TC3 students' wine named "Best Amateur Wine" in New York

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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DRYDEN, N.Y. – A wine made by students in Tompkins Cortland Community College’s Wine Marketing program was named the best in the state at the 2015 New York State Fair Amateur Wine Competition. The semi-dry Riesling made by students Ken Berard and Christopher Circelli received a double gold medal for best white wine before being named the best in show, recognizing their wine as the best among the 310 entered in the competition across all categories.

The winning wine was made as part of the WINE130 class “Grape Growing and Wine Business” in the spring of 2015. Wine Marketing Program Chair Brandon Seager teaches WINE130. He says each year, students in the class produce their own wine, both from juice purchased from Finger Lakes grapes growers and from table grapes purchased at local markets. The winning wine was produced from Riesling juice purchased from Fulkerson Winery on Seneca Lake. All the work of turning the juice into wine was done in classes at the College’s culinary center, Coltivare.

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Left to right, Wine Marketing Program Chair Brandon Seager and award-winning students Ken Berard, Christopher Circelli, and Bill Popoff (photo provided)

“This was the most hands-on experience of any of my schooling,” said Circelli, a wine marketing major from Pottsville, Pennsylvania. “It was so involved. Brandon taught us, and then let us make our own wine, without holding our hands.”

“The class was about practice and gaining experience,” added Berard, a wine marketing major from Hammondsport. “We formed a partnership that worked very well.”

Part of the partnership was a collaboration with another wine marketing class, WINE220 “Wine Marketing and Merchandising.” That class worked to design and produce labels for the wine being made in WINE130. The label designed by student Bill Popoff also won an award, being named Best Label-Modern Style at the State Fair Competition. “I wanted to produce something that was big and bold and stood on its own,” said Popoff. “This is serious wine and I wanted a label to reflect that.”

The awards represent the first time students in the College’s WINE130 class have won top honors, but not the first time students have been honored. “We challenge our students each spring to produce wine that can be entered at the State Fair, and our students have done very well in the past,” said Seager, noting students have won silvers and golds in the past, but this was the first double-gold and best in show winner. “It’s all part of what we’re trying to do with our wine marketing program. We empower our students with knowledge and opportunities at our state-of-the-art facility to do amazing things in the wine, beverage, and hospitality industries.  All of these classes fall within our Farm to Bistro initiative at TC3, and these same students are laying the groundwork for future students to make wine in class from fruit grown at the TC3 farm.  It’s a collaborative effort across four programs to grow grapes, make wine, market wine, and serve wine paired perfectly with the meal.  It’s an outstanding experience for the student, and they are deeply invested and involved in their journey to success.”

The Tompkins Cortland Community College Wine Marketing program was created in 2009 and is now based at Coltivare in downtown Ithaca. The College offers both a traditional Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree program as well as a Certificate program. Both are designed to prepare graduates for careers that include wine sales and promotion, tasting room management, e-commerce, public relations, event management, and other hospitality positions. 

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