Distinguished grad’s efforts support small-batch beverage brands

Working in a vineyard during one of the hottest summers on record wouldn’t be enjoyable for most people. Mitchell McCurdy (BSc ’18) relished every minute of it.

The Oenology and Viticulture graduate fell in love with winemaking during a co-op work term in his second year at Brock and has been building a career in the wine industry ever since. He achieved his goal of becoming a winemaker within a year of graduating in 2018 and is now pursuing entrepreneurial endeavours that help small-batch producers.

In recognition of his accomplishments, McCurdy was awarded the 2023 Faculty of Mathematics and Science Distinguished Graduate Award during Brock’s Homecoming celebrations this past weekend.

McCurdy started his career at Vintegrated, a wine consulting company that focuses on all aspects of the wine business, including viticulture, oenology and the marketing of wine products. He was hired as Head Winemaker at Marynissen Estates Winery, a Vintegrated client, the following year.

“The most exciting part about making wine is the variety,” he said. “Every year in Niagara, we have different weather and there’s new challenges and new ways to make products. I also love getting to do science on a regular basis and experiencing wine from a sensory perspective through tasting and smelling.”

Three people pose side-by-side in front of a red wall. Two of them are holding a framed certificate between them.

Brock University President and Vice-Chancellor Lesley Rigg, Distinguished Graduate Award recipient Mitchell McCurdy (BSc ’18) and Faculty of Mathematics and Science Dean Peter Berg at Brock’s Alumni Recognition Reception on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Over the next year or so as McCurdy and his Vintegrated colleagues made wine for clients and continued to develop the consulting business with established brands, they saw an opportunity to help small-batch producers. They invited Ontario winemakers, grape growers and others to create their own boutique wine, cider and perry brands using Marynissen’s production facilities.

The collaboration reduced barriers, such as the substantial capital investment need to buy the land and equipment needed to open a winery, so producers can create and sell the products they’ve been dreaming of, said McCurdy.

“They can come in with no wine experience, no access to grapes or land, but with just an idea, and we can work with them to turn concepts into market-ready products,” he said.

The small-batch beverage brands created at Marynissen became known collectively as Collab Wine & Beverages. Since its official launch in 2021, the hub has grown from four to 10 virtual brands, including McCurdy’s own wine and perry.

“Making beverages for established wineries and brands is very enjoyable and fulfilling, but there’s something about making them for yourself and sharing that joy with others,” he said. “The coolest part about Collab is that I get to work with a bunch of other smart, driven people who are really passionate about wine.”

On top of his entrepreneurial endeavors and winemaking responsibilities, McCurdy has stayed connected with Brock by leading online tasting events and taking on a teaching assistant role for Brock’s Introduction to Wines course.

“This course is where I took my first steps into the world of wine, so it’s really exciting that I get to do that for others,” he said.

Looking to the future, McCurdy hopes to continue producing high-quality wines with a variety of different blends and styles for Marynissen Estates Winery, focus on the growth of Collab Wine & Beverages and his own virtual brand, and continue working with Brock to educate and engage new people who have taken an interest in wine.

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