Four students — one from Oregon and three from Spain — are participating this fall in an exchange program to foster connections between Southern Oregon and Spanish wineries.
“It’s great for the future,” said Earl Jones, owner of Abacela Winery in Lookingglass. “We are out breeding thought and culture.”
Sarah Griffis, a second-year student of the Southern Oregon Wine Institute at Umpqua Community College, is interning at the Dominio de Cair winery in Spain.
Meanwhile, Spanish winemaking students are interning at Abacela Winery and Delfino Vineyards in Roseburg and Troon Vineyard in Grants Pass.
They are the first Spanish students from the school Colegio San Gabriel to intern under the exchange program. The Southern Oregon Wine Institute last year sent its first student to Spain.
Wine institute Director Chris Lake said no Spanish student was available last year. The Spanish school made up for it this year by sending three students.
All four students are sampling the crop, picking the grapes and making the wine.
“They help all the way through until the process is complete in about December,” Lake said.
“The challenge is sharing winemaking and cultural differences,” he said. “We want students to find some connection and bring understanding across to gain a new appreciation.”
Griffis, 35, of Portland said by email that she joined the viticulture program at UCC because she was unhappy with her career as a data analyst. She made wine at home and wanted to start her own small business.
“Before I left, I hoped to learn about winemaking from traditional and historical methods. I also wanted to learn the Spanish language so that I could communicate with Spanish-speaking workers in the vineyards and wineries in Oregon,” Griffis said in an email. “Now that I am here, I realize that there is so much more to learn not only about the wine, food and culture, but also about myself and my personal journey in a new career.”
Abacela reminds him of home, said intern David Calvo Figuero, 25, speaking through translator Dorothy Williams, president of the Sister City Roseburg-Aranda Connection.
Figuero said his interest in winemaking comes from his family’s past involvement in the industry, along with everyone else in his community. His father worked at a winery.
Delfino is a smaller operation that trucks its grapes to wineries around the state.
“I was reluctant to host an intern because I didn’t want a guy to come and just harvest. I want him to get the best experience he can,” Delfino Vineyards owner Jim Delfino said.
The intern, Miguel Ortega, 26, said he is learning a lot. “The vineyard is a new experience for me,” he said. “They teach me about the vineyard and techniques.”
Ortega spends mornings harvesting and then rides with Delfino to deliver grapes. They spent one day last week trucking grapes to a winery in Dundee.
The third Spanish intern in Grants Pass is Yuichirou Yamada, 26.
The exchange between the Southern Oregon Wine Institute and Colegio San Gabriel began last year with funding from the UCC Foundation, Roseburg-Aranda Connection and the Umpqua Valley Winegrowers Association.
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and email@example.com.