Brock celebrates wine industry’s best at Cuvée’s big return – The Brock News

Last weekend’s Cuvée Grand Tasting saw glasses raised to honour the shining stars of Ontario’s grape and wine industry, as well as the sector’s leaders of tomorrow.

Organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the event saw nearly 500 wine enthusiasts and industry professionals come together to celebrate the best in Ontario food and wine on Saturday, March 30.

Featuring 38 wineries pouring their winemakers’ favourites, 10 live gourmet food stations and an exclusive industry after party, the Cuvée Grand Tasting brought a sensory experience to remember to the Holiday Inn Conference Centre in St. Catharines. A signature milestone event for Ontario’s $5.5-billion wine industry, Cuvée was held in person this past weekend for the first time since the pandemic.

“It was immensely rewarding to see the return of Cuvée to in person again after a five-year hiatus,” said Cuvée Manager Barb Tatarnic. “There is no other event like this where winemakers, government officials, industry professionals and consumers come together to raise a glass of the very best in Ontario VQA wines while also providing a boost to the sector’s future stars.”

Funds raised through the event support the Cuvée Legacy Fund, providing student scholarships as well as helping to fund research priorities identified by the grape and wine industry. This year, the Cuvée Grand Tasting recognized the top Brock undergraduate and graduate students in Oenology and Viticulture.

2024 student award recipients include:

  • Certificate in Grape and Wine Technology – Sonya Verma
  • Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) second-year student – Charlotte Roberts
  • OEVI third-year student – Boris Mihajlovic
  • OEVI fourth-year student – Vincent Heck
  • Graduate student – Daniel Phillipow

In addition to supporting and recognizing the winemakers of tomorrow, the Cuvée Grand Tasting celebrated growers, producers and winemakers making a tremendous impact on the industry every day.

This year, the Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence Award recognized winemaker Phillip Dowell of Angels Gate Winery for his contribution in furthering the aims and aspirations of Ontario’s wine industry.

The 2024 Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award recognized Steve Pohorly of River Bend Farms Inc., acknowledging his tireless efforts in vineyard management. The third-generation grape grower was recognized in this year’s Best Red Vinifera category, with his 25-year-old block of merlot vines acknowledged for excellence in vineyard practices supplying outstanding merlot grapes to the industry.

“An exciting aspect of the Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award is that it reflects Brock’s long history of supporting Ontario’s grape and wine industry,” said Lesley Rigg, Brock’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “Like CCOVI, this award recognizes that greatness starts in the vineyard. CCOVI is committed to helping the industry continue to grow by training the next generation of industry professionals and by providing industry-leading solutions — beginning in the vineyard.”

Image of a man holding a large silver trophy with another man next to him.

Winemaker Rob Power (BSc ’00) of Creekside Estate Winery (left) holds the Cuvée Winemaker of Excellence Award, which was presented by 2019 Cuvée Winemaker of Excellence winner Bruce Nicholson.

Rob Power (BSc ’00) of Creekside Estate Winery was named the recipient of this year’s Cuvée Winemaker of Excellence Award, which recognizes leadership in the wine industry through promotion, provision and support of educational initiatives, research development and innovative approaches. The award also recognizes mentorship of other winemakers, community engagement that benefits, advances and enriches the VQA wine industry, and excellence in VQA winemaking as demonstrated through domestic and international awards.

“This honour feels truly special,” said Power. “There are many awards in this industry that are rather subjective; I’m sure each winemaker looks to their colleagues’ creations and says, ‘that should have won!’ Since moving here 27 years ago, I’ve tried to be a positive part of the community and to be a part of helping move it forward. This honour feels like I have been truly embraced by the community. I am humbled.”

For more than two decades, Power has been a leader in the grape and wine community, taking on many roles including wine judge, presenter, research collaborator, wine educator and member of the VQA standards development committee. He was named the 2008 Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards and received the Larry Patterson Vineyard Innovation Award in 2012 and the Lieutenant Governor Award for Excellence in Ontario Wine in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Power was also part of the very first graduating class from Brock University’s OEVI program.

Cuvée marked another milestone this year, celebrating 25 years of having Italian ice cream as part of the event. Andrew Vergalito has been serving the company’s signature gelato to attendees since 1996.

For more information on CCOVI’s programming and photos from the Grand Tasting, visit

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