by Adrian Caravello

George Brown Students at Stratus

George Brown Food & Beverage Students pick icewine grapes at Stratus

Life Is About Experiences…

Being a sommelier, I can appreciate the subtle differences between a Barolo and Barbaresco.  I can also value the lingering toasty, biscuty flavours of a Bollinger RD but a wine always tastes better if it has a story.  If you think about your most memorable food or wine moment it probably included a special memory with friends or an incredible setting that can never replicated.  That is what we did with the Food and Beverage Students at George Brown College (these students are the future servers, sommeliers, restaurateurs and beer nuts that will help shape our industry).   We gave them a once in a lifetime opportunity to pick Icewine grapes at Stratus Winery.  This is not part of their curriculum but a ‘value added’ opportunity that 30 of them took advantage of during a busy exam schedule.

Student Katarzyna Gruchacz

The Story…

It was minus 11°C with gusty 50 km/hr winds howling around us; previously fallen snow was swirling about the vineyard with new snow falling on us.  It was 9:00 pm at night and our only source of light came from our chartered bus, friend’s cars and a tractor.  This made the task a bit more challenging but we kept busy breaking off canes and watching grapes fall into the covering nets.  We worked quickly to keep warm and our enthusiasm made harvesting 11 rows of Riesling grapes a breeze.  After picking we went into the winery for hot chocolate, coffee and donuts, a quintessential Canadian treat! We warmed ourselves and traded stories while savouring some 2008 Stratus Riesling Icewine that George Brown students had previously picked a few years earlier.   In the end the students were excited to participate in something that is truly unique that will make for a great story to tell when opening a bottle of Icewine that they helped pick.  The story could be told to family members at a milestone anniversary or birthday or perhaps at a restaurant to captivated guests.  We know the wine will be delicious but the story will be the icing on the cake.

George Brown Food & Beverage program's Hotel Coordinator Donnalu Macdonald and President Anne Sado


What the students learned about Icewine…

  1. To achieve VQA (Vintners’ Quality Alliance) status for Canadian Icewine the average Brix must be 35 (Canada’s measurement of sugar in the grape juice);
  2. Relationships with industry partners like Stratus is important for personal and professional experiences; and
  3. A story only gets better with age…

Students and faculty warm up at Stratus Winery


Adrian Caravello is a Professor and Coordinator for the Food and Beverage Management and Advanced Wine and Beverage Management Programs at George Brown College. He is a Sommelier and and holds a Diploma of Wine with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.