will always be more to learn and improve upon, she said, but what’s most important is to simply “enjoy the process.”
Registration is now open for the next offering of Foundations in Winemaking, which runs from Oct. 11 to Dec. 20. For more information and to register, visit CCOVI’s Continuing Education website.