Head winemaker reflects on NC Teaching Winery’s 10th anniversary

Pictured: Terence van Rooyen raises a glass at the NC Teaching Winery. In celebration of the NCTW’s 10-year anniversary, the Wine Visitor + Education Centre is hosting an open house between Nov. 16-19.

We asked head winemaker to share his thoughts on the NC Teaching Winery’s 10th anniversary. Here is what he had to say.

In the life of any venture, the 10th anniversary is very significant. Establishing the first and only teaching winery in Canada took lots of vision and dedication to get the program on its feet. The first teachers broke ground and produced well trained winery technicians, many of whom have become respected winemakers. Others ventured into related fields of journalism, sommeliers and more.

I have been the winemaker/ professor for half of the ten years. Changes that were initiated were well accepted by the advisory committee so that course content was increased and students are actively involved, not only in making three styles of wine by themselves, but also as help in the commercial part of our operations. A fourth style of wine will be introduced in the winter term when the class will be making their own sparkling wine in the traditional method.

Winemakers such as Jim Warren who taught the winemaking courses since the start, also spearheaded the commercial production and won many accolades for the winery, which was situated in the old barn. I took over from Jim and to say the least, conditions were challenging with lack of space and having to process in the rain during crush and bottling.

In 2009 we saw the inauguration of the Wine Visitor + Education Center. I had the distinct honour of pouring wine for the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles. This was a highlight of my career. A fond memory is that after being introduced to His Royal Highness (he must have noticed my ever so slight accent), bent toward me and asked, “And where did they import you from?”

Recently, other royalty has paid a visit to the College for whom I also had the honour of serving wine, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex. That was an even more pleasant experience as she, in a sense, asked whether she could include her father in the tasting, as he was a more accomplished taster and could appreciate our wines. They were very impressed and did not hesitate to say so.

The number of brands have been doubled and in 2007 new labels were introduced of which the Dean’s List is truly unique and depicts what we are – an educational institution that also produces high-end wines of consistent high quality.

In 2010, winery technician Gavin Robertson was appointed to the team and has subsequently been promoted to assistant winemaker.

We continued to win medals over the five years for an array of wine styles at prestigious competitions such as Cuvee, Ontario Wine Awards, Canadian Wine Awards, All Canadian Wine Championships, Chardonnay du Monde and Intervin. A very prestigious award most recently won, is for the 2010 Dean’s List Chardonnay at Intervin International Wine Competition as the Best White Wine of the Competition.

This is the best award I have won as a winemaker since arriving in Canada from South Africa. The significance of this is that the industry has gained a very good respect for the Teaching Winery, and they expect and receive well-trained graduates when they are employed. Graduates get to appreciate the effort and care it takes to craft award-winning wines and apply that to their approach to winemaking.

A final measure of the success of the winery and the program is that a very high percentage of our graduates are employed and are making names for themselves. We give them wings, and they learn to fly. I am very proud of every graduate in whose education and training I had the honour of playing a part.       

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