Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

A Time to Learn a Bit More

By Doug Fabbioli

A Time to Learn a Bit More

It’s easy to think that once the grapes are off the vine and the wine is in the barrels, the work is done. As I have touched on in the past, we have many jobs and priorities after the harvest. One that is easy to forget but critical to the success of the operation is gaining knowledge for personal or professional growth. Each level of our organization needs to look at what we can do to improve, and find whatever training, research, or seminars that are available to help us learn and grow.

I am always looking for ways to learn more about improving wine quality. This can be through different techniques, products, or equipment that can help with the challenges in the winemaking process. Or it can be through making a job more consistent so the wine is less vulnerable to spoilage situations. Working with the Winemakers Research Exchange has helped me to address challenges I have had and I have gained knowledge from the experiments that others have already tried. This organization has been a great help to me in growing my wine knowledge and quality and in helping me avoid problems.

For my production team some of this down time is spent in language classes. We have had a teacher from Loudoun Literacy come to the farm for weekly English classes for several years now. Our teacher has the program and support that helps to provide our team with the language skills they need both for their work here and for the support of their family and kids. Having the words and the ability to communicate with your child’s teacher or with a health care professional is an important life skill that is just as valuable to our business as being able to understand work instructions. We “heavy up” on these classes at this time of year while the demands from the farm are a bit lighter.

In the tasting room, the education is just as important but looks a little different. Many Saturdays, after the customers have left and the closing and cleaning duties are finished, we will review and taste different wines. There is usually a theme or a particular focus: varietal, region, style, or even some experimental blind tasting. Training the palate and learning about the wine helps to build confidence in our team members. That knowledge and confidence helps to build customer trust. Of course we want to sell our wines, but we want our guests to have a warm and hospitable experience and leave feeling fulfilled. We want our staff in the tasting room to be ambassadors to the complex and sometimes intimidating world of wine. At The New Ag School we have just finished building a Tasting Room and Hospitality package to provide a foundational education for future winery staff here in Virginia. This program includes the best of what we believe Virginia wine tasting experiences can be, and if you have any questions about this or other education programs, please feel free to reach out to me.

The work of learning is never finished and, whatever our focus or goals are, our end product should reflect the constant journey of knowledge. The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect on what we have learned in the past year and to make plans and goals for filling in any gaps we may see. Raise a glass to the efforts of our Virginia wineries and to all the learning that goes on. Happy New Year!

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