Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Simon1985

American Wine Schools?

Posted by Simon1985, Feb 4, 2011.

G'day.

I'm an Australian currently working in a vineyard in France and thinking of moving to the US later this year to start my studies in wine making/viticulture.

Can anyone recommend any descent universities around California or wherever that offer Wine Making/Viticultural courses?

Cheers,

Simon

Replies

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 4, 2011.

Fresno State and UC Davis are the main places. Davis is the more famous and, at times, more reviled.  If you are interested in the business end of the wine game, Sonoma State runs the Wine Business Institute. Here's a story about it: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=78805&htitle=Sonoma%20State's%20Wine%20Program%20Evolves 

Don't know what you have read in English about winemaking, but Davis is probably the most famous university program in oenology in the English language. Many folks dislike what they view as its interventionist leanings.  Fresno State is less well known, but has a pretty major role.  Here's and article about both: http://articles.sfgate.com/2004-12-05/living/17457184_1_viticulture-uc-davis-california-wine The article also mentions Cal Poly SLO (San Luis Obispo)'s program, which was fairly new at the time.  Cal Poly has the advantage of NOT being in the Central Valley, but it's in Southern California, nor northern.  As far as location, Sonoma State is nearest to Napa and the nicer winegrowing areas. But it's not a winemaking school.

I have to think any of these programs will charge high tuition for out of state students, and I further assume that it will take a long time to pay off the debts at the wages wineries probably pay.

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Reply by soc44, Feb 4, 2011.

what do you think of Liberty wine school?

 

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Reply by soc44, Feb 4, 2011.

Liber

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Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 4, 2011.

I've been in the industry for a fair amount of time and never heard of it, which doesn't bode well, IMO.

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Reply by GregT, Feb 5, 2011.

Me either.  But then there are many places I never heard of, so who knows.

Davis and Fresno are clearly the main and best-known programs. However, Cornell University in upstate New York has a budding wine program that's actually pretty interesting - they know they can't compete with Davis but they're specializing in cool-climate viticulture, which makes perfect sense, since Davis and Fresno don't have the conditions to do much research in that sector. Also University of Virginia has articles appearing now and again - not sure how extensive their wine program is tho.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 5, 2011.

I'm a Cornell grad and there was research on wine when I was there. I can't say for sure there was an oenology degree, but I think there was.  In any case, it would be more accurate to call it cold climate viticulture.  The Finger Lakes region has always produced wine, and some of the biggest wine companies started there.  Other areas of western NY also produced wine, mostly sweet and nasty.(Taylor bought California properties and called it Taylor California Cellars, doing nothing to help the reputation of Taylor or California in the process.) I've mentioned elsewhere that my college years were not wine drinking years, and being in NY state contributed to that.

As one of the articles I linked to mentioned, Washington State U has a wine program, and so does Oregon State.  I would call Oregon cool climate as opposted to upstate NY which is just plain cold.  In any case, Oregon might be the place to go for Pinot.  Washington State is in Pullman, which is not a really big draw in terms of location, I am told, but it's mostly too wet on the more desirable side of the Cascades for growing. (1% of the grapes, I am told, but a disproportionate ratio of the wineries, are on the western side of the mountains.)

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Reply by GregT, Feb 5, 2011.

Yeah - their grapevines are nearby, so I guess cold-climate would be more accurate. They offer a degree in viticulture and oenology.  Wish I would have thought about something like that when I was in school.

http://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/cals/grapesandwine/undergraduate/courses.cfm

In fact I think there are many schools offering courses if not degrees, as I've seen publications from places like Iowa and Missouri. There's probably not a huge difference at some level - e.g. basic biology and botany.  But  the hands-on experience would seem to be an important consideration.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 5, 2011.

I just noticed an edit function next to my own posts--now I can revise history a la "1984." 

"But the hands-on experience would seem to be an important consideration." According to the little I know from reading, that's a big difference in Fresno v. Davis.  Fresno is much more hands on.  Cornell is huge, geographically, but it is entirely in cold weather areas, except the Arecibo radio telescope they operate for the National Science Foundation in Puerto Rico.  I don't think they own the land or grow grapes there.  ;-) I do hear the rieslings in NY are gaining recognition.  But I seem to lack appreciation for riesling for the most part, so I'm not the one to ask. 

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Reply by GregT, Feb 6, 2011.

That telescope is a great idea!  They're way ahead of the curve in terms of looking for new viticultural regions!

But what term would we use?  I guess you couldn't properly call it "terroir" if it's not on this planet.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 6, 2011.

Eiswein on Mars, anyone?  (Now that would be a cold climate region!) MInerality that's like "licking moon rocks?"  Since we've used all the nonsensical adjectives from this world to describe wine, why not expand into the galaxies?  Somewhere for Jon Rimmerman to go that no one can guess by the photographs (unless they can control the Cassini probe's camera).

Like I said:  Pretty sure the telescope is unrelated to the agriculture school. On the other hand, in a nod to inter-disciplinary scholarship, a doctor at the medical school is studying resveratrol: http://www.med.cornell.edu/research/andrewdannenberg/publications.html

"I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."  --Ezra Cornell (and the school's motto--no incomprehensible Latin here!) Why not extraterrestrial viniculture?

