NIAGARA IN A GLASS: Niagara wine can be green, too

Allison Findlay and Jay Johnston of Flat Rock Cellars. (Craig Youdale/Special to Postmedia Network)

The future of our business world has a key element that is threaded throughout every concept, every plan, every development — and that is energy and the environment.

The wine industry in Niagara is no different, and from farming practices to process management, the impact that the industry has is vital to the environment in the region, and the future of wine making in Niagara.

A recent visit with the team from Flat Rock Cellars has given me some great insight into how the wine industry in our region is a true monitor of our region’s agricultural health.

Flat Rock is just one of the many leaders in our region in its approach to sustainable winemaking and having a specific focus on how it affects the world around them.

The passionate and outspoken proprietor, Ed Madronich, is very driven to not only make great wine, but is keenly aware of the impact the winery has on things such as soil health, waste management and energy consumption.

Many growers and producers in the region are not specifically certified organic, or LEED-certified, but have many aspects of their work world that make efforts to support a sustainable work environment, from simply using energy-efficient light bulbs all the way up to geothermal heating and natural organic practices in the vineyard.

Madronich puts it very simply when asked about things like climate change when he says, “It’s simply about the fact we are putting crap into our air, water and soil and no one can argue that,” so now how can we be better stewards of our environment for the next generation.

Winemaker Jay Johnston explains that it always come down to making great wine, and that is ultimate goal of any winery. If you can create practices such as gravity feeding, natural vineyard sprays and hand picking that helps create fantastic product then we all should take note and do our part. The industry always has to balance what is financially feasible in connection with creating a “green” standard in their business and how they can co-exist in the operation.

Flat Rock can now boast a chief sustainability officer and cellar master, after it completed its Sustainable Winery Certification from Wine Council of Ontario. The position is held by Niagara College graduate Allison Findlay.

The concept of being sustainable is a huge area of expertise and is something that should not be an add-on to the work environment, but should be a key focus on how a business is operated.

I look forward to the days when these titles exist in everyone’s work world and when being green is not something to brag about but something we take for granted.

— Craig has been in the food and beverage industry for three decades as a chef, restauranteur, professor, international competitor and now dean of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. His passion for all things food and wine has led him to Niagara to lead the Institute to become the world’s foremost educator in fermentation sciences and culinary arts.