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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Winemaking now a college course

What could be more natural in Niagara, one of Canada's premier grape-growing regions, than a college offering a winery course?

After identifying a need for well-trained people in the wine business, Brock University, in partnership with Niagara College, consulted with experts in the field. The result is a full-time program that prepares students for careers in the ever-expanding wine industry.

The Winery and Viticulture Technician course has three main parts: viticulture, or growing healthy wine vines; understanding the chemistry behind winemaking; and marketing and sales, including packaging for export.

On completion of the two-year (five-semester) academic program, students receive an Ontario College Diploma.

Co-ordinator Dr. Tom Schulz helped develop the program and has overseen it since its launch in 2000.

"All our students make their own wines, using the latest technology," Schulz says.

The program focuses on growing grapes in microclimates such as those in Niagara, Prince Edward County in southeastern Ontario and B.C.'s Okanagan Valley -- regions that do not have the sunny climates of traditional wine-producing countries.

"We emphasize scientific procedures for forcing wine-quality grapes from the cold Canadian landscape," Schulz says.

Schulz was born into a winemaking family that has grown grapes in Germany since the Middle Ages.

He studied biology, specializing in viticulture, and completed a PhD in grape growing. He also operated a laboratory (still run by his sister) that serves the German wine industry.

While attending a biotech meeting in New York in 1999, Schulz was invited to visit Brock University for job opportunities.

"I immediately fell in love with the Niagara Region, went home and told my wife to pack," he says.

Niagara College, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario's major wine-producing region, has 24 hectares of teaching vineyard, where students prune, tie and harvest the grapes, says Steve Gill, the viticulture instructor.

The students produce wines that are sold in a college store under the NCT Winery label. The sales help finance the course.

-- CP

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