Instructor Profile – Wine – Jesse Rodriguez

Jesse RodriguezWhich class do you teach for SDSU’s Professional Certificate in the Business of Wine?

I teach the California Intensive class.

Can you tell me something about California wine that most people do not know?

What I want to really focus on is that California is a major industry for our state and for our people. California is like a super model in the room full of average people. We are fortunate to have so many different growing areas in our backyard. The class focuses on how wine production and where we were before to where we are now. We cover the mid-70s to mid-1990s and we move to the 21st century. We also talk about where we are going and where the future for California’s production of wine is. I provide more historical aspects of California and why California is always used as a vinometer with wine production over the world.

What do you say is the highlight of the class?

In the first week, we talk about the history of California wine – the Spanish influence, why wine production is really made now as a grocery, but also as a vessel to be used like in the Eucharistic sacrament. From there, we move toward how California was able to manage wine. How average farmers became wine makers and produced good wine, and how it really made a major impact in 1976. And, from that point on how California wine has taken a central stage.

Week two we talk about the 70s to the 1990s. Why there were changes, how they affected our market and how they affect California, our country and international markets.  We also talk about the producers who made a name for themselves.

Week three, we talk about what is seen now and what is expected now in wine production; why we are moving away from using a lot of chemicals and making more organic wine versus making it more commercialized. We also look at wine as a global aspect, and how California wine affects everything from whether you’re an importer or distributor.

Is there balance between wine tasting and lecture?

Absolutely.

Is there going to be homework or group activities?

There will be group activities. There will be homework. I will say ‘Here is the topic. What is your point? What is your perspective on it?’ This forces students to take their own perspectives. I am not looking for right or wrong but rather why you are looking at wine a particular way. It’s more like an open form. At the end of the day, students taking this class, they are looking at wine to really have an understanding of what is going on in this state.

In your opinion, what is future of California wine?

California wine will always be the super model.

How do you think of the San Diego population regarding wine knowledge?

It’s getting there. When I came here five years ago, it was hard for me to even try to sell other wine from around world. The population of San Diego is becoming more familiar with professional restaurants. We are all working together.

Who should study wine and take your class?

If you have a passion for wine, you should definitely take it because it’s something that you need to have to understand wine. Go to class if you really want to learn about California wine. I want to share with students information that I learned and I’m aware of from my perspective as wine director, service professional, distributor and wine director for a winery. I’m fortunate because I’ve worked in all three major departments in the wine industry.

Did you always have a passion for wine?

My grandparents had a restaurant and that was my first job – working in their restaurant, which served wine. I went to undergraduate and graduate schools in Arizona. After graduate school, I received a phone call from a wine beverage distributor. I was interviewed and hired. I started as a sales and marketing manager. Within nine months, I was hired by another company to be their California director of sales. It was fantastic. It was very hands on. After nine months of doing that, I realized it isn’t my calling. I really wanted to work in a restaurant. I love the energy of a restaurant, just to watch service being conducted.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think is important for people to know about wine, about your class and about you?

Being a beverage professional, at the end of the day, let’s break it down to its true dynamics. You are servant. There is no room for ego. That really turns people off on wine. As professional like myself, I got turned off.  I think to myself you haven’t walked in my shoes; you have no idea what I experienced. The more you know, the more humble you become. You realize ‘I don’t know that much. ‘