Gathered in the Schulz Library at Sonoma State University on the evening of April 6, some 30 students have come to do a different kind of studying. However, this isn't the normal late-night study session with note cards and highlighters. Instead, rows of tables are lined up with wine glasses and a dozen wine bottles are set up on the front table. At this latest rainy-night meeting, Jordan Winery from Alexander Valley does a special pouring of its Chardonnay and vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. "This is the future of the wine business, our savvy consumer," the Jordan rep says as he smoothly pours glasses for these over-21 students.
A new generation of wine drinkers is among us, taking wine country by storm. With wine consumption at an all-time high in the United States, it's no wonder that the 21 to 25 age group is jumping on the bandwagon. This generation, dubbed "the millennials," view wine differently than do past generations. They see it as more approachable and hip.
The wine club offers a mixed viewpoint on wine. "We focus on the education and enjoyment of wine drinking. It's nothing like a classroom experience, but more like a bunch of friends getting together to discuss wine and what they think of it," say Danny Zelman, president of the wine club.
Any student over 21 can attend and pay $5 per meeting. At these meetings, students typically get to try six different types of wine. "It's like free advertisement for the wineries," Zelman adds. "At the beginning of the school year, I send out a mass e-mail to all the wineries in the area, and get several responses back. So when students go out to restaurants or stores, they see their wine and remember that they've tried it and liked it."
In addition to campus meetings, the wine club also goes on trips once a semester to other wine regions. Last semester, the club went to Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County, which is quickly catching up to Sonoma County as one of the top wine-making regions in California. "We went to such noted wineries as Tobin James and Summerwood, and spent all day tasting wine and getting tours. We also met up with the Cal Poly wine club and got to meet other students who share our same interests," says Vanessa Abercrombie, a senior chemistry major.
"It's just a great way to introduce students into wineries and wine tasting in the area," Zelman says. Other wineries that have done pourings this school year include Firestone, Fetzer and Charles Creek. "We have between one and two wineries that come into each meeting. They talk a little bit about the winery and then about the wine they brought," Zelman explains, adding that the club also does special food and wine pairings, samples sparkling wines and has other more unusual events. The club also helps students who are interested in the wine industry find intern and summer positions at area wineries.
Over the past year, the club has become the most sought-after among students, and not because it's the only one where you get to drink on campus. "I come to learn about wine and about their different characteristics and tastes," says Abercrombie. Angela Saunders, a senior in art history from San Diego, adds, "Wine is one of the noted aspects in Sonoma County. I think it is important to learn about your surroundings."
The SSU Wine Club meets bimonthly in the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center on Thursdays. For more information visit their website, www.students.sonoma.edu/clubs/winesense.
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