uno hrt students return from california wine country trip
For the sixth consecutive year, a dozen students from the University of New Orleans Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration visited the renowned California wine regions of Napa and Sonoma as part of a Wines of the World class field trip.
The annual trip is supported by several UNO Alumni who have had successful careers in the wine industry and are based in Napa, California. Barry Wiss, senior vice president of Trinchero Family Estates; Kim Wiss, director of marketing of Antica Napa Valley, and Dan Michael, director of experience marketing, Gallo Family Vineyards are all former students of HRT Professor Harsha Chacko who, along with Chef Ricardo Fredricks, escorted the students to California. The week-long field experience included exposure to viticulture, winemaking, food and wine dynamics and the marketing of wine.
"This California wine trip was a wonderful experience that has definitely impacted my life in a huge way," said UNO student Daniel Riedlinger. "I have always had a passion for food and beverage, especially wine. The people and experiences on the trip helped me to realize that there is so much more out there. I would have never believed all the opportunities that are open to me if I had not been shown a different perspective of hospitality and the wine industry. In the past, I believed that only people from California or people born into the wine industry could have a place there. Dan Michael and Barry Wiss taught me otherwise."
The group took several visits to wineries that are generally not open to the public, such as MacMurray Ranch (the former summer home of actor Fred MacMurray), which is now a Gallo Family property. Students met the viticulturist and went through an intense Pinot Noir seminar and tasting, then enjoyed an outdoor ranch lunch of whole roasted suckling pig.
"The best lunch of my entire life was at MacMurray Ranch. The whole suckling pig, watermelon salad, baked beans and everything else was simply amazing," Riedlinger remarked. "However, it wasn't just the food that made it great. The beautiful landscape and the company of my new friends and classmates along with Dan and Taylor and my teachers is what I will cherish for the rest of my life."
The wineries visited included Trinchero, Ladera, Mumm, William Hill and Grgich Hills in Napa. At Grgich Hills, students met one of the senior and renowned winemakers in California. Mike Grgich made a name as the winemaker for one of the California wines that bested the French in the landmark Paris Tasting competition of 1978 and celebrated his 90th birthday this year.
In Sonoma, visits included MacMurray Ranch, Frei Ranch and the Dry Creek Olive factory, where the group enjoyed an olive oil tasting.
In the fall semester, HRT students will complete the Wines of the World class and prepare for the Certified Wine Specialist Examination (CSW), a difficult test of their wine knowledge.
"Overall, I would recommend this trip to anyone and plan on spreading the word to fellow students so that they can experience this trip and enjoy it as much as I did," said UNO student Alexandra White.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I'll never forget and I have UNO, Dr. Chacko, Chef Ricardo, and my fellow classmates to thank. I enjoy every day, and the days spent in California even more so. My big goal is to pass the CSW and hopefully build my career around wine, something I never wanted to do before this trip."