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Tasting room work harder than it seems

Wine country — Courses offered through Wine Education Center train future tasting room attendants

A local wine author will offer a series of classes on various aspects of working in a wine tasting room, as part of the Oregon Wine Education Center that’s hosted through the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Kerry Boenisch was a natural choice to lead the classes: not only does she come from one of the pioneering wine families in the local area, but she also has decades of tasting room experience.

“For me it was just the right fit,” Boenisch said.

She worked in Argyle’s tasting room for 23 years, as well as the Rex Hill tasting room, in addition to her own experience growing up with her family’s winery, McDaniel Vineyards.

The program intends to attract not only people who are interested in working in the tasting room environment, but also new hires who want to bone up on their skills.

Boenisch has written a curriculum that aims to arm tasting room associates with the abilities they’ll need to succeed – there’s a lot more to the job than people might assume, and the courses set out to run through the “a-to-z” of tasting room operations.

“That’s a process that’s kind of mystifying to some people when they come in the door,” Boenisch explained. “We aim to take the intimidation aspect out of it.”

Many of the often nerve-wracking elements of working in a tasting room fall into the presentation factor: opening the bottle in front of customers the right way, pouring it without spilling, all while talking with patrons and remaining engaging.

“There’s a lot of components to the job, even though it looks like it might be simple there’s a lot to know,” Boenisch said.

During the class the group will walk to a nearby tasting room for some onsite experience of what the environment is like, and some guest speakers will also come in to talk with students (Boenisch’s father, who helped found McDaniel Vineyards — now Torii Mor Winery — plans to speak at one of the class sessions.

The first course session takes place April 23, with the same course offered in May and June as well. That means the classes are being offered right before prime hiring season, Boenisch said, so it’s timed to best benefit the industry.

The course is a one-day class with room for 12 students overall and will be held at the OWEC space at the Chamber visitors center.

Last fall the Chamber was awarded a grant from Travel Oregon for marketing and development of a new OWEC curriculum. The $12,500 Travel Oregon funding provided to the Chamber was generated through sales of the Oregon Wine Country license plates. The Chamber matched the grant.

Other local organizations that received funding through the matching program include Travel Yamhill Valley and the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

For more information on the OWEC or to register for a class, visit http://wineeducation. chehalemvalley.org/.