Christian Huber may have been born to be a winemaker, but Niagara College helped equip him with the tools to get there.
Huber, who graduated from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program on October 27, has been in the industry his entire life. Brought up in a wine family spanning generations, his family’s business, Huber’s Orchards and Winery, is a multi-award winning winery and distillery located in Borden, Indiana.
He came to Niagara College all the way from Starlight, Indiana to attend the Winery and Viticulture Technician program after an employee at his family’s winery recommended it to him.
A hands-on individual by nature, he valued the practicality and breadth of knowledge that the College’s program offered. The immersive culture and environment helped in his final decision to attend NC over other programs in California and New York.
“We are always out in the vineyards working or in the wine cellar checking our tanks or helping [winemaker] Gavin [Robertson] with something,” he said.
A fan of bold, surly reds and drier French white wines, Huber was admittedly thrown off his game upon entering the Niagara region climate, but adapted with the variety and fruit-forwardness many of the wines from the region had to offer. During the first semester of his program, his class was assigned to produce a Riesling wine in pairs. It was the first time Huber had to work with the grape, but thought of it as a welcoming challenge and great experience. He and his partners’ Riesling was chosen as Best in Class.
Huber cited his professors as a great influence. With each being a different style of winemaker, he could easily seek help and knew who to go to if he needed specific advice on Rosés or Sparkling, for instance.
During his time at NC, he also had an opportunity to study abroad, and worked at Paololeo Winery in Southern Italy. He assisted in the wine cellars and helped them create an export/marketing plan for their products to the United States. He also travelled to Napa Valley in California where he worked for Domain Chandon during the fall harvest.
After completing the program, Huber returned to Napa Valley to work at Joseph Phelps Vineyards for its harvest, but couldn’t miss the opportunity to make the trip back to Niagara and attend his fall convocation ceremony.
“As an international student this is a milestone event for me and my family from Indiana that had this event on the calendar for months now,” he said. “It would have been disappointing to me if I wasn’t able to attend the ceremonies and remember Niagara College on a high note.”
Following his ceremony on October 27, Huber went back to Indiana to start working at his family business in the winery and distillery. He takes with him many memories of his time at NC – including participating in the Icewine harvest, classes through the vineyards, competitions to see who could make the best wine, as well as off-campus trips to wineries and equipment retailers.
“I think the best memories I have of NC was how close I got with my classmates and professors; they became like family to me and now they are some of the best contacts I have in the wine industry thanks to NC,” he said.
Impressed with how the Niagara region developed as an internationally recognized wine territory, Huber looks to bring Niagara’s platform and passion he found while studying at NC to the U.S. and continue to educate and grow in the industry he was born to be in.
The new graduate had a few parting words to pass along to current and future students of the program.
“Be yourself, be unique,” he said. “Winemaking is an art form so as an artist, let it naturally come out of you.”
“Go out and see different regions and be able to find what you love. Don’t let the region you’re in have control over what you can create.”
He also highly recommends the program to others.
“I’m telling everyone here in Napa Valley what a wonderful region Niagara-on-the-Lake is and how great Niagara College is,” he said.