It started as quick tutorial on YouTube, which eventually led to a shared interest among a few friends, before finally blossoming into a full-fledged student organization.
I’m talking about the Penn State Winemaking Club.
The PSU Winemaking Club, which has about 40 members, meets every Monday in 108 Sackett to discuss the delicate process of turning freshly picked grapes into a bottle of fine wine…or, as is the case for poor college students, learning how to turn a bottle of Juicy Juice into something special to bring to your next party.
Michael Bujakowski, president of the club, has been working with the university for more than a year and half to officially establish the student-run organization. Due to the element of alcohol, Bujakowski said officials at the university were hesitant to allow the club to get up and running. After he explained it was simply a group of aspiring sommeliers getting together to share knowledge and bounce ideas off of each other, the club officially formed before the start of the fall semester.
“We had to explain to them that it was a society of winemaking,” says Bujakowski, a junior majoring in energy, business, and finance. “We’re not getting together and getting drunk. We don’t condone underage drinking. We don’t condone making anything on campus. It’s a very fine line. We don’t want to forget about winemaking, but we try to stay out of anything that could get us in trouble.”
Since the club is still in its infancy, Bujakowski said he is focusing on teaching the basics. For educational purposes, he demonstrates the process through a slideshow presentation titled “How To Wine.” Meticulously explaining step-by-step, he pores over the ingredients, equipment, and time necessary to craft a home batch.
To further promote the education of the club’s novices, a member presents a “Wine of the Week” at each meeting, taking a closer look at a different type of wine. Reviews are based on factors like price, finish, and pairings. At the end, a rating is given on a scale of 1-10.
“I give it an 8/10,” one member said of Mt. Nittany White, the pick of the week.
“Based on what?” someone asked.
“Franzia,” they said with a laugh, referencing the infamous box wine.
Last semester, the club visited Mt. Nittany Vineyard in Centre Hall, Pa., a mere 20 minutes from State College. They were given a tour of the vineyard, and later went inside to get a closer look on how wine is made on a commercial level. Some of the vintners even shared some of their own homemade techniques.
For the spring semester, members are planning on visiting the Finger Lakes to sample some of the best wine available in upstate New York. There’s a good chance they’ll be sporting their new t-shirts while moving from vineyard to vineyard, featuring a slogan we’re all too familiar with — “Wine Making Lives Here.”
While it may sound like a haughty-taughty group of connoisseurs who turn their nose up to the cheap stuff, it’s really just a collection of people who have an appreciation for the intricate process of crafting homemade wine.
“We’re more of a society of wine makers,” says Bujakowski. “It’s a place for all of us to join together.”