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Reply by Simon1985, Feb 6, 2011.

even though we started to go a bit of the track towards the end there i kinda got the hint... thanks for all the tips. I had a look at the Davis and Fresno websites and they both look pretty good. Reading an article on Davis though in 2008 regarding a new wine facility they were building there to help with hand on work but cant find out if its built yet... does anyone know if it is??

and this is me probably just been an australian but reading the websites US uni's are completly different to ours back home so im taking a "graduate" in vitculture and enology is the same thing as "degree" or "bachelor"??? and would i start out as a freshman or what?

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 6, 2011.

Simon: Welcome to Snooth, where getting off the track is pretty much a given.  ;-) Getting off the planet was an accomplishment. Usually, the threads turn into, "What's happening with wine?  Is it Parker?  Or are the terroir fanatics full of it?"

American unis generally accept people with a 12th grade education--completed grammar and high school--with prerequisites in general areas.  The Univ. of Cal system, which includes Davis, has a list that applies to all its campuses. Here's a guide, I think, to the freshman requirements: http://www.ucop.edu/a-gGuide/ag/a-g/ Fresno is part of the generally less exclusive Cal State system, so if you qualify for a UC, you have the pre-reqs for CalState, generally.  Specific programs may have additional requirements. Since drinking age here is 21, you'd think that most undergrads wouldn't really be able to participate until senior year.

If you have a college degree already (I am guessing the 1985 might be your year of birth? and you have a degree?), you might go into a grad program (Masters or PhD) if there is overlap.  For instance, if you have a chemistry or crop science background, you could maybe catch up on the oenology-specific end of it at the same time as you do the grad level stuff.  If you have a chem degree, you could also just go work for a big winery company or Enologix (shudder!) and get an education on the job.  But if you have a degree in English or history, probably you will need to get a Bachelors. The good news is that your general ed requirements from your previous degree (assuming they have those--the Oxbridge schools in England don't, and I don't know what Aussie schools are modeled on) should satisfy some of those, allowing you to accelerate a bachelors from 4 years to something less. 

The American University system has some good features, but the general ed requirements (IMO a way to make up for our weak high schools) mean that, effectively, American college grads have 2-2/12 years of specialized education for their fields, even though they spend 4 years at college (paying ridiculous tuition). Again, off topic.

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 6, 2011.

I was about to say 'come down to earth' Fox (and Greg) from the previous page's thread devolution (hey, tangents are bad, right--I never do any!), now I may have to call you off a tangent into secondary school system bashing, which I scent beginning. Trust me, for all the politicized problems with prioritization, testing, teacher performance, student motivation, funding, etc., etc. in the US ed system, the generalEd requirements at colleges, and the general direction before that, can help create intelligences that work pretty well when viewed in worldwide terms. I've heard and seen different stories from different schools in Oz over the years, so I'll let Simon talk about that. But looking at schooling at those levels all the way from Tokyo to London I see nothing wrong with those genEd requirements. Guess where my daughters went, after looking at schools and being accepted, in other countries as well?

It also should be mentioned that having a degree from Davis also doesn't hurt, generally, when applying for a job. Even if the kinds of jobs I'd be looking for would be the lowpaying ones at wineries were I to want to fantasize a little about a career change in that direction, and I imagine many of them might look for other things than just a Davis or Fresno degree.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 6, 2011.

Simon:  Blathered on and forgot to answer the most important question.  The UC Davis facility opened last month.  http://wineserver.ucdavis.edu/ Look on the right side of the page and there's a box; in the center area it's the second article. 

If you go to Fresno or UC Davis and become a winemaker, I want to know where you wind up. It would be interesting to see how Snooth affected someone's decision to go into the trade.  One last thing on the topic:  Davis can be hot and is definitely in the Central Valley, but Fresno is farther from anything appealing and has worse weather.  Just to confuse things, here's the link to Cal Poly's enology programs: http://fsn.calpoly.edu/discover_enology.html 

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 6, 2011.

Weather's much nicer in San Luis Obisbo (where Cal Poly is located). And Foxall, I'd call that central Cal, not SoCal. Just to split hairs further... ;-)

Oh, and if you want to switch careers after giving up on wine studies from frustration, there are some interesting other courses of study at Cal Poly, Simon. I'd hire an architect or city planner or just about anything else out of Cal Poly before Davis, everything else being equal. Just kidding, but as a school viewed overall, Cal Poly is definitely better than Fresno State, and IMHO also better than Davis, though Davis isn't bad.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 6, 2011.

dmcker: I agree with you that the weather is better in SLO; also, for the programs you mention, it's outstanding.  Architecture is all but impossible to get into, and has been for 30 years.  In an AVA sense, it is considered Central California, but if you divide the state in half geographically, San Francisco is practically in the center, and Monterey is definitely not north of the halfway point.  For anyone native to the areas north of San Jose, it's Southern Cal. Most people do consider it Central Cal--I'm the one splitting hairs. ;-)  On balance, if the program was equal or close, I'd go there for the location.  And take the train to Santa Barbara once in a while--the only way you can see that part of the coast.

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Reply by JCCosto, Feb 23, 2011.

I would like to put in a plug for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech) for those of us on the Mid-Atlantic East coast. Great Viticulture professor, Tony Wolf

There is also, as mentioned before, Cornell University, Great wine program with the NY Finger Lakes region.

There is also a very small school
(Surry Community College) in Dobson, North Carolina that, at present, is the only college Viticulture/Enology program which has a working 5 acre vineyard and licensed and bonded state of the art winery, chemistry lab, and sensory room.

UC Davis is great if your desire is to get involved in the theoretical and research side of viticulture.


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