I've always wanted to go to Harvard. At least I've always wanted to be able to say I went there. Instead, I graduated from a liberal arts college in Ohio that some people call the Harvard of the Midwest. (Never mind that most of them are alumni.) There's a Harvard of winemaking toothe University of California, Davisthough no other university in the country even comes close to matching the reputation of its school of oenology. In fact, it seems as though every great American winemaker calls UC Davis his or her alma mater.
I've thought about Davis, as it's familiarly known, over the yearsimagined its bucolic, vineyard-covered campus and conversations among its future winemakers. ("Is $300 too much to charge for a Cabernet?" or "Do you think this Chardonnay could use a little more oak?") But it never occurred to me that I could be a student there. Then one day a brochure arrived in the mail announcing a Davis Extension course in varietal wine grape production, open to professionals and amateurs alike. The three-day program, taught by both Davis professors and experts in the field, promised to give attendees an "intensive, in-depth look" at the basics of grape growing and vineyard development and management.
What could be more perfect, I reasoned, or for that matter, more timely, than taking a course in viticulture? After all, nearly every serious winemaker I meet tells me it's the grapes, not the winemaking, that matter the most. "It all happens in the vineyard," they like to say. What better place than the campus at Davis to find out if this is true?