It’s been a long-held dream of Nancy Rodrigue, board member of Friends of Open Space & Vineyards (FOV) and co-owner of Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery, to establish a program that provides a baseline of instruction for wine tasting room staff in the Livermore Valley.

“FOV are working with Las Positas College to set up a classroom experience in Community Education for people interested in receiving winery tasting room training. This is also relevant for tasting room staff already employed with a winery but who want more knowledge about wine, and would like to improve their tasting room skills. The purpose is to enhance the Wine Country experience for visitors to the Livermore Valley,” explains Rodrigue.

 She has been working with David Everett, Program Coordinator / Faculty
Viticulture, Enology and Winery Technology and Horticulture
Las Positas College, along with Don Milanese, Vice President Emeritus (and also a founding administrator) of Las Positas College and Treasurer of Friends of Open Space & Vineyards, to create the training program which will launch in March of 2019. It will be part of the Community Education program, but funded entirely by FOV.

Rodrigue says that the class will be held at different wineries. It will meet four consecutive Saturdays, for three hours each, beginning the morning of March 2 at Rodrigue Molyneaux winery. “FOV will fund the class groundwork. Students will pay $80. That fee will be refunded upon successful completion of the four-week program. Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association will send out information to the wineries and it will be in the college Bulletin.”

 Having FOV underwrite the tuition shows the organization’s commitment to upping the ante when it comes to Livermore Valley wine country hospitality, something that lacks consistency across the board.

“With this workshop series, we hope to contribute to the quality of experience when visiting Livermore Valley wineries and tasting rooms. Tasting room staff are the ‘face’ of the winery, so employing competent and knowledgeable ‘wine ambassadors’ is critical to successful sales and getting guests to return,” Rodrigue explains.

David Everett, who runs the Enology and Winery Technology programs at Las Positas, is enthusiastic about the Winery Tasting Room Sales and Service program, as it is formally called. He developed the curriculum and emphasizes that the material covered should prove relevant to those involved in all facets of hospitality, and is not just limited to tasting room staff.

Says Everett, “This four-day workshop series will provide new and current hospitality workers with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful in wine sales and service in winery tasting rooms, restaurants, wine bars, and catering events.  Instruction will include wine service, sensory wine evaluation, tasting room set up and organization, sanitation protocols, and developing the social skills necessary to maximize guest experience.”

This initial offering will be limited to 12 students. The schedule is as follows:

First Session: March 2nd  8:30-11:00 am  Location: Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery 3035 Marina Ave, Livermore

Second Session: March 9th  8:30-11:00 am Location: TBD

Third Session: March 16th  8:30-11:00 am Location: TBD

Fourth Session: March 23rd  8:30-11:00 am Location: TBD

Adds Everett, “This series is a collaborative effort between Friends of Open Space & Vineyards, and Las Positas College. This is a wonderful introduction to the college’s Wine Hospitality program.  Las Positas College offers Degrees, Certificates and transfer in Viticulture, Enology, and Wine Hospitality.”

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers are currently working with FOV and Everett to find venues for the last three sessions of the class, as it is important to include a spectrum of wineries, both large and small.

Says Everett, “We are looking for other host wineries that would be able to accommodate our workshop.  Showing the diversity of tasting rooms in the valley, i.e., layout, logistics, wine, soft goods, etc., would be excellent for our students to experience firsthand.  Not all tasting rooms are built the same and not all Livermore Valley wines are built the same, so in addition to the room layout and other physical factors, it would be great to also have different representative wines to taste during these workshops.”

Milanese, whose administrative connection to the college helped facilitate the program, says it is pretty unique. He credits Community Education Director Francis DeNisco for getting behind the proposal. “The FOV Board approved that we would fund the program, and we made a presentation to her. She was very supportive.”

According to Milanese, about five years ago, FOV championed and funded scholarships for two students to attend Las Positas College, one in Viticulture and one in Enology. This was done through the Las Positas College Foundation. The money for the $750 scholarships was raised by FOV through a variety of events and raffles. It was this relationship with LPC that eventually led to this current program through Community Education. Several of FOV’s board members are graduates of the college, including Dr. Neal Ely, who previously served as Dean of Science and Mathematics at the college, and is a big supporter of the wineries.

FOV has undergone several name changes as its mission has expanded over the years. The organization was originally founded in 1981 as “Save the Vineyards,” in an effort to stop development from taking over and pushing out local vineyards and wineries. They were active participants in establishing the South Livermore Valley Area Plan and work with the Tri-Valley Conservancy to further preserve and extend the vineyards and other agricultural uses and open spaces.

Milanese notes that if the program receives sufficient support, it might eventually become part of the regular Enology and Winery Technology curriculum at LPC.