POSTED ON August 19, 2009 | IN Wine Education, Wine News | BY Joe Becerra

Alert to U.C. Davis and Fresno State University wine schools, you have a major competitor in the Napa Valley Community College. NVCC is not only situated in one of the world’s most renowned wine regions, but how about those course fees! The Napa college is the first community college in California to have a bonded winery and students can participate in every phase of winemaking, including growing grapes and the selling and marketing of wine. This November the college will release and sell its first vintages of wines, a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Dr. Stephen Krebs is the head of the Viticulture and Winery Technology instructional program at the Napa Valley College and is the driving force behind a ten-year effort by the college to raise funds and meet the difficult legal requirements to become a bonded winery. The first vintage will yield some 350 cases of wine and the college will be able to legally make as many as 1000 cases of wine. The college currently has six acres of vineyards on the campus. The Napa Valley Vintners Association, Trefethen Family Foundation, Gasser Foundation, Doud Foundation and many others have made significant contributions towards the development of the operation of the wine programs.

I spoke with Napa Valley Community College student Tony Blackburn, who has been appointed the Winery Sales and Marketing intern for the college. Tony is typical of many of the students who are enrolled in the program in that they are seeking a second career in the wine business. There are also students already employed by local wineries but who want to further advance their knowledge and skills in the wine industry. The winemaking and marketing classes are hands-on experiences. In the case of Tony, who wants to specialize in sales and marketing, he and fellow classmates had to develop a marketing plan and price point for the upcoming release of their wines. Most of the winemaking classes are during the day, but in the evening there are classes for those who want to learn wine appreciation and sensory evaluation of wine.

In November the students will celebrate with Harvest Celebration and the selling of the first vintages of wine. All the profits from the wine sales will be re-invested in the program to continue the development of the winery. From the looks of it, the wines may sell out quickly. The college set up a blind tasting matching their Sauvignon Blanc against 5 other wines, including three from the Napa Valley. Guess what? The Napa College wine was picked first by six of the eight judges.

To learn more about the classes offered, visit the Napa Valley Community College’s winery program website.