Students specialize in wine on trip to Spain

by Alicia Chavez, Senior Staff Writer

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For the past 10 years, San Diego State has offered a Professional Certificate in the Business of Wine through the College of Extended Studies. Recently, the program decided it was time to shake things up and offer a professional excursion trip throughout parts of Spain. Although the trip is a non-credit experience, students of all majors are welcome to travel with the program and taste wines paired with delicious Spanish cuisine.

The Business of Wine program has provided students with wine education through wine and food tasting for more than a decade. Students in the program receive an integrated approach to wine studies, such as lecturing, reading and tasting the wine itself.

“The program is a professional certificate and was structured for people who want to get involved with the wine industry, whether it may be opening up their own wine pub or working in a restaurant,” Program Director Giana Rodriguez said. “It has really evolved and is now including those who are looking to change careers or wine enthusiasts who just want to learn a little more about the industry.”

Rodriguez said the majority of students coming into the program are 30 years old or older and interested in wine education. Some students with a previously established career end up changing their occupation to pursue a profession in the wine industry.

Students are given the opportunity to travel to a few places around San Diego, such as the Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula. This year, the program has decided to broaden their borders by offering a nine-day Professional Wine and Cuisine Immersion trip to Spain. Students will have the opportunity to travel and learn about Catalonia, Rioja and parts of the Basque regions of Spain.

“The focus of the trip is to compare the new world to the old world,” Rodriguez said. “Students get to meet the wine makers and see a connection through history.”

Program Instructor and Certified Specialist of Wine Deborah Lazear was one of the first instructors of the program when it was founded and continues to teach the Wine and Food Pairing seminar course. Lazear will be traveling with students to provide 12 hours of related instruction.

Students traveling on the trip can expect a morning lecture from Lazear on a brief history of Spain. For the rest of the day, a Spanish guide will lead students through private tours of the vineyards, museums and wine classes they will be visiting that day. Other highlights of the trip include lunch inside of an old century wine cave, grape tasting and a visit to a medieval village.

The trip was inspired by the students and their interest in learning about a particular region’s history of wine preparation outside of a classroom.

When the program was getting started back in 2004, the College of Extended Studies decided it was time to explore having a wine studies program in order to help people who wanted to get into the industry.

The program has grown throughout the past 10 years. Lazear said the number of students in each class has doubled since the program was first introduced. There are close to 40 students sitting in each class now.

“The certificate is being more and more recognized by businesses that want to hire people with education in wine,” Lazear said. “It now has some weight in the business world.”

This wine and food excursion is available to students currently registered in the certificate program, however students from all other majors are welcome. Students must be at least 21 years old in order to participate in the wine and food experience.

The experience is designed as a non-credit traveling opportunity for students interested in learning about foreign influence on a popular drink. For those in the Business of Wine program, the trip will count toward one elective or intensive wine course. The first deposit for the trip is due March 2. Space is limited and prices vary.

Rodriguez hopes students will walk away with an intense knowledge of a particular type of wine with a hands-on, educational approach.

“We would love to do more trips like this in the future,” Rodriguez said. “We’re hoping to make it a bigger initiative and offer it to a variety of different programs.”

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