Symposium to Cover Southeast Workforce

Wine and grape industry speakers will discuss developing a college wine program and standardizing skill sets at November event in North Carolina

by Linda Jones McKee
surry community college teaching winery
Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., will once again be home to the Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium, which convenes Nov. 6-7 at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology.
Dobson, N.C.—One mark of the expansion of a grape and wine region is the establishment of a new conference or symposium to address the need for information and knowledge about grapegrowing and winemaking appropriate to that region. That certainly is true of the Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium, which will be held for the second time Nov. 6-7 at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology at Surry Community College (SCC) in Dobson. The first symposium took place at SCC in April 2012, in cooperation with the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), a national partnership of 19 colleges and universities to deliver distance education opportunities for the grape and wine industry.

The number of wineries in the southeastern region of the United States—Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia—increased from 162 wineries in 2000 to 579 in 2013, according to Wines Vines Analytics. This expansion of the area’s wine industry has created a need for more viticulture and enology information related to the region’s specific problems and as well as more practical training for growers and winemakers.

David Bower, enology instructor and winemaker at SCC, created the initiative for the first symposium with the goal of presenting workshops and seminars led by distinguished enology and viticulture researchers that would extend the efforts of SCC and VESTA in technical education and training experience. According to Bower, “We want to differentiate this symposium from other conferences. It’s not a tradeshow with lectures. Our symposium targets the southeastern United States and addresses regionally specific technical topics. We want people who attend to be engaged and involved interactively.”

“We listened to those who attended the first symposium,” Bower told Wines & Vines, “and scheduled the second one in November, after harvest, and ‘ahead of the curve’ of conferences in the winter months.”

This year’s symposium will feature sessions led by the following wine experts:
Peter Bell, winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards of Penn Yan, N.Y., on “Maximizing Quality in Aromatic Whites;”

Sabina Lueck of Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, Wash., will present “White Winemaking Critical Points,” and a second session with Bower on “The Design and Potential Economic Impact of a Strong College Wine Program;”

Patty Held, winery consultant and online instructor for VESTA, will present the “New Rules of Wine Marketing;”

Dr. Michele Ambaye, École Supérieure de Commerce de Pau, Pau France, will discuss “Small Wineries in the South West of France Faced with New World Competition” with the attendees via a video conference;

José Alberto Santos, president of Enartis Vinquiry Laboratory, will present “Done with Harvest, Now What?”

Michelle Norgren, director of VESTA National Center of Excellence, will speak about “Uniting the Industry Workforce: Developing Standardized Workplace Competencies for the Grape and Wine Industry.”

As part of the symposium, three food and wine events have been scheduled. The “Tour of North Carolina Wines” lunch on Nov. 6 will feature 10 wines from the state’s Yadkin Valley region. A “Lunch-n-Learn” session Nov. 7 will give participants the opportunity to compare and discuss various wine and food pairings. The Grand Wine Tasting on the evening of Nov. 6 will include light hors d’oeuvres and wines from the eight southeastern states included in the region.

The Southeastern United Grape and Wine Symposium, coordinated by SCC, is sponsored by VESTA along with media partner Wines & Vines. A detailed schedule and registration information is available at surry.edu. The registration cost prior to Oct. 12 is $75; after the deadline, it is $100. The Grand Wine Tasting on Nov. 7 is open to the public for a non-conference rate of $20.

Surry Community College first offered courses in viticulture in 1999 through the Continuing Education Division; enology classes were added in 2001. The college now offers an associate’s degree (a two-year program), diploma (one-year program) and a certificate in viticulture and enology. The Shelton-Badgett N.C. Center of Viticulture and Enology opened in fall 2010; classroom instruction is supported by a teaching vineyard and a state-of-the-art winery where students produce approximately 1,000 cases of wine per year.

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