Surry Cellars, the label for wine produced at Surry Community College through its Viticulture and Enology Program, took away the “Best Red” award at the 2023 N.C. Fine Wine Competition with the Tannat Reserve 2019 red wine.
The N.C. Fine Wine Competition is recognized by the industry as one of the toughest competitions in the United States. All judges are level three advanced sommeliers and perform blind taste tests with no discussion among the judges during testing. This year’s competition was held at Fine Wines of NC
in Winston-Salem during April. Thirty-four wineries participated in the event.
The award-winning Surry Cellars Tannat Reserve 2019 was produced entirely in the vineyard and on the campus of Surry Community College at the Shelton-Badgett N.C. Center for Viticulture and Enology. The Tannat variety, which is a thick-skinned, drought resistant grape originally grown in Southwest France, was planted in the SCC vineyard in 2015. At the time, it was not a popular variety among N.C. grape growers. Now however, David Bower, SCC Winemaker and Enology Instructor notes, “After this, I think you’ll see more people planting it in our region. It's definitely a successful variety.”
Weather conditions in late summer 2019 allowed for the grape harvest to occur near the end of September, which is later than most harvests and helped contribute to its quality. The grapes were processed and put into barrels in early 2020. At all checkpoints, the Tannat wine had a rich, deep color with a very healthy fermentation. By 2021, the instructors knew they had a potential winner.
Both instructors were quick to point out how instrumental the viticulture and enology students, who worked on this wine were, from the field to the bottle. Bowman commented, “Winning this award was a real confidence builder for the students. They saw they could produce a top tier wine for the state.”
Bower noted how the students, as well as a product like the Tannat Reserve 2019, benefitted the whole N.C. wine industry by saying, “This award is a combination of everything we have been working on as a team. The students’ hard work was rewarded. They can say they had a hand in this and apply it to their careers. The award also helps the entire industry grow and fights the stigma that N.C. wines are not as good as California wines.”
Judges for the competition look at the varietal typicity (what the variety tastes like) and the regional typicity (what the region has to offer) using the Wine Spectator Top 100
point system, a scale based on criteria set forth by Wine Spectator, which is an organization internationally known as a leading authority on wine. The higher the score, the better the wine. Surry Cellars’ Tannat Reserve 2019 scored close to 100.
Surry Community College is the only college east of California that can instruct students with hands-on experience in winemaking, from growing and harvesting the fruit, to processing it in a bonded winery, and then taking it through the bottling line. Even the label for the wine was created from student artwork.
“Students get so much experience here,” said Bower, “especially on training methods, equipment, and learning about the variety and species of grapes grown. Ninety percent of the wine made in the United States is grown in California, but learning the process here is affordable and accessible.”
Bowman added, “Surry Community is a great place to learn this industry. If you can succeed in growing grapes and making wine in a challenging area like the Yadkin Valley, you can apply it elsewhere.”
Bower also added, “Our program has consistently, and being consistent is key, won awards, and we have consistently grown and adapted. This shows the versatility of our program and what we offer. It’s not that we suddenly just got good. We’ve been great for a while.”
“Without our students, this wouldn’t happen,” said Bowman. “The SCC wine is student grown and student made. Instructors are here to guide them.”
Bower finalized by saying, “Anyone of any level can take classes in SCC’s Viticulture and Enology Program. We want people to take our classes.” Surry Community College offers a degree, diploma, and certificate options in viticulture, enology, tasting room operations, and wine marketing.
The Shelton-Badgett N.C. Center for Viticulture and Enology at SCC, which opened in 2009, contains classrooms, a climate-controlled wine cellar, microbiology labs, assembly hall, and a 2,500 gallon licensed and bonded teaching winery. The five-acre teaching and demonstration vineyard provides students with hands-on experience and exposure to a wide range of wine grape production techniques. The center has recently expanded to include the 5,000 square-foot Sustainable Agriculture Building with classroom space, farm equipment workshop, controlled environment crop production space. A new Agrichemical Building is used for safe and responsible pesticide storage and handling. The program incorporates sustainable practices wherever possible. All bottles are made from recycled glass and weigh 35 percent less than regular wine bottles. Additionally, the bottles are not finished with a polythermal or plastic cover, making them more environmentally friendly.
If you’d like to learn more about SCC’s Viticulture and Enology Program, visit surry.edu/wine, ncviticulturecenter.surry.edu
or email Sarah Bowman, Viticulture Instructor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or David Bower, Enology Instructor, at email@example.com. You may also contact Jeff Jones, Division Chair of Sciences, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (336) 386-3391. SCC is currently registering students for Fall 2023 classes that begin Aug. 17.
Choosing a college is an important decision, and we’re pleased that you’re interested in Surry Community College.