Tasting Success From Class to Glass COC’s Wine Studies program connects passion and career
For young married couple Joey and Kristine Perry, wine started as a shared passion; today, thanks to the College of the Canyons Wine Studies program, the growing California industry has become part of their aspirations, livelihood and Saturday nights.
“When we enrolled in our first Wine Studies class,” Joey recalled, “we didn’t know a lot about wine, but we knew we loved it.”
One course led to the next, and soon Joey was looking at a career change.
“I was finishing my MBA and applying for finance positions with Morgan Stanley when I got a glimpse of the wine world and fell in love with it,” Joey said.
In just a year of study at COC, Joey worked his way into a position as Assistant Winemaker for Newhall’s Pulchella Winery.
“It has been quite a journey in the last year,” Joey said with a tone of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Like Joey, many students are using the Wine Studies program as a launch pad to explore myriad positions the wine industry has to offer, and then figure out where they want to dive in deeper.
“There are so many hats you can wear in the wine industry,” Kristine said. “COC’s program helps you find your place within it all.”
The program has grown considerably since it was first started by Professor DiMaggio Washington in 2002. Comprised of 11 classes, the program offers two focuses: Wine Studies Curriculum or Hospitality and Wine Service. Taught with a hands-on focus, courses allow students to cultivate the skills and tools necessary to take an immediate next step in their career path. Class activities include standard and blind tastings, food pairings, serving etiquette, bottle opening practice and working business plans.
“Per our instruction, students complete 25 to 30-page business plans detailing cost, demographics, finance, income statements and more,” he said. “The goal is for students to be able to get a business loan off that plan, if they so desire.”
And the success of this methodology is measurable. Students have gone on to start a winery, learn winemaking, own or manage tasting rooms, work as a cellar assistant, and serve on the wait staff of fine dining establishments. With more than 300 students currently enrolled, the program is catching fire.
“Our students are definitely leaving here and pursuing their wine passion with newfound direction and purpose,” he said.
Students who complete the program earn full certification and, if interested, a shot at some popular internship opportunities. Pulchella Winery, for example, partners with COC to offer an internship program.
“Our interns are working long, hard days during harvest,” Joey explained, “and they’re still texting me asking if they can come in more.”
As Joey explores the idea of chasing his sommelier certification, he expressed the massive impact of his education.
“The program has helped me in so many different ways,” he said. “Ultimately, it takes me to the next level in terms of what I can bring to the table at Pulchella. There’s such a sense of community in the local wine circles, and COC definitely helped me find my place.”
Regardless of the Perrys’ original intent when they first enrolled, there is no doubt their life is better for having tried the program.
“It was probably my most favorite school experience,” Kristine said. “Wine brings people together, and because of the way the class is structured, people are really excited to learn more about it.”
For more information about College of the Canyon’s Wine Studies program, please visit http://www.canyons.edu/Departments/CULARTS/Pages/default.aspx.