Napa Teaching Winery Licensed to Sell

Napa Valley College expands grape/wine program with state's first community college bonded winery

by Paul Franson
Napa Valley Vintners' teaching winery at Napa Valley College
The Napa Valley Vintners' teaching winery at Napa Valley College is now licensed to sell its products.
Napa, Calif. -- The federal and state permits have been issued allowing Napa Valley College to sell wines produced by students in its Viticulture and Winery Technology program. NVC is now the first community college in California to have a bonded winery. (Walla Walla Community College in Washington also has a bonded winery, College Cellars of Walla Walla.) A new wine storage building was constructed to provide secure and separate storage for the wine. All bond-related business will be administered from an office in the new building.

The college will sell the wines made in the teaching winery to help support the viticulture/winery program, says NVC president Dr. Chris McCarthy. The announcement was made at the Sept. 11 meeting of the college board of trustees.


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Napa Valley College
The college is well regarded among wineries in Napa Valley, which hire many of its students and also encourage employees to study there. The program serves more than 1,000 students per year, notes Bryan Avila, the school's winemaker and winery technology instructor. Avila says enrollment includes many in wine culture courses, but he currently has more than 100 students in the four winemaking classes he teaches.

Many of the students in the program already work at wineries and hope to upgrade their skills. "Many work in tasting rooms, and want to get into production," Avila says. He adds that others are sommeliers, and some are retired people hoping to start a second career. Numerous owners of small vineyards and home winemakers also take classes.

One satisfied student is Dr. Marc Cohen, who already had an M.D. and an M.S. in business when he took classes at the college. "I took wine marketing, winemaking, and development of a hillside vineyard," he says, adding, "These courses helped enormously, especially in understanding how difficult, complex, political, competitive and expensive the whole process is." Wines & Vines documented Cohen's experience starting his Howell at the Moon Winery on Howell Mountain in Napa County in a six part series in 2006. (See Part I)

The college provides a one-year certificate and a two-year Associate of Science degree with options in viticulture, winemaking, and wine marketing and sales. Its graduates work in area wineries, as grapegrowers, winemakers, marketing specialists, and in other areas of the industry. Most work in Napa Valley. Some graduates transfer on to four-year colleges and universities, such as the University of California, Davis and California State University, Fresno.

Dr. Stephen Krebs is the primary viticulture instructor and coordinator of the wine program. He joined the college in 1986 and oversaw the first harvest from the Napa Valley College student vineyard in 1987. Over the years, most of the fruit has been sold to local wineries.

Napa Valley Vintners' teaching winery at Napa Valley College
Dr. Stephen Krebs , primary viticulture instructor and coordinator of the wine program at NVC, demonstrates to students how best to harvest winegrapes.
Winemaking students have made a small amount of wine every year, too, but these wines could not be sold. Under the new winery bond, the 2008 Chardonnay will be the first wine available for purchase in about 15 to 18 months. The Chardonnay harvest started Sept. 22.

The college plans to sell five wines from its relatively cool climate vineyards in south Napa: Two white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and three reds: Pinot Noir, Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It may also sell other wines in some vintages.

The college will continue to sell some Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to area wineries.

The bond will allow the college to sell up to 1,000 cases per year. Direct sales and one-day events, such as release events, will be allowed under the terms of the bond.

With the bonding of the teaching winery complete, the department is creating a wine marketing plan. "We expect strong demand for our limited-production wines," Krebs says. College art students and faculty will design labels for the wines.

The process of bonding the college winery began several years ago. First, Senate Bill 220, authored by former California State Senator Wes Chesbro and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, authorized Napa Valley College to seek bonding.

Then the NVC Viticulture and Winery Technology Foundation was established to administer the bonding process. Krebs heads the VWT Foundation. The board of directors consists of instructor Bryan Avila; NVC board of trustees members Michael Baldini, Bruce Ketron and Steven Reinbolt; and community members Sue Fiore and Emma Swain as well as Krebs. Additional support is provided by Sue Nelson, vice president of instruction, and Scott Miller, vice president of business and finance.

The program facilities include the student vineyard, the ag lab, the Trefethen Family Viticultural Center, the Napa Valley Vintners' teaching winery and the VWT warehouse. The wine industry has provided generous support that has helped the college expand the program to help meet the needs of both the students and local employers.

To receive information on buying the wines, e-mail winery@napavalley.edu or leave a message at (707) 253-3000 ext. 4594.
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