Quit your job. Palo Alto College is now offering a wine-making degree.

Growth of Texas wine industry has created a demand for skilled workers

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.

About the Authors

Tiffany Huertas is a reporter for KSAT 12 known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.

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