¡Viva Vino!

When Victor Cruz opened Cañon de Sol in 2001, he was the only Latino winery owner in the state. Attention was paid: The wines, crafted by noted consultant and Cruz childhood friend Charlie Hoppes, won prizes, and Cañon de Sol was widely touted as an edifying success story. Which it is. Unfortunately, the only one so far in an industry where Latinos perform a great deal of the hard work while taking orders from an overwhelmingly white ownership. Cruz's remains the only commercial Latino-owned winery in the state, and there are no professional Latino winemakers here at all. But that situation may soon change, thanks to a far-sighted initiative supported and funded by some of the area's most respected wineries. The Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College is still small (less than two years ago, it didn't have its own building), but it has wasted no time bolting itself into the wine supply line. Students in the CEV program are required to volunteer at working wineries every quarter they're enrolled, though most are paid for at least some of their hours "volunteering"—money that supplements scholarships for those in financial need. Among students receiving such financial aid is Victor Palencia, heading for May 2005 graduation after receiving a scholarship for the second year funded by Walla Walla's flagship Leonetti Cellar. Alfredo Arredono is in his first year with the program but is already aiming for a winemaking job with Cave B, which is sponsoring his continuing education. Former student Hector Rodriguez is working as an instructor in the program's own teaching vineyard. Thanks to the excellent prospects facing all three men, the center is using them to encouraging other Latinos to enroll—not just in the center's own programs but in the community college's high-school diploma and GED programs. Supporting both these educational avenues is a third, titled Transición, which allows students to work toward a GED in Spanish while honing their English skills. There's good reason the wine and general-ed programs are so tightly integrated at WWCC: The CEV program was shaped from its outset in 2000 by Dr. Myles Anderson, who was, long before making his first wine commercially in 1995, an educator and career counselor. Anderson loves good wine, but no more than he loves good students— 1,600 of them since the program began. Of Palencia and Arredono he says, "My goal is that these two young men will own their own winery and vineyard one day." With luck, the sharp boundary between the two tiers of Washington wine will begin to blur at last. rdowney@seattleweekly.com To learn more about the Center for Enology and Viticulture, visit www.wwcc.edu/programs/proftech/wine/index.cfm.

 
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