Our People

Alison Findlay

Allison Findlay, Winemaker

Originally from Dryden, Ontario, Allison looked forward to a future in plant science and ecology. After completing her Bachelor of Science at Lakehead University, her passion sparked for Ontario viticulture while visiting the Niagara Region and falling in love with the art, science and beauty that is Ontario wine.

Allison then enrolled and graduated from the Niagara College Winery & Viticulture Technician program in 2014 and she hasn’t looked back since. Her new passion took her around the world to participate in grape harvests in Australia and Oregon, while also spending some time at a few local wineries before landing an exciting job with Flat Rock Cellars in 2016. With a little time, and a lot of hard work, Allison grew into the role of Assistant Winemaker, and finally Head Winemaker where she perfected her craft in producing award-winning wines, including a Best in Show at the 2022 Decanter World Wine Awards. At the beginning of a new harvest in 2022, Allison began her role as Head Winemaker at Niagara College Teaching Winery, coming back to where it all began.

Allison is the first female winemaker at the Teaching Winery – but not the first NC graduate. Former Head Winemaker Gavin Robertson, who graduated from the Winery and Viticulture Technician program in 2011, has been a fixture of the Teaching Winery for more than a decade – beginning as a student in 2010, then full-time after graduation. He was happy to pass the torch to Allison, who he knows well from both NC and the industry and praised the natural talent and hard-earned industry experience she brings to the College. After having a wonderful career so far in the Ontario wine industry, we are ecstatic to welcome her back to our Teaching Winery, where she continues to produce outstanding wines and become a valuable mentor for the budding industry professionals.

When she should not be in the cellar you can find Allison crafting, completing crossword puzzles, and running around with her two beloved dogs Maeve and Lola.  Her drink of choice is a cold glass of bubbly paired good company (and hopefully a couple dozen oysters).

Jon Downing

Jon Dowing, Brewmaster

Jon Downing is an experienced Brewmaster who has devoted the past thirty years to enabling his many international clients to produce the highest quality beer. With over 120 brewery start ups completed of all sizes from 1bbl and up, including a pilot brewery for Diageo (Guinness) and an experimental facility for recycling beer, Jon has probably helped more breweries and brewers start on the road to commercial success than any other brewer. Hailing from the UK with its longstanding tradition of brewing many types of beer, Jon did further training at the United States Brewers Academy. He holds a degree in Commerce from Birmingham University, and understands all aspects of opening and running a brewery as a successful business having opened and operated the first Brewpub in Ontario, as well as a local Micro Brewery and Brew on Premise.

Jon’s work has taken him to many countries including Japan, South Korea, Cyprus, the Ukraine, several Caribbean islands and many states, territories and provinces in the U.S. and Canada. Most of his clients are private companies or individuals, however he has also installed breweries for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force. Jon’s dedication has earned his breweries numerous medals in the World Beer Championships, as well as gold and silver medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. Even after his work at a brewery is complete, the brewers who train under him continue to win awards.

About ten years ago Jon approached Steve Gill and Niagara College with the concept to start up a Brewing program to compliment their Viticulture and Culinary endeavors. It took four years of planning and preparation culminating in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management course’s first intake of students in September 2010. In the first six years of the course there have been more than 150 student brewers trained and with a close to 100% employment record the course has become recognized one of the leaders in the world of brewing. As a member of the Master Brewer’s Associations of Canada and the U.S., The Institute for Brewing & Distilling, the American Society of Brewing Chemists and The Association of Brewers he keeps up with and adds to all the latest developments.

David Dickson

David Dickson, Head Distiller

David Dickson joins us from his position as head distiller at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville, and will now bring his experience and leadership to Niagara College’s Artisan Distilling program as the College’s distiller. As NC’s distiller, Dickson will oversee the operations and process of all distilled products, and will teach practical distilling and other courses.

Dickson holds an Honours Specialization in Biology and a Master of Environmental Sustainability, both from Western University. He also holds a certificate in Absinthe Distillation from Moonshine University, an artisan distillery and education centre in Louisville, KY. He was also instrumental in the creation of Ontario’s first legal absinthe.

A Niagara native, Dickson has also led the creation of a variety of unique, local fruit-infused spirits that have added a distinctly Niagaran flair to his craft – something he hopes to bring to the College’s distilling program.