Did you know that Ohio ranks in the top 10 of wine-producing states and employs more than 4,000 people in the wine industry? Anddid you know that Ashtabula County alone is home to 20 wineries, which are visited by nearly 500,000 people annually? Even more interesting (this fact surprised me!) northeast Ohio contains over half the wine grape acreage in the state, and over 70% of the state’s 151 wineries are located in Lake, Geauga, Portage and Ashtabula counties.

So with everything that Ohio has to offer, it was really neat to hear some great news while we were at Vintage Ohio last weekend.

Representatives from Kent State University – Ashtabula Campus were on hand to make a very important announcement! Kent State has become the first university in Ohio to receive accreditation for a two year associate degree program in Enology (the study of wine and winemaking) and Viticulture (the study of vine growing and grape harvesting).

Starting this Fall, you can register to attend both online and in class courses to learn about the entire grape growing process. Through an affiliation with the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), these two-year programs are the first college degrees related to winemaking offered in the state of Ohio.

In a recent press release between Kent State and the Ohio Wine Producers Association, Dr. Susan Stocker, dean and chief administrative officer of Kent State Ashtabula commented “We’re very excited to provide students the opportunity to study and eventually work in this industry that is so important to our region.”

“For us it’s an economic development issue,” Stocker continued. “Having our program adjacent to the largest growing district in the state provides students with invaluable hands-on learning opportunities which will enhance their employability, both here and in wine regions across the country.”

Courses are offered both online and in the classroom, covering topics such as sensory evaluation, winery equipment operation, geography of wine and regional vineyard management. The program is designed to be convenient for both traditional and non-traditional students to earn a degree or take a few classes. Plus, students will participate in hands-on training at local wineries and vineyards, of which there are many. This is a great opportunity for Ohio and I am looking forward to checking out some of their classes.

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Street, Garrettsville. For more information on winery dogs or the winery’s anniversary, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com