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Spirited growth: CNM to add programs in technology of winemaking, distilling

Brewing and Beverage Management Program instructor Nick Jones, right, demonstrates how to syphon beer properly. Standing on the left is student J.D. Natachu. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Central New Mexico Community College is raising a glass to the future of New Mexico’s wine and spirits industry.

CNM is adding two certificate programs to its list of studies. Wine technology and distilled spirits technology will launch in August. Its brewing technology certificate program, which prepares students to work in the beer industry, has been highly successful and has been recognized by the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

New Mexico has a rich history in winemaking. It is the oldest wine growing region in the United States. The state will celebrate 400 years of winemaking and wine growing in 2029, according to Victoria Martinez, the Academic Affairs Director in the School of Business and Information Technology.

“In the past, wineries have been largely within their families and the knowledge and skills have been passed from generation to generation,” Martinez said. “And we’re seeing some of our wine partners really grow, especially Gruet, increasing production, and really looking for that skilled workforce. … We had worked with Christopher Goblet, who’s the executive director of New Mexico Wine, we had worked with him when we built the brewing program. And so he reached out and said, ‘Victoria, we have a real need in wine.’ What you did for brewing, the wine industry really needs it.”

The realization set in that New Mexico does not have formal education programs to support the industry. And so plans to create the wine technology and distilled spirits technology programs were set in motion about two years ago.

“We convened a panel of industry experts, and they really guided us in developing the program outcomes, the student learning outcome, and really just giving us insight into what they need within their own companies, what they need across the industry in New Mexico to be successful,” Martinez said. “And really we dialed that down into what do our students need to know? What does CNM need to provide in the way of training and education that will really have folks industry ready to assume jobs in the wine and spirits world. And so we looked at jobs all the way from harvesting, through production, raw ingredients selection, managing the fermentation process, packaging, distilling, and really all the way through sales and marketing.”

Students who complete the two-year program will earn an Associate of Applied Science in Beverage Production and Management with a concentration in brewing, winemaking or distilling. As part of the program, students will receive their OSHA 10 card, food safety manager certification, a new alcohol server permit, and their safety certificates through the Brewers Association.

CNM has partnered with the New Mexico State University’s viticulture program.

“NMSU, they’re growing hops and barley and so they bring them over to our program and we work with their faculty,” Martinez said. “… We’re working with NMSU because we’re not going be in the business of growing grapes but NMSU and their agriculture program is certainly in the business of growing grapes and figuring out how to support our industry. So we do have a viticulturist in the state and we are developing a relationship and strengthening those ties on how can we work together to support New Mexico.”

The Land of Enchantment is an important destination for the beverage industry, according to Martinez.

“We’re the oldest wine growing region in the United States, our brewers have done a fantastic job of just dominating and putting out quality beer, and our distillers are, they’re just getting started,” she said. “I’m sure that we’re gonna see really great things come from this industry and bring lots of dollars into New Mexico. But, I also want to make sure that we’re providing the education and training that our industry partners need so that they can grow their business. … No one should have to leave our state to get the education and training that they need to have a career here in New Mexico. I want to make sure that we’re providing New Mexicans with the opportunity to get the education and training they need. And then to stay here and work in an industry that they love.”

A new building is being constructed to house the brewing, winemaking and distilling programs. CNM is renovating the space that once housed its bookstore on its main campus.

“That space previously was about 10,000 square feet,” Martinez said. “So that is going to become our culinary demo space, our prep space, the sensory classroom, students learning areas, the focus room. And then we’re building almost a 9,000 square foot addition and that addition is where the brewing labs or the beverage production lab, I should say, that’s where that will be located. And so we’ll have a long draft system, we’ll have a barrel storage area, a beverage library. We’ll have brewhouses, a still, the wine equipment. … We’ll have a small microbiology lab, where really the students will be able to do yeast cell counts and calculate and measure (alcohol by volume).”

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