COURTESY OF FINGER LAKES COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Finger Lakes Community College launched a one-year viticulture certificate to provide a quicker path to a career in the growing wine and grape industry, particularly for adults who already have a college degree.
The 29 credit-hour program consists of nine classes that provide a practical education in viticulture and winemaking. Students will gain skills necessary to become a wine hobbyist or start an entry-level position in the wine industry. They will have the option to continue on and get the FLCC associate degree in viticulture and wine technology.
“We have so many students that come through here that have a degree already,” said Paul Brock, associate professor of viticulture and wine technology. “This program allows them to focus on the core skills of growing grapes and making wine, and provides them with a recognized credential.”
Kerry Mallon, of Brockport, learned about the program in a Wine Spectator magazine article and joined the first certificate class in February.
“It is more academic than I had thought it would be, especially regarding the vineyard approach,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to delve into as much of the soil, pest and weed management knowledge quite so in depth.”
While COVID-19 meant a fair amount of online work, Mallon learned to prune vines in a vineyard and measure juice sugar and wine alcohol content in the college’s enology lab.
“As an older, returning student, I was somewhat hesitant about doing it from two perspectives,” she said. “One, am I out of practice at this level of science? Two, will the industry hire someone like me? Now, I would tell anyone to do it, and if you think you’re too old, you’re not. I had to dig deep into the recesses of my brain to pull out some old science and math knowledge to get through, but so far so good.
“As to being hired, I’m working on an internship and I am very hopeful. From what I’ve seen touring the Finger Lakes wineries and visiting tasting rooms, there are folks of all ages involved at all levels. So, I am greatly encouraged in that regard.”
FLCC launched its viticulture and wine technology degree program in fall 2009. The school partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Finger Lakes Grape Program and Anthony Road Wine Company in 2012 to plant a 2-acre teaching and demonstration vineyard where students learn hands-on vineyard practices and harvest grapes for winemaking.
The FLCC Viticulture and Wine Center opened in 2015 at the Cornell Agriculture and Technology Park in Geneva. The facility has an enology lab, teaching winery, vineyard and aging rooms to provide students with the same equipment and environment they will experience in the industry.
FLCC also is developing an online version of the certificate that would compress hands-on elements into a two-week residency.
“You will not look at wine in the same way again,” Mallon said. “Despite all the precise science, it really is a magical process. Even if you were to simply be curious about how it all works, it’s worth looking into taking the certificate program. It isn’t the same commitment as the associate degree, and you could do it part-time or with a fast-track approach, depending on your goals.”
Call 585-785-1000 or visit flcc.edu/academics/viticulture for information.