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Alumna returns as new college winemaker

Allison Findlay has made her mark in Ontario’s wine industry since she graduated from Niagara College, and this fall, she returned to her alma mater as Winemaker at the Niagara College Teaching Winery.

Findlay, who graduated from the College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician program in 2014, was most recently Head Winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, where she honed her craft producing award-winning wines – including a Best in Show at the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Findlay, who is originally from Dryden, Ontario and currently resides in Grimsby, reflected on how joining the team at the NC Teaching Winery has been a homecoming of sorts.

“I have had such a wonderful career so far in the Ontario wine industry and cannot wait to share my experience and passion with the students.” – Allison Findlay, Class of 2014

“I have felt at home here since I first toured the campus on a freezing February afternoon in 2012,” she said. “I have had such a wonderful career so far in the Ontario wine industry and cannot wait to share my experience and passion with the students.”

Passionate about maximizing the fruit and quality that comes from the vineyard to produce balanced, focused wines, Findlay noted that she is looking forward to experimenting with new grape varieties available at the College.

“Education, for me, is at the forefront, demonstrating different winemaking styles and techniques, all while mentoring students,” said Findlay. “I am excited to blend my commercial experience with my student experience to best prepare the next generation of fermentation experts.”

Findlay is the first female winemaker at the Teaching Winery – but not the first NC graduate. Former Head Winemaker Gavin Robertson, who graduated from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program in 2011, has been a fixture of the Teaching Winery for more than a decade – beginning as a student in 2010, then full-time after graduation, until he left the position to pursue a full-time faculty position at the College.

Head winemaker since 2014, Robertson gained recognition as the highly skilled Winemaker behind the Teaching Winery’s growing roster of numerous award-winning products and as a Nuffield Scholar (2018), where his international work helped to address challenges faced by Ontario grape growers.

While Robertson noted that he will miss his production role – “especially the adrenaline rush of a midnight grape intake on the crush pad” –but he is looking forward to spending more time working directly with students in the world-class facilities he has come to know so well over the past decade.

He was happy to pass the torch to Findlay, who he knows well from both NC and the industry and praised the natural talent and hard-earned industry experience she brings to the College.

“She’s open-minded and creative with the right personality for making wine in our unique Learning Enterprise context where commercial winemaking goals have to align with academic programming in a way that fosters a safe, fun and engaging learning environment for future generations of Canadian winemakers and viticulturalists,” said Robertson.