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College educating future Arizona winemakers

This undated photo provided by Sisters of Charity of Nazareth shows Sister Paula Merrill. Sister Margaret Held and Merrill, two nuns who worked as nurses and helped the poor in rural Mississippi, were found slain in their home and there were signs of a break-in and their vehicle was missing, officials said Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (Sisters of Charity of Nazareth via AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s wine industry is well on the rise and one Arizona school is dedicated to educating the vintners of tomorrow.

The School of Viticulture and Enology at Yavapai College will soon open the Southwest Wine Center of Arizona, a facility that officials want to serve as both the hub of wine information for the southwestern United States and a full business-scale wine-making facility for students.

The school’s director, Nikki Check, said the center will teach students the entire process of making wine, from the field to store shelves.

“If you take viticulture classes, you are out there planting vines and managing vineyards,” she told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Rob & Karie on Thursday. “Once you get to your enology year, you’re in the cellar helping us make wine and you’re working a day in the tasting room to see what it’s like to sell wine.”

The school launched it’s full associate’s degree last fall, but it was a long road from the program’s debut in 2009.

“Initially, we had a lot of hobbyist students come in,” said Check. “Every year, it’s gotten progressively more and more serious where people are now coming in and they either are really looking to build a career in this industry or invest in a vineyard or winery.”

Check said students network with winemakers in the Verde Valley, where wine has become a $50 million annual industry.


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