Brock Oenology and Viticulture grads venturing coast to coast

Andrew Wilson’s connection to viticulture dates back to his teenage years.

In 2010, his grandmother purchased a pepper farm along with 10 acres of grapes in Windsor-Essex County.

That summer, he worked the field with his older brother, developing his passion for winemaking and viticulture along the way.

After completing Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program in 2017, Wilson was inspired to learn more and tap into his full academic potential. He enrolled in Brock’s Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) program, which he will graduate from with his Bachelor of Science on Friday, June 17 as part of Brock’s Spring Convocation.

Wilson was drawn to the OEVI program by the course descriptions that went beyond the practical elements of winemaking and viticulture and encompassed theoretical and scientific knowledge. He also valued the opportunity to work with and learn from faculty and staff in Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

“CCOVI helped to prepare me to think critically and respond under pressure … how to solve issues, and how to identify issues before they arise,” he said. “I found this to be true as I went through the program but learned far more than I thought I ever would when I enrolled.”

Post-Convocation, Wilson will continue working as Assistant Winemaker at Oxley Estate Winery, where his grandfather, Murray Wilson, is mentoring him to take on the role of Winemaker. Together, the Wilsons craft high-quality, small batch wines in the heart of the Lake Erie North Shore appellation.

A man poses with a glass of wine in hand inside a winery tasting room with a view of the Rocky Mountains.

Austin Szarek enjoys a glass of wine in British Columbia’s Southern Okanagan Valley.

Fellow OEVI graduand Austin Szarek plans to head west, where he will be working as a Viticulture Technician at Sebastian Farms in British Columbia’s Southern Okanagan Valley.

It was in a high school civics and careers class that Szarek was introduced to the winemaking and viticulture industry, realizing the career options in the field would allow him to apply his penchant for science.

Szarek came across the OEVI program at Brock, scheduled a tour and the rest, as they say, is history.

The small class sizes and specialty courses were very attractive, he said, in addition to the notion that winemakers and viticulturists can find work in just about every area of the world.

Szarek, who throughout his studies completed three co-op work terms at Sebastian Farms, said while the OEVI program helped by teaching him the underlying theories behind managing a vineyard, the experiential learning experiences were crucial in gaining an understanding of the practical aspects as well.

“The co-op portion of the OEVI program exposed me to potential careers, and I really enjoyed my work terms,” he said. “Completing all three of my co-op terms with Sebastian Farms gave me the advantage of understanding how the company works and allowed me to develop good working relationships with managers, which makes completing my tasks as Viticulture Technician easier.”

With a 96-per cent employment rate within the grape and wine industry and a strong alumni network, graduates of the OEVI programs are well prepared for success.

CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said small class sizes are a hallmark of the program and maximize interactions with instructors and among classmates.

“Students also have the chance to network with industry professionals, in class and through volunteer opportunities with CCOVI,” said Inglis. “These networking opportunities are invaluable, as they often lead to employment opportunities for graduates, as illustrated in the case of Austin Szarek.”

Wilson and Szarek will both cross the stage on Friday, June 17 during the morning ceremony held for both the Faculty of Mathematics and Science, and Faculty of Humanities.

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