When it comes to award wins at Niagara College’s Teaching Winery, the apple doesn’t fall far from the vine.
The award-winning Teaching Winery’s venture into the hard cider market with the introduction of Cider 101 last year has proved fruitful, with back-to-back medals at two recent cider competitions: a gold at the U.S. Open Cider Championship on November 14, and a bronze from the Ontario Cider Awards on November 11.
“These awards are a testament of the high quality of education that we provide at both the Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery,” said Steve Gill, general manager of NC’s Learning Enterprises Corporation, which includes the College’s Teaching Winery, Teaching Brewery, as well as its Teaching Distillery scheduled to open in 2017. “We are so very proud of our students and staff that contribute, and hope that these awards help cultivate a passion for excellence.”
The U.S. Open Cider Championship announced NC’s Teaching Winery’s Cider 101 as a gold medal winner in its New World Cider category – one of 15 categories in the competition. Other winners in its category include Canadian entry Garage D’or Ciders’ Dry Cider (silver), and Pennsylvania-based Big Hill Ciderworks’ Standard cider (bronze). More than 160 ciders, from California to the United Kingdom, were entered into the competition.
At the Ontario Cider Awards, operated by Drink Inc. Events in association with the Royal Winter Fair, cideries from across Ontario submitted the best of the best to be evaluated by judging panels. Ontario ciders were represented in two categories: Traditional Apple and Other Fruit. NC’s Cider 101 captured a bronze in the Traditional Apple – Sanctioned Judging category. Other winners in the category included Thornbury Village Craft Cider’s Thornbury Premium Apple Cider (gold), Ernest Cider Company’s Ernest Cider Dry (silver) and Brickworks Ciderhouse’s Queen Street 501 (bronze).
“It’s a really interesting time to be part of the cider industry in Ontario because things are moving very quickly; growth in the industry had been expansive and industry players are just figuring out what defines Ontario cider,” said NC winemaker and wine programs instructor Gavin Robertson. “The curriculum and training that is already offered in our Canadian Food and Wine Institute’s wine, brewing and culinary innovation programs uniquely positions Niagara College to work with the cider industry in this period of rapid growth, as businesses look to hire people with sensory, lab, quality control, technical production, business management, and sales and marketing skills, to help develop their operations.”
Cider 101 is a blend of Ontario apples made New World style, marked by fruit-forward fresh floral notes, a vibrant acid backbone and a hint of sweetness to balance it out. Robertson noted that the New World style of Ontario ciders contrasts the earthier, tannic, often still (not sparkling) ciders made traditionally in England and France – a natural consequence due to differences in apple varieties and growing seasons.
Cider 101 is available for purchase at the Wine Visitor + Education Centre retail store, located at the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus (135 Taylor Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake).
NC involvement in the U.S. Open Cider Championship
NC’s tie to the U.S. Open Cider Championship went beyond winning a gold medal. College brewmaster Jon Downing was director of judging for the competition (as well the U.S. Open’s Beer Competition and College Competition). A few NC staff/faculty members and two students also took part in judging – for categories Cider 101 was not entered in – as well as local brewery, cidery and restaurant owners. NC participants included Gavin Robertson, and CFWI faculty Keith Ellis as well as Brewmaster students Brittany Ribalkin and Lauren Zimbalatti.
Dow Scoggins, director and head server at the U.S. Open Beer and Cider Championships,noted that he has been working with NC brewmaster Downing for more than 25 years. Downing has been involved with the U.S. Open Beer Championship and the Cider Championship is a recent spin-off.
“Two years ago, Jon Downing (one of the directors of the U.S. Open Beer Championship) suggested, that we should have ciders in the U.S. Open Beer Championship. Last year, we had so many cider entries that we decided to create its own championship,” said Scoggins. “The U.S. Open Beer Championship has been working with the NC Teaching Brewery students for the past six years … Jon knew more folks in Canada that were involved in the Cider Industry than I knew in Ohio. Thus, we thought it would be easier and more cost effective to bring the ciders to Canada than to have the Canadian cider experts fly and drive to Ohio.”