JCC winery marketing and management concentration approved

Students at Jefferson Community College finally can join a degree program to fuel their oenophilia.

The college’s winery marketing and management concentration for the hospitality and tourism associate degree was approved by the state Education Department just in time for the spring semester.

“Everyone is interested in wine,” said Alexander Pope Vickers, JCC Hospitality and Tourism Department chairman. “America is becoming a wine nation. There’s a mystique about wine, and people are more knowledgeable about food than they were a generation ago.”

America’s love of wine transfers directly to the north country. Mr. Vickers said that Jefferson County gets 50,000 visitors linked to winery tourism annually, according to data from the state Department of Transportation, and that many of those people spend more than twice what other tourists spend each day.

This means wineries have been busy, and JCC has been busy educating students who will be funneled into the area’s wine industry.

The certification program, which kicked off in September, has 18 students enrolled so far. Mr. Vickers said he predicts some of those students will go into the hospitality and tourism degree program. Previously, students in the hospitality and tourism program would concentrate in culinary skills or hotel and restaurant management. Now students can concentrate on winery marketing and management and finish their degree.

“The certificate is for the individual who can only spend one year in college,” Mr. Vickers said. “They may be changing careers. The degree gives you more exposure to develop additional skills in event planning, food and beverage management and other areas that apply to wineries.”

The degree also makes it easier for students to transfer to a four-year school and get a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, if they wish.

Coyote Moon Vineyards owner Philip J. Randazzo said the certificate and new concentration will help the hiring process at his business, 17371 County Route 3, Clayton.

“If you’ve got someone who’s got some type of education in it, it makes the transition easier,” Mr. Randazzo said.

Right now, Mr. Randazzo has to train his workers on the job. He said that four of his employees are taking individual winery courses at JCC and that he is hoping to place students in summer internships.

“We have eight wineries in the north country and probably a couple more opening in a couple of years,” he said. “There’s a tremendous need. Whatever we can do to help, we’re all about it.”

Mr. Randazzo said he is excited that the JCC program teaches students how to grow cold-hardy grapes. Because Coyote Moon purchases grapes from other vineyards, a boom in the grape-growing industry will help Mr. Randazzo’s business as the industry becomes more successful, he said.

Mr. Vickers said there is always new information to learn about the wine and grape industry. “You can live three lives and still not know everything about wine and grape growing,” he said.

For more information on JCC’s winery management and marketing concentration, contact Mr. Vickers at avickers@sunyjefferson.edu.

-Reena Singh, Watertown Daily Times staff writer