While wine lovers will have to wait months – if not years – to sip and savour 2018 Okanagan vintages, 2018 is poised to be a very good year right from the start for anyone looking to learn the art and science of grape growing in the region.
Three new part-time viticulture courses starting in January at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus will offer students a flexible way to gain the skills and knowledge needed to work in or manage a commercial vineyard. Previously, the courses have only been available to students enrolled in the full-time Viticulture Technician diploma program.
“By allowing students to take individual courses on a part-time basis, we aim to provide a more convenient means to explore this exciting field of study,” explains Jonathan Rouse, the College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism. “It will allow individuals, both experienced and new to viticulture, an opportunity to further develop a range of skills and knowledge that aligns with the needs of the wine industry.”
The courses will run Jan. 3 – April 26, 2018 and span three key cornerstones of viticulture – vineyard health and nutrition, irrigation and trellis systems and vineyard operations. Students can expect a blend of classroom instruction and practical experience at local vineyards.
“Beyond having an understanding of the scientific principles of grape growing, there is a great deal of practical knowledge up-and-coming viticulturists need to have to find employment and be an asset in the vineyard,” explains Rouse.
The courses were developed as part of the College’s new Viticulture Technician diploma program that launched in September. The two-year pilot program was made possible with funding from both the federal and provincial governments through labour market agreements, and developed in partnership with the B.C. Wine Grape Council.
“In designing these courses, we worked closely with local vineyard managers, winemakers and proprietors to better understand the talent they need to ensure we continue to produce quality grapes in the Okanagan."
In addition to budding grape growers and future winemakers, the coursework may also be an asset to professionals in other areas of the wine industry, notes Rouse.
“I can see these courses appealing to individuals working in wine sales and marketing,” he says. “Students will come away with a greater depth of knowledge of the entire process from grape to glass.”
More information about the courses is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/vittech.