In the vineyard industry, the task of communicating to customers is often left to winery sales and hospitality staff who may not know much about the farming end of the business. Whitney Beaman of Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, NY recognized that educating winery employees who hold customer-facing roles (including tasting room, wine club and wholesale staff) is key to engaging consumers on the Environmental practices behind sustainable winegrowing.
With funds from a Northeast SARE Farmer Grant, Whitney created an online Sustainable Wine Professional course as a method to train wine professionals and interested consumers about sustainable winegrowing.
She worked closely with Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, a nonprofit that provides education and third-party certification for sustainably farmed vineyards on Long Island, that includes 23 producers and over 1,000 acres of vineyard (half of the Long Island wine region).
The online course was modeled after California’s Sustainable Winegrowing Ambassador Course and builds upon VineBalance, the NY Guide to Sustainable Viticulture Practices. Course content was written at an introductory level and includes information on sustainable viticulture,organic and biodynamic farming practices.
Employees on 12 Long Island farms took the course. All farms said the course changed the way these wineries train their sales and hospitality staff. Four of the vineyards now require sustainability training for all of their staff. One participant, Ami Opisso, General Manager at Lieb Cellars, said, “The training was overwhelmingly effective at demystifying the standards and benefits of sustainable winegrowing, and I can already see my staff communicating and educating about it in a more informed and confident manner.”