VEN 127: A New Course in Post-Fermentation Processing

students tasting wine
David Block

This past spring quarter we offered a new course that we hope will one day be a regular part of the curriculum.  In this course, students took wine made in the fall and finished it through packaging in our Teaching and Research Winery.  We have always taught VEN 124, Wine Production, which allows our students to gain valuable hands-on experience in the winery (see May 2018 Newsletter), but this is the first time that we have been able to offer students the hands-on experience of blending, fining, aging, filtering, and packaging their own wines to supplement what they learn in their Wine Technology and Winery Systems (VEN 135) class.  The class was taught by our winemaker, Chik Brenneman, and Chair David Block.  12 students acted as our guinea pigs for the first offering of this course.

The course started by splitting the students into two teams.  Each team was tasked with completing three products: a red wine, a white wine, and a third wine of their choice from base wines that we had identified for the class. The teams performed a complete chemical analysis of the 25 base wines in the winery lab.  Next, we invited two industry consultants to work with the students, particularly on blending.  Kristen Barnheisel (J Lohr Vineyards & Wines) and Daniel Baron (Baron Consulting) kindly volunteered to be our inaugural consultants.  Kristen and Daniel sat down with their groups and tasted through all of the base wines to decide on blends for their three products.  Four hours later (!) the groups had their blends figured out and an idea of the processing they needed to do.

The next few weeks were filled with blending, fining, oak trials and treatments, filtering and stabilizing, and designing packaging for each of their products. 

G3, Tricor Braun, and Cork Supply kindly donated all packaging materials and services and at the end of the quarter, all of the wines from the two groups were bottled.  On bottling day, though, almost everything that could go wrong did actually go wrong.  It was somewhat frustrating, but an excellent learning experience, and we were able to use some of the down time that day to allow students to ask lots of questions about bottling and packaging of experts from G3.

During the final exam period, we set up a final tasting of the finished wines.  About 30 faculty, students, and friends (including our two consultants) joined us in the Silverado Theater for this formal tasting.  Students presented ideas for their wines and led the tasting of the wines.  They did an excellent job of presenting their wines and all of the wines were quite good. 

Feedback on the course was excellent and the students felt strongly that VEN 127 should become a regular part of our V&E curriculum.  Drop us a line if you’d like to be an industry consultant for this class in future years!