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Napa Valley College Breaks Ground on Ambitious New Wine Spectator Wine Education Center

Shovels went into the ground May 17 as Napa Valley College (NVC) celebrated the groundbreaking for the Wine Spectator Wine Education Center. Funded by a $10 million gift, the largest donation ever made by the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, the center will dramatically expand and update the teaching facilities of NVC and its Viticulture and Winery Technology (VWT) program.

“The ample educational opportunities offered through the Wine Spectator Wine Education Center will allow students to build extensive wine-related skills through an assortment of educational programs and degrees, all designed to enhance their careers,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. “I am thrilled to be able to support this vital need for both Napa Valley College and the wine industry.”

Dr. Torence Powell, the college’s president, called the groundbreaking a pivotal moment for the school. “We are here to celebrate this really impactful moment for our Viticulture [and] Winery Technology program for Napa Valley College, for the valley, and for the wine and hospitality industry.”

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Napa Valley College’s VWT offering is one of the largest wine technology college programs in the United States, serving more than 800 students annually. As a community college program, the focus is on a practical, hands-on approach and job placement. It serves a diverse group of students, such as those fresh out of high school, people in the wine industry who want to refresh their education, retirees and hobby winemakers. The student body includes a significant number of first-generation college students.

The campus sits adjacent to the Napa River, just south of downtown Napa, and includes a 5-acre vineyard and commercial winery, the first bonded winery in the California community college system. Degrees are offered in viticulture, winemaking and wine marketing and sales.

When the Wine Spectator Wine Education Center is complete, it will more than double the program’s classroom and training space, with 10,000 square feet of state-of-the-art learning space. The center will include two flexible sensory classrooms with seating for up to 80 students at a time and a laboratory classroom with 28 lab stations.

[article-img-container][src=2024-05/ns_napavalleycollege-groundbreaking-rendering-052024_1600.jpg] [credit= (Israel Valencia/Infinity Visuals)] [alt= An artist’s rendering of the planned Wine Spectator Wine Education Center.][end: article-img-container]

“Thanks to Wine Spectator, students will learn in a world-class facility,” said Powell. “We have strong job placement, with more than 80 percent hiring rates for our program. So once students go through the program, they move on directly to new jobs and up the ladder into higher management positions within the organizations they work in.”

Oscar Navarro has seen NVC’s impact firsthand. He graduated from the VWT program and is now the assistant winery manager of the program’s teaching winery. “Thank God for this program and for this donation,” he told the assembled crowd. “Because stories like mine are just waiting to break open. To let the opportunities just flood in for many of us is truly a blessing. And all that is due to this amazing donation that we are all going to benefit from.”

Congressman Mike Thompson, who represents the congressional district that includes Napa County, spoke via video, pointing out that he is also a NVC alumnus. “Today’s groundbreaking is more than an investment in a new facility,” he said. “This is an investment in students, employers and the future of wine. When completed, the complex will attract students and ultimately secure job candidates from across the region, state and around the globe to help meet demand in the growing hospitality industry in Napa. Thank you to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.”

The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation was established to support education in the wine and culinary industries. To date, more than $30 million has been raised, supported by the generosity of vintners around the world, who donate the wine for Wine Spectator’s Wine Experience, and the thousands of wine lovers who attend.

[article-img-container][src=2024-05/ns_napavalleycollege-groundbreaking-navarro-052024_1600.jpg] [credit= (Israel Valencia/Infinity Visuals)] [alt= Oscar Navarro, Napa Valley College grad and instructor, speaks the groundbreaking at Napa Valley College.][end: article-img-container]

“The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation began 43 years ago with the mission to support educational institutions that assist students to become part of the wine industry,” said Wine Spectator’s Mel Mannion, senior advisor to the chairman. “The foundation has supported many educational institutions, including University of California, Davis, and Sonoma State University, and now has made the largest commitment in foundation history. This gift demonstrates Wine Spectator’s affection for and commitment to Napa Valley.”

While celebrating the first phase of the VWT update, eyes are already on phase two—a Wine and Hospitality Training Center with a demonstration kitchen. The space will provide training in all aspects of wine marketing, sales and hospitality, including winery food programs, wine club membership, tasting room management, tourism and the expanding field of winery chefs. A capital campaign is underway to secure funding for this phase.

“Learning is the pursuit of happiness,” said Paul Gospodarczyk, VWT program coordinator and current professor. “When we learn, we get economic freedom. We get intellectual freedom. We get emotional freedom.”

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Navarro. “To just continue to welcome every single person in Napa Valley.”

[article-img-container][src=2024-05/ns_napavalleycollege-groundbreaking-helmet-052024_1600.jpg] [credit= (Israel Valencia/Infinity Visuals)] [alt= A hardhat and shovel at the groundbreaking at Napa Valley College.][end: article-img-container]

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