Botstein’s Vineyard: BHSEC Wine School Opens in Napa Valley

Isaiah Back-Gaal, ’15

NAPA VALLEY — Where the sun shines 360 days of the year, the temperature never drops below 50, and the only neighbors are the songbirds and the deer. Welcome to Bard’s newest campus.

After opening BHSEC Cleveland and BHSEC Baltimore, President Botstein decided that it was time to break from the classic early college model. President Botstein and a group of students and faculty from Bard spent weeks writing and thinking about how best to expand the school. They wanted to create a campus where high school age students could do hands-on work, where they could learn lifelong skills in addition to reading about postmodernism. Finally, the think tank came up with the perfect idea: a vineyard.

In March of 2015, President Botstein and Bard College broke ground on the construction of the newest Early College. BHSEC Vineyard, in the heart of California’s Napa Valley, will consist of four acres of grape-growing land, plus a block of modest chateaus, where students will learn and live. In addition to being a vineyard, the newest BHSEC will be a boarding school. It will have four classes of fifty students from across California, all living in the chateaus, learning from renowned professors and working on the vineyard.

Not only will students earn their high school diploma and Associate’s Degree at the end of four years, but they will also leave with a sommelier certification. From the moment students enter the school they will learn about the intricate process of winemaking. In ninth and tenth grades students will study earth (in particular soil) sciences, learn about the great American pioneers and grape-growers, read novel such as The Grapes of Wrath, and do vital, hands-on work like constructing trellises and planting grapevines. In the Wine College Program students will explore the global, sociological history of wine, discuss the place of wine in the modern and postmodern world, and, most importantly, students will learn how to make wine themselves. Special electives will be offered to Y2s, including, “Grapes Galore! From Albariño to Zinfandel,” “Meat or Fish? The Art of Wine Pairing,” and, “Holy Vino: Wine and Religion.”

Incredibly, BHSEC V (as the school is endearingly called) will, like its predecessors, be a public, tuition-free school. The cost of housing students and paying teachers’ salaries will be entirely paid for by the revenue of the vineyard. Although it was not cheap to buy the land for the vineyard, President Botstein is confident that, in time, the school will more than pay for itself.

He also hopes that the vineyard will contribute to BHSEC Symposium Days around the country. As Principal Lerner has often remarked, at the original symposiums of Ancient Greece, intellectual discussion was paired with raucous parties and heavy drinking. Underage students, of course, will not be permitted to drink; however, teachers and faculty will get to enjoy wine from BHSEC V while listening to students’ symposium presentations.

Botstein’s Vineyard, scheduled to open in Fall 2016, will be a truly unique Early College experience. For four years students will live in the beautiful Napa Valley, reading classics, picking grapes, and building a community deeply rooted in the fertile soil.

BHSEC V: a place to ferment.

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