Melissa Rowan, a woman who wears many hats at the YVCC wine teaching college in Grandview, was the guest speaker at Monday's Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club meeting.
Rowan is a student first and foremost, but she also serves as president of the wine club and works at the Yakima Valley Vintners tasting room.
Yakima Valley Vintners is the student winery in YVCC's vineyard & winery technology program, which is part of the school's agriculture program.
Rowan said there are just two teaching wineries in the state of Washington. One is located in Grandview and the other is in Walla Walla. Approximately 40 students are attending the two-year program at YVCC, where they learn the viticulture side of the business, such as soils, vines and vineyard management, or the winery technology side, where the students are introduced how to actually make wine.
Rowan is student in the winery technology program.
"It's a very adaptable program," Rowan told the Rotarians, noting that all classes are at night since most of the students have day jobs.
The school is becoming more relevant every day. Rowan said that 15 years ago there were just 100 bonded wineries in the state of Washington. Today there are 803 and that number is climbing every month.
"Almost all are looking for qualified workers," she said. "The economy is still quite strong in the wine industry."
The wine that is made at the YVCC teaching winery is from grapes that are either purchased or grapes that have been donated. The students make approximately 30 to 60 cases of each varietal on an annually basis. Currently the tasting room serves eight wines, all bearing the Yakima Valley Vintners label.
Rowan said the school also does cooperative projects, where the students will make wine for a certain winery that has donated grapes. In the end, the winery takes the wine, but gives Yakima Valley Vintners a portion of it to use as their own.
This year alone the school's wines have won four awards; two bronzes at the 2010 Washington State Wine Competition, and two silver medals at the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards.
"All but two of our current wines have won awards," she said.
The tasting room is open two days a week. On Friday it's open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Private parties can also be held in the tasting room and private tours of the school's teaching winery can also be arranged.
Everything is done at the school, from the crushing of the grapes to the actual making of the wine. It's then sold at reasonable prices, she added.
The course takes six quarters to complete. The first year all students take standard classes and in the second year they must choose a discipline, either viticulture or winery technology.
Some students choose to do both, but it takes longer than six quarters to complete both disciplines.