Inside the New FLCC Viticulture Center
Story and photos by Erin Scherer
In the last five years, the Viticulture and Wine Technology program at Finger Lakes Community College has become one of the most popular programs of the school. Notable alumni of the program include Elizabeth Witt, an assistant winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company in Penn Yan, and Alex Robb, a winemaker at Apple Country Spirits in Williamson. Yet in spite of its stellar reputation, it has been relegated to making wine under dubious conditions. For example, students making wine had to resign themselves to fermenting wine in carboys rather than the industry standard of stainless steel tanks.
Until December, students and faculty in the program were working in cramped quarters of Cornell’s Technology Farm in Geneva. On January 26, the FLCC Viticulture and Wine Center opened just in time for the Spring 2015 semester, off of Pre-Emption Road in Geneva, near the Technology Farm. In addition to hosting classes specific to the major, it also currently hosts two horticulture classes required to complete the program. Later, Paul Brock, who heads the program, also hopes to host more general education courses so that Viticulture students can cut down their commute time.
The new 9,000-square-foot facility contains a classroom, a laboratory and a winery that is being finished at the time of this writing. Also coming soon are new tanks, courtesy of Geneva’s Vance Metal Fabricators. “I’m looking forward to using the new tanks and seeing these students use the tanks for fermentation and learning how to make wine,” says Brock, who has worked closely with the contractors since the project’s inception. “The Winery is the heart and soul of the building. When we get into that part of the building and start using it for winemaking, that’s what will really justify the building being here.”
The students are excited, too. Tory Franco, a student who is scheduled to graduate in May, definitely notices the difference. “There’s definitely a lot more space to work with. Future classes will be able to control and monitor their research better.” Ashley McCaffery, another student scheduled to graduate in May, is, like Brock, excited about the new tanks. “It’s really exciting that we have the opportunity to use the new equipment, and equipment that’s designed specifically for us. Paul put a lot of time into making sure that the tanks are going to fit the needs of this program.”
Franco and McCaffery intend to continue working in the wine industry after graduation. Franco recently began working as an assistant winemaker at Lamoreaux Landing in Lodi; McCaffery hopes to travel and work harvest in other wine regions. As for Brock, while there is still work to be done on the facility, he is relishing the improved conditions: “Having separate lab facilities that are actually intended for students to perform lab activities is a huge improvement, and it’s only going to get better as the space gets turned over to us and we utilize it.”
Erin Scherer originally wrote about the FLCC Viticulture and Wine Center in Edible Finger Lakes’ May/June 2014 Wine Issue. This semester, she is taking “Basic Viticulture Techniques” at the center. She lives in Geneva and you can follow her on Twitter at @erinscherer.