by Michael Dean
A short trip west of Fairfax County, the roadsides are increasingly covered with small white signs with purple bunches of grapes. By following their direction, visitors can enjoy a glass of sophistication. Welcome to Virginia’ s wine country.
“Virginia is the fifth largest wine state in the country,” said Catherine Hoover, director of the Prince William Campus Office of Continuing Professional Education.
This fall, Mason students and the surrounding community will be able to grow more familiar with the wine industry with a new course called “Exploring the Business of Wine.” The course will meet on Monday evenings from Sept. 22 through Oct. 13 at the Prince William Campus in Manassas and is taught by a wine industry veteran, Jeff Spencer.
Beginning as a single non-credit course, increased interest could translate into a non-credit certificate program in the future. So far, the course has generated enough interest that additional seating was made available.
The course discusses the history of wine, types of grapes used in production and even the business aspects of wine production.
“This is not a wine tasting course,” Hoover said. However, there will be a wine tasting and tour to follow the course at The Winery at Bull Run, established in 2012 and owned and operated by Mason alum Jon Hickox. The tour itself includes a viewing of the winery doing their crush — a process whereby juice is extracted from the grape.
Interest in the course has come from students who work in business, those who work at wineries and even the average wine enthusiast. The course can benefit those wishing to open their own winery as well as those pursuing recognized industry credentials.
Although the course is open to all students, those under 21 will not be permitted to partake in the tasting.
Local wineries in the area have also expressed interest in collaboration lending support to the possibly expansion of the course.
Virginia and East Coast wine consultant Richard Leahy is also involved with the new course.
“In addition to topics that instructor Jeff Spencer will be covering, we are excited to have Richard Leahy, author of “Beyond Jefferson’s Vines” coming to speak during one of the classes,” said Jeanne Spencer, program manager with the OCPE.
The cost for the course is $495, with winery employees receiving a 10% discount. There is an additional $12 cost paid directly to The Winery at Bull Run for the tour and tasting.