Starting this fall, Cougars will have the opportunity to glimpse into the intimidating world of wine connoisseurship as the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management opens the doors to a new state-of-the-art wine-tasting lab.
“This lab will be the only one of its kind in the region,” said Chris Taylor, director of the beverage management program and the Fred Parks Wine Cellar.
Taylor, who took his position in August 2013, said the lab has been in the works since before his arrival. It will feature natural light and back-lit white boards to evaluate a wine’s color, individual sinks and seating for up to 80 students.
“There are some things you can’t do without the right tool, and this is the right tool,” Taylor said in multiple interviews.
The $750,000 lab will be the latest addition to the college’s growing beverage management program and will be used in accordance with wine appreciation courses already offered by the University.
“Wine is bought for the wine appreciation class and it will be the same wine that is used in the lab,” Taylor said.
Local restaurant owner Dora Giannakopoulos has owned and operated a West Gray establishment for over ten years. She said that knowledge of wines is very important in her line of work since wine consumption is steady year-round.
“My degree is in biology,” Giannakopoulos said. “I have had to learn about wine as I go. I would love to take a class like that or even for my employees to.”
While the new lab will certainly give students who are pursuing careers in the field of hospitality a competitive edge, the courses and the minor in beverage management are open to any student from any college in the University.
Communications junior Adam Edwards thinks the new facility is a great idea.
“It would be nice to have more knowledge about wine now that I’m of an age where wine is more interesting to me,” Edwards said.
Taylor, who has been published multiple times in the Journal of Wine Economics and Policy, is not unfamiliar with the anxieties people feel over choosing the appropriate wine for an occasion.
“People tend to be a little intimidated when it comes wine selection,” Taylor said. “I have friends who I invite to my house for dinner and are afraid to bring over a bottle of wine, but they shouldn’t be.”
Dr. Taylor is interested in demystifying the world of wine appreciation and giving students the tools they need to be successful in the beverage management industry. The new lab is just one of a few new tools the University plans to offer students, with future plans including a beer and wine production lab.