SAN ANTONIO – Palo Alto College is offering its first viticulture and enology program, which will show students grape-growing and wine-making.
“They’re going to be learning how to grow grapes, how to propagate them, how to properly manage them, treat them, how to find disease,” said Yessica Labay, a professor at Palo Alto College.
Labay said students will also get hands-on experience with grapes. The school will eventually build a vineyard next to the community garden on campus.
Colleges leaders saw that the wine industry was growing and wanted to get their students involved.
“They knew that there was going to be a demand for labor skilled workers that actually knew how to treat those vines,” Labay said.
According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association’s Economic Impact Study, in 2017, the Texas wine industry generated nearly $13.1 billion in economic activity.
One of the program’s partners is Bending Branch Winery, which is located in Comfort.
“It’s really going to serve a need for our industry. We need more skilled labor in our industry,” said Jennifer McInnis, general manager of Bending Branch Winery.
The winery was established in 2009. McInnis said the business started with just a couple thousand cases, and now, the winery is producing about 20,000 cases a year.
She said there are several job opportunities in the wine industry.
“There's winemakers, assistant winemakers, enologists -- who are really the quality control in the winery. Then there's also vineyard management, vineyard labor, to actually manage the vineyard to prune, to plant, to harvest,” McInnis said.
Students can earn an associate of applied science in viticulture and enology from Palo Alto College.