Today: May 29, 2024

Southern alumni and faculty taste wine under the stars

Monica Szackas — News Editor
Alumni and family gather for conversation. (L-R) Carolyn Graham, John Graham, Katherine Gombos, Raymond Gombos

Monica SzakacsNews Editor

When James Blake, executive vice president, heard about a wine tast- ing event on campus that would incorporate astron- omy, he said he wasn’t sure how the two subjects would connect. But after a presentation in the South- ern planetarium Friday evening, Blake said he now understands the impact of lunar stars on farming.

SCSU’s Alumni Association held a wine tasting event called “A Beautiful Evening Under the Stars.” Guests paid a $50 reg-istration for a night that began in the planetarium to view the stars and listen to a lecture on the connection between wine and astronomy. A path of cut out star paper bags with candles inside illuminated the pathway outside of Morill to the Engleman patio. Here guests were greeted by Michelle Johnston, director of alumni relations, amongst tables covered in white cloth and flowers, two wine tasting booths and hors d’oeuvres and dessert.

Monica Szackas — News Editor
Lori Jackson, Wine Theif event coordinator, and Cat Heidel, director of catering, talk before guests arrive at the patio.

“So far I’ve had a couple of samples,” said Blake. “I’m not a big drinker, only socially, so my taste isn’t refined enough to distinguish differences in an expensive wine and a cheap wine; but I’m happy to see a good turnout.”

It’s a new experience for people when they enter a planetarium, according to James Fulmer, associate professor of earth science, who was one of two professors that gave a planetarium presentation that evening.

“I let people get dark adapted first with a quick tour of the universe [through PowerPoint],” said Fulmer. “Then we had a tour of tonight [Sept. 16] and I pointed out different constellations and we watched the stars move around.”

The Wine Thief, located in New Haven, provided the wine for the night. Lori Jackson, Wine Thief event coordinator, said the business was happy to provide for the event because it does a lot of private events, charities and dinners. Jackson said four years ago a part time job turned into a career in the wine business.

“That’s how everybody kind of gets into the wine business, by accident,” said Jackson.

On the first table, there was a selection of Wine Thief’s best sellers, fair trade, organic and biodynamic sustainable wines. Table two provided imported wines from Spain and Chile. Wine Thief asked one of its import customers, Miguel Alvarez, to represent his business, Maja Imports, at the wine tasting. Alvarez imports from Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina.

“Tonight I received a lot of positive feedback from the guests on all the wine,” said Alvarez. “I sell what I like. A lot of wine tasting I go to and represent my wine, people think it is happy hour, but tonight they are more sophisticated and know the product they are tasting.”

James Barber, alumni and director of student supportive services, said he liked that Jackson and Alvarez took the time to discuss the wines that were being tasted.

“It’s wonderful to get together with alumni and make new acquaintances,” said Barber. “It’s a perfect night and the two lectures were enlightening and funny.”

Four years ago alumni relations had its first wine tasting event in a hotel in Stamford. This year the department wanted to bring it back on campus. Originally Johnston said she thought it would have been interesting to hold the event inside the planetarium, but there wasn’t enough room for 56 guests, tables and food and not to mention it is dark inside when the doors close.

“We like to use what we have on campus that people don’t really know about,” said Johnston as she looked over the Engleman back patio.

During a previous event for scholarships inside an Engleman lecture room that overlooks the patio, Johnston was accompanied by Patrick Heidkamp, professor of geography. The two were discussing the wine tasting event and Heidkamp pointed out the future vineyard for the Plant it Forward initiative through the window. He suggested it would be good to have a night under the stars overlooking the vineyard.

“Dr. Heidkamp said they are growing the vineyard the ancient way called biodynamics, which incorporates the stars and the moon to grow the vineyard,” said Johnston. “The whole planning was like a snow ball of ideas that grew into this wonderful night.”

According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association website, the earth is a single, self-regulating, multi-dimensional ecosystem. Biodynamic farmers seek to fashion their farms likewise as self-regulating, bio-diverse ecosystems in order to bring health to the land and to their local communities. Heidkamp said biodynamic viticulture looks at the difference in wine culture, fair trade, economy and biology. This means that a farmland and garden is part of a specific production that incorporates animals, plants and the cosmos, according to Heidkamp.

“The produce is supposed to be healthier and better for the ecosystem,” said Heidkamp. “It’s a closed system of plants, compost and animals that help nourish the land and the farm is all about low inputs [chemicals] and high exports.”

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