Wine-making class could be implemented next fall

Ryan Phelps prunes the vineyard at the WKU farmin preparation for spring, on Monday, Feb. 9, 2014. Phelps has been a student worker for two years and is majoring in horticulture. Ashley Cooper/HERALD

Trey Crumbie

There could be some new changes coming to the WKU Vineyard next semester.

The vineyard, which is near the Elrod Road entrance to the WKU Farm, was established in 2008.

Ed Stevens, scholar-in-residence for the chemistry department, said the vineyard has never had any professional help in making wine from grapes. Stevens, who regards winemaking as a hobby, offered to help out.

There are plans for a wine production course next fall. It would be an agricultural course and would be limited to students who are 21 and up. 

At the December 2014 Board of Regents committee meetings, an information packet stated that the course would allow students to receive hands-on experience in making wine as well as learning the science of winemaking.

Other classes related to wine have been offered in the past, such as a wine fundamentals class. 

Stevens said it would be an ultimate goal for the produced wine to be sold under WKU, but there are many hurdles before that can be a reality. For example, a license must be obtained to sell wine. WKU already sells products made on the WKU Farm, such as honey. Stevens said turning certain crops into a product could increase their value.

“If you take an agricultural product like grapes and convert it into wine then you can increase the value of that crop by at least a factor of 10,” he said.

Currently, there is no facility at the vineyard that can produce wine. Stevens said the winemaking would take place in a lab on campus until such a building is constructed. 

Ryan Phelps, viticulture technician, said there are plans to plant 600 wine grapes this spring. Once planted, the vineyard will expand to about three acres with about 25 grape varieties. 

“That would be ridiculous if you were doing it as a farmer yourself,” he said. “If you had three acres, you’d probably have maybe three or four varieties.” 

There are plans to create a certificate in winemaking, but Stevens noted that additional resources and personnel are required to make that a possibility. 

“That is an obvious next step,” he said.