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Student Spotlight

 

Meet Winemaking Certificate Graduate Amy LaBelle

4,083 days. That’s how long it took for Amy LaBelle to realize her dream of making wine full-time. She began her career as a corporate attorney, but five years into practicing law, she realized she had missed her calling. From that moment, until the day she opened the doors of her winery, she did something every day to move her dream forward, and now she is the founder and winemaker of the award-winning LaBelle Winery in Amherst, NH.

Never taking a day off, LaBelle taught herself everything she needed to know about developing her destination winery, from making a business plan and studying regulations, to learning how to make wine and run a restaurant. Featuring a state-of-the-art winery, restaurant and event center, her winery has become a gathering place for the community. “What I’ve been able to open for New England, where there isn’t a big wine presence, is a community center,” said LaBelle. “It’s a dream come true.”

However, being a self-taught winemaker in a region not known for its wine, LaBelle worried that she could be missing something. “I felt that there might be big gaps in my knowledge and didn’t know where to look to figure it out,” she said. “That’s where the certificate program came in. It provided me the base of knowledge, so that I felt that I wasn’t an island in New England all on my own.”

In June 2018, LaBelle completed the Winemaking Certificate Program at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education.

The online convenience of the program, coupled with the reputation and credibility of UC Davis, ultimately drove her decision to apply. “Being in New England, there’s an existing bias about wine being made in places other than California, so getting my education at UC Davis gives my product more viability.”

She said one of the greatest benefits of the program was the practical spin the professors were able to infuse in the curriculum. “In the real-world, it doesn’t always play out the way it does on paper, and the instructors explained how it really plays out on a day-to-day basis.”

“Going through the program and being able to ask questions of professors, who run their own wineries, gave me incredible comfort,” she said. “I knew I had the basic knowledge to tackle any questions that might arise at the winery. I know how to handle anything that might come up.”

With the knowledge and confidence LaBelle has gained since completing the certificate program, she’s directing her focus toward improving her red program and developing a distillery. She’s also doing her part to encourage more women in the wine industry and the sciences, through her charitable organization, Empowering Angels.

“I feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity to take the UC Davis program, and I think anyone interested in making wine would benefit from it.”

 

Student Spotlight

 

Meet Winemaking Certificate Graduate Richard McClellan

From Amateur to Professional Winemaker

“It’s a landscaping project that got completely out of control,” says Richard McClellan, owner of Highland Hills Vineyard and Winery in Ramona, Calif., when asked about how he got into the wine industry. His “project” is a family affair that has grown into a successful boutique winery that produces 500-750 cases of estate wine each year.

San Diego County, where Ramona is located, was the birthplace of California wine, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries and it flourished until flooding and the Prohibition devastated the industry. But since the early 1990s, the region’s wine scene has resurged, and McClellan is a part of that renaissance.

On taking the leap from amateur to professional winemaker:

“I had been making wine as an amateur for 20-30 years, but the literature aimed at the amateur world didn’t leave me feeling very confident. My previous education and background was electrical engineering, so I like to know what’s going on and that’s what led me to the Winemaking Certificate Program. I decided that there was a lot I needed to learn and understand.”

On understanding the fundamentals of winemaking:

“The amateur literature is more like a cook book, and at some point I heard that the Winemaking Certificate Program doesn’t teach you how to make wine, it teaches you about making wine. Other programs tell you how to do it, and that works when it works, but it doesn’t always work. So the certificate program helped me understand why it might not be working. I’m not as recipe oriented as I used to be. I assess the situation and decide what needs to be done. I understand why I’m doing things. It seems trivial, but understanding what you’re doing and why makes a huge difference.”

 

Student Spotlight

 

From Landscape Planning to Vineyard Planting

Graduate Richard Krumwiede makes a successful career change from architect to winemaker

As a landscape architect, Richard Krumwiede, now winemaker/viticulturist at Sycamore Ranch Vineyard & Winery, always enjoyed visiting the grounds of the many wineries he worked on. In 2007, he decided to plant a zinfandel vineyard on his own property after a beetle infestation killed off the native pines. As the vineyard developed, he began making wine, further cultivating his interest in viticulture and winemaking.

