VERDE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Arizona is making a name for itself in the winemaking industry. Reporter Juan Magana of Cronkite News recently traveled to Verde Valley to learn how students at a community college are learning more about the wine business.
Nikki Check, director of the first viticulture program in Arizona, is helping educate students at Yavapai Community College about winemaking.
“It really has been an opportunity for both people interested in getting into the industry as skilled labor, but also a pathway for entrepreneurs,” Check said.
The Verde Valley is becoming a major region for winemaking, and the growing industry is attracting students. The viticulture program at Yavapai Community College is making its mark in the wine world.
“We will be the only school, junior college, that offers a commercial winery and teaching facility from basically grape to glass,” said David Harris, director of the enology program at the community college.
Students gain hands-on experience from the program and practice wine making skills on 20 acres of vineyards on site.
Joey Estrada, a student in the program, believes that such hands-on experience has helped get him ready for Arizona’s expanding wine industry.
“I’m fully confident of going out into the workforce and showing what I know and what I’ve learned,” Estrada said. “And yet there’s still so much to learn.”
Check is there to help students learn more about the business model of the industry and to teach them the skills they need.
“It’s not a tiny little half acre experimental vineyard. It’s really on a scale that makes sense economically,” Check said.
There are currently 84 bonded and licensed wineries throughout Arizona.
Construction of a new facility for the school will begin next year. The facility will house 3,000 cases of grapes.