TSTC toasts to new wine makers degree - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

WACO

TSTC toasts to new wine makers degree

WACO, TX (KXXV) -

As the Central Texas wine industry continues to grow, skilled and educated workers are in high demand. Texas State Technical College's new Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Program, also known as VESTA, hopes to fill that void.

VESTA is only in 20 states nationwide and now thanks to TSTC, it's the only program of its kind in the state.

The local wine industry is buzzing. Wineries and vineyards are popping up everywhere.

Co-owner of Red Caboose Winery in Clifton, Gary McKibben, says as the industry grows, so does the need for skilled workers.

"The wine making industry in Texas is growing very rapidly and we're always in need of help. Finding good qualified help is always a challenge," McKibben.

Statewide VESTA Coordinator and Co-owner of Red Caboose Winery, Evan McKibben, says their program is unique.

"We have enology, viticulture and entrepreneurship. So not only do we educate people on how to grow grapes and make wine but we're educating people on how to start their own winery or start their own vineyard." 

The program is a hybrid major with most classes being taken online, coupled with hands-on experience at local wineries.

"The neat thing about the program though is that the student is paired with a mentor winery or vineyard," says Evan McKibben. "So you're not just on your own as a student. You're actually going to a winery or a vineyard and learning from people who are already in the industry."

"They're helping us sanitize the equipment and bottle the wine here," says Gary McKibben. "When we start pruning in another month then they will go to phase of the wine-making process, the vineyard side of it and immediately after that the picking, the harvesting and the making of the wine." 

When students graduate they'll be ripe for the picking from the more than 300 wineries throughout the state.

And though TSTC's program is still in the budding stages, there are already plans for offering on campus classes starting next fall.

TSTC was awarded a four year, $217,000 grant funded by the National Science Foundation and Texas is one of only 20 states nationwide to supply the growing demand for workers.

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