A wonderful program offers local high school students the opportunity to get into the vineyards and learn the art and skill of raising and maintaining grape vines. Clay and I watched the students of Windsor High School’s Vineyard Academy harvesting grapes while we were also picking at Ted Klopp’s Thorn Ridge Ranch vineyard. While the students have their own vineyard to maintain in Windsor, their teacher, Barney Kaufman, said interacting with other vineyards gives them a great opportunity to learn about other varietals and different trellising systems. The Vineyard Academy at Windsor High School trains students in the hospitality and tourism industries that are vital to Sonoma County’s livelihood. Kaufman’s four-year-old viticulture class is one of the many students can choose from. He currently has ten students, junior and seniors, who spend the bulk of their time maintaining a one-acre bloc of old vine Zinfandel on an estate vacation rental property on the edge of Windsor.
But when Ted Klopp, a renown Russian River Valley grower and a huge supporter of the viticulture class, called Kaufman about the overabundance of grapes he had this harvest, Kaufman knew this was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.
“Since our vineyard is Zinfandel, this was a great opportunity for students to learn about Pinot,” Kaufman said. “Also our vines are free standing plants, and these were on a trellis system.”
Six students joined Kaufman and Klopp at the vineyard at the break of dawn to pick one ton of grapes. After they picked, they went to Klopp’s winery, where they crushed the harvest. “They were able to sort through the grapes and make sure there was no rot, leaves, or anything else we would not want in the wine,” Kaufman said. “This was great for the students to preview.”
Because the students are underage, they do not make wine. But in all other ways this was an experience they could bottle and re-use again and again.