Like the finest of wines, quality improves with time.
The same sentiment could be said of the Finger Lakes Community College’s viticulture program, which seems to improve with each passing year and, of late, with each milestone surpassed.
And the viticulture program is savoring another.
The college has learned recently that its teaching winery will be licensed to sell and distribute eight varieties of wines, including two Rieslings, produced by students — if officials choose to do so. That could come by the end of the spring semester next year.
More regulatory hurdles remain, but the college is treating the process as another teachable moment.
Students in the college’s design program have produced a series of possible labels. Students in the viticulture program will be voting on the labels, which will be submitted for required federal approval before the wine can be sold. Yes, it's time-consuming, and it would be great if New York and the federal government finally acted and loosened the stranglehold of red tape that plagues so many businesses trying to gain traction.
We’re pretty sure this is not what Paul Masson Wine meant when the old TV commercial said, “We will sell no wine before its time.”
But it’s a step forward.
Think back to fall 2009, when the program was first launched, and the subsequent growth in the program, not only in prestige but in bricks and mortar. Back in January, students in the Intro to Wine Laboratories Techniques helped break in the new, largely state-funded $3.65 million Viticulture Center in Geneva. In this case, NY was able to recognize the buzz around Finger Lakes wine.
Since the first graduates left the program in 2011, all sorts of former viticulture students are working in the burgeoning Finger Lakes wine region, which boasts 130 of New York’s 350 wineries, according to the Finger Lakes Alliance.
Hazlitt’s Red Cat Wine Cellars in Naples is one that comes to mind. Another is the Empire Cider Company, a downstate cidery that moved into Geneva this fall in large part to take advantage of the spirited growth of craft cider, wine and beer industries here and the people who know the business.
And FLCC, as well as the entire Finger Lakes wine region, received a well-deserved mention in the national media, courtesy of a Wall Street Journal article on urban winemaker Devin Shomaker and his plans for a rooftop vineyard and wine-production facility in Brooklyn.
Yes, he’s a product of the FLCC program.
Winemaking is only one example of what community colleges — not just here, but all over — do best. Recognize the needs of local industry and businesses, educate students and fill job openings.
FLCC has been producing students who have been filling all sorts of needs, from mechanical and engineering in advanced manufacturing to people who not only know which meal pairs best with a white or red, but how best to grow and prepare the grapes that make them.
A fine wine program — like a fine wine — doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a slow process, with stops and starts.
But when it comes to fruition, it’s certainly appropriate to raise a glass and toast to current and future success.