Hello Everyone! It’s been a while since I blogged last. I’ve had a busy summer and a great harvest season doing what I love. I’ve been working with a winery in West Texas helping them expand and it’s been fun – even in the sweltering Texas heat. I’m putting together a series on the planning, building and operations of the winery that I hope to have to you soon.
I also taught a couple of wine classes at Grayson Community College in Denton, Texas. After talking with a friend who was asking some question about the classes, I thought this would be a good topic to jump in with because so many winemakers, new winery owners or want-to-be winery owners don’t know how much knowledge is out there at their fingertips. Out-of-state schools are expensive too, so why not go local?
5 Reasons Why Local Enology & Viticulture Classes Are Valuable
1. A local program allows you to get direct feedback from others who know your industry, understand the climate, terroir and the challenges of your region. You will gain knowledge that is tangibly applicable to you, your vineyard and your winery. Here’s an example: In the late 1970′s, a large California wine corporation came to Texas and and planted 500 acres of grapes using the same techniques they did in California. They lost all their vineyards because they didn’t know they needed to deal with the Texas environment differently.
2. Gain knowledge faster and more efficiently by going to class in person where you can interact with others. Research shows that people retain significantly more knowledge when all the senses are involved.
3. In many classes you get actual hands on learning, whether it’s in the vineyard learning about diseases and pests, or in the classroom blending wine or running lab tests.
4. Local universities and colleges often offer extension classes and educational programs that are less expensive than going out of state and are held in the evenings or on weekends. Yes, there is UC Davis, Fresno State, Cornell, etc. and they are great schools, however, if you define quality as applicable information that is useful at your winery, then education nearby may be more valuable to you. Also, you will often find some of the best winemakers and viticulturists in your region at those same extension courses and learn from their experiences.
5. Create relationships that will last. You will need others to lean on, learn from and share information with to be successful. In a local class, you are much more likely to work with people that are dealing with the same issues you are and learning together.
BONUS! If you support the local program, it helps the entire regional industry. Local education makes available a higher level of knowledge to everyone in the wine business. The better equipped your neighbors are and the better their wine is, and the more you sell and the bigger the market gets! (More on why you want your neighboring winery to produce a great wine too: Blaze the Trail, Colorado!)
Here’s a great example of why learning your industry and understanding business matters: 80% of small restaurants are opened by people that know nothing about the restaurant industry. Often someone is told over and over by their friends what a great cook or chef they are and decide to open a restaurant. What they find is that running a restaurant has a lot more to do with business than cooking. Within 6 months 80% are bankrupt.
Does this sound familiar with who you know in the wine business? A winemaker makes great wine – all his friends say so. Soon, the idea of running a winery sounds like something that is possible. He make lots of wine, but has no idea how to open the winery, market the product, run a tasting room, or have a business plan, much less how to grow grapes and run a vineyard. After a few years and a small fortune, he finds himself broke – not because he wasn’t a good “cook”, but because being a good cook or winemaker does not convert over to being a good business manager. Reminds me of that old joke: How do you make a small fortune in the wine industry? You start with a large fortune.
In good enology and viticulture programs, there are marketing and business courses available. Grayson College at the TV Munson School of Viticulture & Enology, where I teach occasionally, have some extended education courses specifically on those topics.
No matter where you are, there is probably a good program nearby and you don’t have to get a degree. Just take the classes you need. Here’s a list of several I found in the southern/mid-west states.
LOCAL ENOLOGY & VITICULTURE CLASSES OFFERED
University of Missouri (MO): http://iccve.missouri.edu/
Texas A&M Agrilife Extension (TX): http://winegrapes.tamu.edu/
Texas Tech Wine Marketing Institute (TX) : http://www.depts.ttu.edu/hs/TexasWine/
Texas Tech Viticulture & Enology Program (TX): http://www.pssc.ttu.edu/VEpage/default.php
New Mexico State (NM): http://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/viticulture/index.html
Oklahoma State University (OK): http://www.grapes.okstate.edu/
Colorado State University (CO): http://www.hla.colostate.edu/Academic_Programs/viticulture_enology.html
TV Munson Center at Grayson County College (TX): http://www.adultedreg.com/cwlgcc/index.cfm?processtype=department&deptid=14941
Redlands Community College (OK): http://www.redlandscc.edu/index.php?q=content/vineyard-wine-making-programs
Yavapai College’s Viticulture Program (AZ): http://viticulture.yc.edu/aas-degree-viticulture-and-enology/
VESTA: http://www.vesta-usa.org/main/ (Online viticulture & enology courses)
If you know of other schools, classes, extension courses near you, please leave in your comment and I’ll update the blog.
Happy Thanksgiving and Salut!
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