Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and Live From the Southside, a new local- and Latina-owned magazine that works to improve & expand community relationships through promoting events, stories and businesses.
Palo Alto College celebrated a significant milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Vineyard & Hops Yard on Tuesday, May 23. The occasion was even more special by announcing a generous $100,000 gift from Laura and Kirk Kistner towards the Viticulture and Enology program.
The event marked the culmination of several years of hard work to expand Palo Alto College’s horticulture program and offer an associate of applied science in viticulture and enology. This expansion included extensive preparations for planting the vineyard, creating a foundation for a successful program.
Dr. Robert Garza, president of Palo Alto College, expressed his excitement about the milestone, saying, “We are thrilled to celebrate the realization of this project, which has been years in the making. We are immensely grateful for the support we have received from our community.” He also highlighted the growing demand for skilled labor in vineyards and wineries as the winemaking industry thrives in Texas. The Viticulture and Enology program at Palo Alto College aims to provide students with hands-on experience and the necessary skills for successful careers in the Texas wine industry and, eventually, the beer industry with the growth of hops.
The PAC Vineyard and Hops Garden will provide students with an unparalleled learning experience, allowing them to directly observe the effects of the Texas climate on the harvest. This practical approach to education will enable students to develop a deep understanding of the unique characteristics of winemaking in Texas.
Both wine and beer enthusiasts Laura Kistner and Kirk Kistner were delighted to learn about the viticulture and enology program. They recognized the immense potential of the over $20 billion Texas wine industry and decided to contribute to the program. Laura Kistner stated, “We are thrilled to be a part of this new academic endeavor. Under Dr. Garza’s leadership, we are confident that education about soil, grape horticulture, weather, and blending is how the Texas wine and beer industry will continue to grow and enhance our local economy.”
In addition to the Kistners’ generous gift, Palo Alto College also announced a new partnership with Casa Guipzot, a boutique wine shop and tasting room specializing in Mexican wines. Casa Guipzot will collaborate with the Viticulture and Enology program in San Antonio to share Mexico’s rich wine history and knowledge with future students. Salena Guipzot, the owner of Casa Guipzot, expressed her enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “We look forward to sharing the history and knowledge Mexico has to offer the future students of the Viticulture and Enology program at PAC as we work together to bring more women and gente into the wine industry.”
Palo Alto College introduced its Viticulture and Enology program in Spring 2020, allowing students to join Texas’ thriving wine industry while earning an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Viticulture and Enology. The program requires 60 credit hours and focuses on the practical aspects of winemaking and the labor side of the workforce, offering students a scientific understanding of the winemaking process, hands-on experience with lab analyses, and exposure to winery equipment and operations. Students also benefit from behind-the-scenes tours at local wineries, further enriching their learning experience.
With the community’s support, generous donors like Laura and Kirk Kistner, and partnerships with businesses such as Casa Guipzot, Palo Alto College is positioning itself as a hub for viticulture and enology education in Texas. The Vineyard & Hops Yard represents a significant step towards meeting the growing demand for skilled professionals in the wine and beer industries and contributing to the region’s economic growth.
This article initially appeared on Live from the Southside.
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