Walking the Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus prior to 2010, you would’ve been hard pressed to picture a vineyard in the 13.5 acres of scrub land west of the main grounds — much less a facility like the Southwest Wine Center where the massive concrete racquetball courts stood.
Despite the apparent unlikelihood of it all happening, 2010 marked the year that planting began on what would become a wine-producing vineyard run by students enrolled in Yavapai College’s Viticulture and Enology program.
On Saturday, April 29, students, college staff and volunteers will take part in the seventh Plant-A-Vine event, planting the final acre of grape vines into fertile Verde Valley soil.
“We can get well over 100 people,” Yavapai College Foundation Executive Director Paul Kirchgraber said. “And they’re citizens …. We [also] encourage community groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It’s a family friendly event.
“This year will be even more significant because we are planting the last of the 13.5-acre vineyard that is training students for jobs in the burgeoning wine industry locally and internationally.”
Along with planting a new grape — the acidic white wine varietal Piquepoul — volunteers will check the growth and health of vines planted previously.
Volunteers need have no prior knowledge of planting grapevines, Kirchgraber added. Students will be on hand to show the proper technique and answer questions.
Kirchgraber said that people are naturally curious about the wine industry, which has become a major economic driver for tourism in the region and a source of pride for locals, and gravitate toward any opportunity to see the wine-making operation in action.
“They want to feel a part of it,” Kirchgraber said. “What better way than to get your hands dirty?”
According to Kirchgraber, what’s been produced on the Clarkdale campus is extraordinary: There’s no other facility like it in New Mexico or Colorado. The closest analogue is at the University of California, Davis — 800 miles away.
“We consider our Viticulture and Enology a destination program,” Kirchgraber said, adding that the appeal lies in offering something truly distinctive, not only for the region but also for the entire southwestern U.S.
“We’ve even had a Napa Valley family who sent their son to our program who then returned to Napa Valley.”
The free event takes place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Advance registration is requested by April 27 at yc.edu/plantavine.
Water and snacks will be provided. A personal water bottle, gardening trowel, hats, gloves, sunscreen and protective clothing and shoes are recommended.