Some of you might be heading off on a Finger Lakes wine tour this weekend, and you’ll likely discover wineries you didn’t even know were here…because they weren’t. The wine industry continues to grow, contributing billions of dollars to the regional economy. To accommodate that growth, Finger Lakes Community College started a special degree program in 2009. On Friday, former and current students from FLCC brought their wines to the Finger Lakes Welcome Center off of 5 & 20 in Geneva for a free tasting. 

“Making good wine is not easy. It takes a lot of concentration, a lot of effort, a lot of chemistry, and you have to know what you’re doing,” says Dan Grillone, who recently completed the intense two-year program offered at Finger Lakes Community College on wine technology. 

“A graduating student in two years goes through a lot,” he adds. The program includes all season rain/snow/or sun-filled fieldwork, laboratory time, and two internships. But when they come out of it, “(The program) gives the wine industry educated people to employ,” says Gina Lee, a teacher with the FLCC Viticulture and Wine Technology program.

With the tasting actually being supplied by the students, Chris Jennings, with the FLCC Viticulture Board says, “It’s a great way to generate some revenue that we can then use to market the program itself.”

Grillone says it’s a stable choice to make as a student, and for the economy… but there are challenges. “Finding labor. Finding people. Finding people to do the work,” he says. 

Either way, it’s an industry that’s skyrocketing. Jennings says there were 17 wineries along Seneca Lake when he moved here in 1984. There are now 70. “The future looks very bright,” adds Jennings. 

For those sampling the student’s wine, it was a session of sips and smiles. Steve DeMatties was visiting the region from Florida, “The wine is excellent”. His lady friend Trisha Midia agreed. “I enjoyed the wine very much,” she says.