|Wine education program includes all facets of the art from growing grapes to making wine. -Courtesy/Amie Otto Photography|
A $17,500 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund grant will be used by the Town of Purcellville to hire a company to study the feasibility of a viticulture and oenology education center in Purcellville.
In his state of the town address in January 2013 Bob Lazaro, the Mayor of Purcellville, mentioned the idea, and after a few discussions it gained traction.
Kellie Boles and the agricultural development arm of the department of economic development did a survey of wineries, and the results showed positive feedback about an education center.
Lazaro and Boles last year went to see Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore.
Haymore liked the idea and told the group to apply for an AFID grant.
According to the AFID planning grant application, "without additional staffing and grape production, consumer demand may eventually outpace Loudoun’s ability to supply wine from locally sourced fruit."
Loudoun County produces more grapes than any other county in the state and almost as much as three other districts combined, according to the Virginia 2012 commercial grape report.
Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, is the only other county producing over 1,000 tons of grapes annually. Loudoun still isn't producing enough grapes to meet demand.
How important is education to the development of a strong wine culture? In France the cities of Champagne, Beaune and Amboise all have special viticulture and oenology programs at the high-school level.
There are some students who begin learning at 16 and 17 years old, or even before that.
The plan would be for Northern Virginia Community College to build and operate the facility, with Purcellville as a potential location.
"It's a great opportunity to homegrow our own enologists and viticulturists," said Lazaro.
When asked about possible opposition to building the facility in Purcellville, "I attribute that to sour grapes," said Lazaro.
The Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Oenology will be used as a model for the study. Shelton-Badgett is in the Surry Community College system.
Associate degree programs graduate ten students each year and sell 1,000 bottles of wine annually.