Team Wine takes home Round 12 of Caps, Corks and Forks

Robbie Day, Emily Royal, Michael Smith, Adria Howe, Ricardo Romero Baron, Beth Bashford, Alyssa Nuss Claudia Arzate and coach Kristina Inman comprised the winning Team Wine

Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture Technician students emerged victorious Saturday night after a nail-biting tiebreaker capped off a sold-out round 12 of NC’s legendary Caps, Corks & Forks Event.

The signature event, hosted by the NC’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI), pits students from Niagara College’s Teaching Winery against their counterparts from the College’s Teaching Brewery in a bid to see who can summon the better beverage pairings to match a stellar six-course dinner prepared by Culinary students and NC Chef Professors Tony DeLuca and Jim MacLean. At each course, team members present their pairing choice, and guests vote for the better pairing determine a winner at the end of the night.

Caps Corks and Forks has been a mainstay event for the CFWI since 2012. With Team Wine’s win on Saturday the total score now stands tied at 6 a piece over 12 rounds.

Team beer: Wesley Burbidge, Joshua Scott, Prathit Naniwadekar, Rob Codognotto, Paul Rakoczy, Mark Samborski and Christian Crawford, along with Team Beer Coach Victor North

“It felt amazing to have our pairings validated by the win,” said second-year Winery and Viticulture Technician student Michael Smith. “Our strategy was to compliment and elevate each dish where possible. There were some really challenging courses that required extensive trial and error but we had a strong understanding of what we needed to make the pairing great.”

NC Instructor and CAPS Sommelier Kristina Inman coached Team Wine to victory. “I am continuously inspired by these students.  I saw them grow in their sensory development as we proceeded through each tasting, and although I know many of them were nervous, they truly shone when presenting their courses.  In my mind, they earned this and I couldn’t be more proud.”

The event was a valuable learning experience not only for Teams Wine and Beer, but also for students in NC’s culinary programs, who worked in teams to design each of the evening’s extravagant six courses.

Second-year Culinary Management student Valérie Harvey was part of a team that crafted a delicate Sous Vide Halibut dish for the fourth course of the evening.

“It was such an intricate dish – Everyone respected each other’s vision and to see the whole team come together, and to know that we could all rely on that team to help execute not only our dish but also the entire event, was really inspiring.” Guests agreed. Every plate of the team’s dish came back empty.

“The moment when our final plate went out to the guests and the plating had gone off without a problem was the most rewarding feeling of the night,” said fellow culinary student Emily Juhlke. “The dishes were executed just how we had planned them with the help of our fellow culinary teams, and it was a good feeling to know all of our hard finally payed off.”

Culinary Management students Chayutphong Guongariyanon and Hayley Dietz prepare one of six college-created courses that comprised round 12 of Caps, Corks and Forks.

Though the competition was fierce, relations between Team Wine and Team Beer remained amicable after the winner was crowned. “Finishing the cask of our house-brewed beer with some help from the wine geeks was probably the best part of the evening. It might’ve been different if we would’ve won but it was an awesome experience overall,” said NC Brewmaster student Prathit Naniwadekar.

The Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College is home to unique post-secondary and part-time programs in food, wine and beer education. It is home to Benchmark, the College’s teaching restaurant, as well as the Niagara College Teaching Winery and Teaching Brewery – the first of their kind in Canada. In 2018, it will also be home to Canada’s first teaching distillery.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit



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