By REGINA DENNISrdennis@wacotrib.com
Texas State Technical College is breaking into the wine business.
Beginning in the fall, the college will offer new degree programs to train vineyard growers and wine makers to help sustain the state’s bustling wine industry. The school is adding associate’s degrees in viticulture, the study of grape production, and enology science, or wine-making.
The courses will primarily be taught online, with students coming to either TSTC or to partner vineyards for in-person labs or demonstrations.
TSTC staff members planted a row of Lenior or “Black Spanish” grapevine cuttings this week on a half-acre plot of land set aside as the campus’ vineyard. The school will plant a new row each year using cuttings from that initial planting until the vineyard has seven 150-foot-long rows.
The first grapes should appear in the vineyard’s second or third year, according to school officials.
Last year, the college received a four-year, $217,000 grant from the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance, or VESTA program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.
“There aren’t a lot of places training a workforce to care for vineyards, and I don’t believe there’s any in Texas,” said Terry Ehrhardt, department chair for TSTC’s golf course and landscape management program, which will oversee the wine and vineyard studies.
“As winemaking grows as an industry, there will be a need for more trained people to do a lot of the planting, pruning and harvesting.”