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Students experience winery business in hospitality class

July 10, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. —  Merlot. Riesling. Cabernet. Chardonnay.

There’s more to wine than red, white, or rosé.

As a future wedding planner, Baleigh Dickson needs a basic understanding of wine to help her clients with menu planning. 

She gained that experience during a summer class at Indiana University Kokomo, Wines of the World, through the Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

“With what I’ve learned, I can go more in-depth and teach my clients more about wines, and what might be the best wine to go with the food they want to serve,” she said. “I wanted to know how it’s made, all the steps on the process, and see it first-hand.”

Baleigh, from Winamac, and nine of her classmates gained a behind-the-scenes look at the wine-making process, and tasted local varieties, during recent trips to two local wineries.

Mark Meng, acting assistant professor of hospitality and tourism, said wine is an important part of the food and beverage sector of hospitality and tourism. By the end of the summer class, students were able to identify the major styles of wine, learned about the industry, gained knowledge about pairing food and wine, and experience the business side of wine production and consumption.

“By visiting these wineries, students meet and talk with wine makers and business people, see the production process and facilities in the real world, learn the agricultural side, and learn directly from the tasting experience,” Meng said.

This particular sunny summer evening, students follow John Miller, owner of Blackhawk Winery, in Westfield, Indiana, through his eight-acre vineyard, seeing the tiny forming grapes.

Wood posts mark each new row, with the name of the variety etched into each one. Miller advises them not to look for chardonnay or pinot noir, however — which don’t grow well in Indiana winters. Instead, look for American and French-American hybrid species varieties including Sheridan, Cayuga white, Catawba, and Indiana’s signature variety, Traminette.

After the walk in the vineyard, they entered the pole building that doubles as production site and retail store, to see the presses where the grapes and other fruits are processed, and the white oak barrels that contain the fermenting wine.

Sophomore Devlin McPherson hopes to own and operate a winery someday, and was interested in seeing the real experience of what that is like.

“When you go out in the vineyard, you realize that every single vine has to be tended to, and taken care of,” he said. “It’s a year-round job to keep it going, especially during the harvest.”

After seeing how the wine is made, Miller served samples of nearly a dozen types of red and white wine, along with spicy pepper crusted sausage, creamy white cheese studded with blueberries, and crackers.

Student Blake Ream said the tasting process gave him a new appreciation for wine since he is more of a craft beer fan.

“Reading about something can only help you so much,” Ream said. “It’s about getting out and experiencing it.”

The field trip is part of the campus’ Kokomo Experience and You (KEY program), which launched in 2016 with the goal of providing students chances to connect with people and participate in real-world experiences. The goal is for each student to have a travel experience within his or her major.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 11/29/2017