"You can read about growing grapes in books, and watch videos on YouTube, but there’s nothing more important than actually standing in the vineyard and handling the grapevine." ~ Patrick Cantieni
NSCC’s Applied Geomatics Research Group will be installing a weather station in the Kingstec vineyard as part of its ongoing research into grape growing conditions in Nova Scotia.
Patrick Cantieni says "When you look at wine-producing regions around the world, people work together and help each other. That's what we're seeing here."
NSCC has launched some innovative programs over the years to help grow Nova Scotia’s economy, but its latest may be the College’s most bold and full bodied undertaking to date.
Made possible in part with funding from ACOA, the Kingstec Campus has partnered with the Perennia Innovation Centre and the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia and Winery Association of Nova Scotia to establish a learning vineyard and winery applied-research facility. These initiatives demonstrate the College’s continued commitment to the growth of the $200-million sector.
“We’ve been offering grape growing courses since 2009 and felt we needed to take a step forward in that training,” says Janet Specht, Project Manager, Kingstec/Annapolis Valley Campuses.
“With the vineyard, we can introduce students to best practices for selecting, growing and pruning varieties, and with the applied learning facility, we’ll be teaching them the processes for making wine and cider. From the ground to the table to the glass, we’ll have it all covered.”
Planted in spring 2014, the Kingstec vineyard is already up and running. Virtually indistinguishable from any Nova Scotian vineyard, approximately 75 per cent of the land is being used for training in grape growing techniques, with the remaining quarter acreage set aside for research.
“We have 15 students right now in the Introduction to Grape Growing in Nova Scotia course and they are almost all new to the industry,” says instructor Patrick Cantieni, Vineyard Manager at Grand Pre Winery. “Many of them are looking to start their own vineyard, so by providing them with instruction and hands-on training, we’re giving them knowledge that will help grow the industry.”
More new entrants means more vineyards and less industry reliance on finished wine and grapes from outside the province, according to John Warner, a member and past director of the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia.
“That’s what really excites me,” says Warner, who also manages Warner Vineyard. “There are more vineyards going up, so it’s important to ensure they go in the right locations with the right varieties. Having training here based on our climate and conditions is vital in making that happen.”
With the creation of the vineyard, Kingstec has turned its attention to the applied learning facility, which is still in the design phase. Construction could begin as early as year’s end, with more courses on wine and cider production starting up in 2016. Ultimately, it will help pave the way for a comprehensive wine program similar to that offered at Niagara College. Nova Scotia Wine Association Manager Gillian Mainguy would love to see that happen.
“Many of our winemakers have graduated from that program and the College has a strategic alliance with Niagara. NSCC has always had its finger on the pulse of what industry needs, and to be able to access that level of quality education and industry-specific training right here in Nova Scotia would be huge for our future sustainability.”