Although the UC Davis wine school gets a lot of attention as probably the world’s leading such institution, Napa Valley College also has a thriving wine program that’s proven a huge boon to local grape growers, wineries and industry suppliers.
The school, formally the Viticulture and Winery Technology instructional program at Napa Valley College, has a different charter from Davis, however.
While you can take the usual math, science and other courses, including wine class electives, that could transfer to UC Davis, the local school focuses on preparing people for jobs, not the university. The enology and viticulture classes aren’t really stepping stones to UC.
That’s fine with most local employers. They’re looking for staff who can hit the ground running.
The school, long headed by Stephen Krebs, is definitely hands on. In recent years, it even bonded its teaching winery so it can — and does — make wine it can sell to support the program. Some local restaurants and retailers sell or serve the wines.
The school offers both viticulture and winery production certificates and wine marketing and sales certificates as well as two-year associate of science degrees specializing in viticulture, winemaking or marketing and sales. Many of the classes also attract wine enthusiasts
Recently, Krebs and his staff reviewed their program for advisors, members of industry and even some alumni. They even served their 2010 Chardonnay and 2009 Cabernet while we heard the presentation.
Krebs, who’s primarily a viticulturist, is assisted by winemaking professor Brian Avila and two teaching assistants.
The school also has an adjunct staff of industry figures like Paul Wagner, George Vierra, Michael Weiss, Norma Poole, Ann Reynolds and Daniel Robledo. They lend real- world experience and expertise. Some have taught in the wine program for more than 18 years.
The adjunct teachers especially assist with teaching wine sales and marketing since the school lacks a full-time wine business and marketing staffer. Unfortunately, without one, students grow grapes, make wine and plan marketing plans, but then they stop since the classes aren’t taught in the summer when the sales activity would be most effective.
The winery makes wine from its 3-acre vineyard. Before it was bonded, it sold the grapes.
The area is a little chilly for grapes like cabernet sauvignon, especially in cooler years like last year, and one result is rare low-alcohol Napa cabs. Other grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay do better.
It has two labels, Napa Valley College Estate and Head Trained, the second label. Napa General Store hosted a popular harvest party last year. Along with Tarla Mediterranean Grill, Cole’s Chop House and Backroom Wines, the Napa General Store has stocked college wines. Trader Joe’s was interested, but requires suppliers to have insurance the college doesn’t have.
Student interns have also conducted tastings at other restaurants and stores for the future.
The school is having its annual release part (and sale) on May 14 at 2:30 p.m. at the winery and welcomes the public and industry to attend.
The wine department is also repeating a successful promotion first done in 2011. College ceramics professor Rhue Bruggemen made a large (12 liter, 5 cases) hand-thrown ceramic amphora that was filled with 2008 wine. It was sold at Auction Napa Valley to the owners of the Duke of Bourbon liquor store in Los Angeles. They plan to repeat this effort for June Auction Napa Valley.
For more information about the wine program, visit napavalley.edu/winery.
See you in Sacramento
The big Unified Wines & Grape Symposium starts Tuesday in Sacramento next week. Its seminars and exhibits are a great opportunity to catch up, and it’s also a good time to see colleagues, customers and suppliers.
It’s an easy drive over for the day, but more fun if you stay and take advantage of the many evening meetings and receptions.
Get more information at unifiedsymposium.org.
Email Paul Franson at firstname.lastname@example.org.