DOBSON — Even though many in the group from Surry Community College had been at work since 5 a.m. Friday morning, they were still smiling as they sorted grapes picked from the school’s vineyard near Surry Central High School later that afternoon.
Soon the group, led by Enology Instructor David Bower III, pressed the grapes which will be crafted into a sparkling wine honoring the school’s 50th anniversary.
“We are in the process of processing,” said Bower as he weaved among a variety of work stations, checking dials and watching the progress of the grapes from sorting table to the caterpillar (or lift) and then to the tank which presses the grapes to extract the juice.
He explained for the wine application they were preparing, the acids and sugars were more stable when the grapes are picked early in the day. Students involved in testing PH and sugar content were deciding on the appropriate enzyme, or tannins, to add to set the stage for the “mouth feel” and flavor of the wine later on.
Bower said this project is independent of other ongoing wines being made at Surry Cellars. Not only will the anniversary wine have a special label, he plans for every staff member of the college to receive a bottle to mark the occasion by the end of the college’s spring semester.
He explained that the college is working on 15 different varieties of wine. This is critical to the viticulture and enology graduates’ understanding of the process of wine making, which varies according to the type of wine being made.
The school is also seeking to give its graduates knowledge of wine marketing by offering instruction in wines which are offered under different labels and price points. The school produces wines under its Blue Ridge label which typically retail around $10 a bottle as well as reserve wines in case quantities and dessert wines.
“We’re trying to have marketing in mind with a lot of this program with three different brand sets of wine,” said Bower. “This offers our students a chance to learn how to pitch wines differently to different clients. This is so each student learns how the industry is supposed to work.”
Bowers said the first phase of the college’s new vineyard is complete with three acres planted in grape vines, due to the original vineyard’s impending phase-out due to improvements needed at Surry Central High School. Phase two could involve planting one to two additional acres with grapes.
“The hope is to have the same acreage at the new site,” Bower said as he explained the excitement of production and manufacturing cannot overshadow the underlying mission of teaching students to understand the science of wine making. The goal represents a win-win for students who want not only to work in the industry but become the craftsmen of the future, thus improving the industry as well.
Another goal of the program is to train students in how to apply scientific methods to solve practical problems of wine growing not only locally but in the southeastern United States.
The college’s viticulture and enology curriculum is designed to prepare individuals for various careers in the grape growing and wine making industry. Classroom instruction, laboratory and field applications of viticultural and enological principles and practices are included in the program of study.
Course work in viticulture includes aspects of plant science, vineyard stock selection, and propagation, soils, vine nutrition and pest management. Also included are courses in planning, layout, economics and management of vineyards. Those interested in enology will receive training in the classroom, laboratory and field in the tools and techniques of wine making. Related courses in microbiology and fermentation science, sensory analysis, and winery economics and marketing are offered.
Students should qualify for positions in vineyards, wineries, and in related areas of sales and services. Graduates in viticulture are also be certified as North Carolina Private Pesticide Applicators.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.