In 2012, Krumwiede and a co-op of friends purchased grapes from central coast vineyards. “We made 150 cases initially, to finally 225 cases in 2015, winning many amateur winemaking medals along the way.” Having enjoyed success as an amateur winemaker, he decided to become licensed and make a career out of it.

To launch his career in winemaking, Krumwiede decided to apply for UC Davis Extension’s Winemaking Certificate Program. “My wife and I attended several weekend courses at UC Davis Extension and had heard very good things about the program from others in the industry,” said Krumwiede.

What was the most valuable thing you got out of the program:

“Problem solving, of both winemaking issues I was familiar with, as well as those I hadn’t yet experienced. There were lots of production and stability details that, if you pay attention to, you’ll end up with way fewer problems and much better wine.”

What was the biggest challenge you faced upon entering the program?

“The amount of time and effort required to complete it. I was still running my landscape architecture company and launching my winery. During the 2016 crush, I suspended my course work for a quarter so I could focus on the winery. We have a small tasting room and winery where we produce approximately 500 cases of red wine, ±100 cases of white wine and 150-200 cases of hard cider. It’s a very challenging program that gives you a solid grounding and understanding of the fundamentals of winemaking.”

And your plans for the future?

“Continuing to grow the winery and focusing 100% of my time and attention to it.”

 

Student Reviews

 

“The Winemaking Certificate Program provided a great foundation to build a career in winemaking.”

Michael Budd, co-owner/winemaker, Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, Calif.

 

“There’s hundreds of years of trial and error in winemaking science that’s encapsulated in the program.”

Will Berliner, vigneron, Cloudburst Wine, Margaret River, Western Australia

 

“The value for the money was there. The program was pricier than you might think, but the value was well worth it.”

Deb Crosby, winemaker, Haehlstorm Vineyard, East Wenatchee, Wash.

 

“This program will give you a solid foundation to take whatever direction you want in the industry.”

Kim Hartleroad, owner/winemaker, Blue Cape Cellars, Buellton, Calif.

 

"I would absolutely recommend this program to aspiring winemakers. The background and foundation that it provides are key, but the unforeseeable benefits are the enduring friendships that can result."

Gayle Schulte, co-owner, Passionfruit Estate, Old Mystic, Conn.

 

“Without the winemaking program at UC Davis Extension, we wouldn't be here...Our tasting room, our winery, our vineyards—it's all a very direct result. It just simply wouldn't have happened without that program."

Peter Kitchak, proprietor, Kitchak Cellars, Napa, Calif.

 

 

"The reason I chose UC Davis Extension is because as somebody that wanted to get into a new career, I really needed a way to actually get the knowledge, get the techniques and do it in a timely fashion. The online program was perfect for me."

Pedro Vargas, Vino Vargas, San Jose, Calif.

 

 

“There’s nothing out there like this certificate program, which is essential for people like me who already have a career or have kids and don’t have an opportunity to go to a residency program.”

Audrey Cross, owner/winemaker, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Finesville NJ.

"This program helped me hone and polish what I had already learned and also dispel some of the myths. As a 28-year-old winemaker, I also gained little more credibility in a moreover mature workforce."

Eric Harris, TWO-EEs Winery, Huntington, Ind.

"I want to thank UC Davis Extension for providing such an amazingly informative online program. My 17-year-old son is very proud of me for completing such an extensive program from my kitchen counter and that I will be making wine someday! I also appreciate the knowledge I gained from the OIV program in relation to the certificate. I came into this with zero experience in the wine industry. Now, I am eager and confident to go out there and get my hands wet!"
D. Pace, Temecula Valley Wine Country, Calif., Winemaking Certificate Program and OIV Wine Marketing Program student

"This program helped me transition toward my goals through some of the connections I've made in the program. I think there's a large pool of alumni out there in the wine industry, and I find those people very willing to help and provide some very good advice."

Ira Kreft

Hear more from some of our successful graduates

Check out what alumni from our Winemaking Certificate Program are doing now