Whether you’re sitting in a painted cinder block classroom or in the gallery at King Family Vineyards, there are always distractions. Winnie the Pooh might have called it a blustery day, but with winds 40 m.p.h. and gusts up to 80 m.p.h., I wondered if the roof at King Family might achieve liftoff. Seated at round linen covered tables with views of Polo ponies racing out of the barn, manes whipping, tails flying; it was hardly a typical classroom setting. If you haven’t signed up for one of the Viticulture or Oenology classes offered by Piedmont Virginia Community College you are missing the boat! Greg Rosko is the Program Manager of Viticulture and Enology for Workforce Services at PVCC. He handles all the paperwork and details to ensure a smooth class time as well as creditation for the courses.
Introduction to Oenology
Much to our delight, Matthieu Finot instructed our class on the ABC’s of winemaking. He makes it seem simple, rarely referring to notes except to make sure he hasn’t left something out. He knows the business like the back of his hand and attempted to simplify for us a rather complex process of turning grapes into delicious wine. There are numerous stages in the process from harvest to fermentation and racking to bottling which alter the end result. From the root stock itself, the type of yeast selected, the temperature in the tanks and the critical addition of sulfur; all affect the final taste of the wine. To illustrate this, Matthieu offered us two different Chardonnays, identical except for the yeast used in fermentation. The result was two totally different aromas and mouth feel. Several times we were given the chemical equations for the process, none of which I chose to remember!
Greenwood Grocery provided the box lunches including gourmet sandwiches- turkey, ham or vegetarian on crusty rustic bread, greek-style pasta salad and home made cookies! Never had anything like that in Chemistry class!
There were noticeably less questions after lunch, the late morning wine samples and lunch had us semi-sedated! Finot spent the afternoon addressing the differences between white and red wine production, steel versus barrel fermentation. I was happy not to drive myself home like some of the class who came from Richmond or Northern Virginia.
Lecture drew to a close and we were escorted to the winery where Matthieu works in a limited space. He mentioned the need for a larger room for his barrels and steel tanks; definitely tight quarters and the demand for King Family wine grows daily. The class then proceeded into the barrel room where we learned the virtues of French oak compared to newer American oak. The grain is much tighter in French oak and is definitely preferred by Matthieu. I noticed a stack of darker aged barrels off to one side. These are seven year old bourbon whiskey barrels specifically selected by the winemaker to age and impart flavor into the Seven port wine.
Class Is Over
Where can you take classes that culminate in a wine tasting conducted by the winemaker? Charlottesville, of course! We sampled the entire range of wines bottled at King Family Vineyards including sparkling wine, reds, whites, port and dessert. For our A students, King extended a 25% discount on wine purchased that day. Just kidding! Everyone got the discount and there are no tests or grades. How can you beat that!