Collaboration between Okanagan College and the British Columbia Wine Institute will mean wine and food servers in this province and elsewhere can now take a free online course to enhance their knowledge of vintages, varieties, and appellations.

The new course, which takes about two hours to complete, was the brainchild of the British Columbia Wine Institute CEO Miles Prodan and Okanagan College’s Director of Wine, Food and Tourism, Jonathan Rouse.

“We saw an opportunity and need to provide education and insight to some of the people who can have a real impact on wine sales in B.C., and on the wine tourist experience,” says Prodan. “Our goal was to develop a course that anyone who serves B.C. VQA wine could take at their leisure. The course allows anyone who takes it to gain a greater understanding of the distinguishing factors of B.C. VQA wine and the B.C. wine industry, as well as gives practical information on serving wine and enhancing the tasting and dining experience.”

“This is an innovative initiative that will help an important component of B.C.’s growing value-added agriculture sector,” noted B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick.

“We saw this as a tremendous way to help the industry,” says Rouse. “It means everyone who is involved in serving wine in this province, whether they are in Fort St. John, Ucluelet, Vancouver or Naramata can gain a better understanding of the industry and the product that our residents and tourists are interested in.”

The online course features a generous serving of videos and draws in a broad range of experts and personalities from the industry.

Serving as “host” for the course is Kurtis Kolt, a name known to many in B.C.’s hospitality industry. He has run several restaurants in Vancouver and in 2010 was named “Sommelier of the Year at the 2010 Vancouver International Wine Festival. He has been profiled by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, run the wine program for an evening at James Beard House in New York, and been one of Western Living Magazine’s Top 40 Foodies Under 40. He’s joined by personalities such as Quails’ Gate Winery’s Tyler Galts, Mission Hill Family Estate Terrace Hill Chef Chris Stewart, and Wine Maker John Simes.

“My experience in restaurants, where I’ve educated many servers about wines generally and B.C. wines specifically, led me to immediately appreciate the value of this kind of course,” says Kolt. “I’m guessing that as word spreads, a fair number of restaurateurs will be encouraging their servers to take the time to do the course.”

“As we all know, everyone benefits when servers have more wine knowledge; guests and tourists enjoy an enhanced experience and that’s good for the industry.”

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is free and doesn’t require registration. You can find it at