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SCI 03 W — The Geology and Wines of California and France

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 7 weeks
Date(s): Apr 15—May 31
Refund Deadline: Apr 18
Unit: 1
Tuition: $495
Instructor(s): David G. Howell, Douglas Posson
Limit: 200
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Apr 15—May 31
7 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 18
1 Unit
David G. Howell, Douglas Posson
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course is designed for curious people who enjoy wine, especially wine from California and France, and would like to learn more about it. We will examine the connection between wines and their terroir—the complete natural environment in which a wine is produced—and learn why “place” and its geologic history—along with the grapes, their viticulture, the climate, and the winemakers’ skills—are crucial to the characteristics of wines.

We will explore the geologic setting of wine regions in California and France and, with comparative tastings, form the basis for understanding why certain grapes seem to prosper and others do not. As we delve into the geologic history of wine country, we will also learn about the geography, the wines, the names, and the history of numerous wine regions in California and France.

By the end of the course, we will have gained a better understanding of why wines are a reflection of “place” and have firsthand knowledge of many of the tastes that result. Our tastings will compare both Old World (France) and New World (California) wines: Burgundy and California’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Loire varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscadet, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc; northern and southern Rhône wines such as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and others; plus Bordeaux blends from California and France made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux varietals.

To participate in tasting discussions, students will spend approximately $160–$200 on Californian and French wines. Students will taste the wines in advance of the optional online videoconferencing sessions (which will be recorded and posted). During these sessions, students will compare notes with the instructors and invited winemakers to discuss their experiences with the terroir, grape varieties, winemaking styles, and taste sensations.

Former Research Geologist, US Geological Survey

David G. Howell is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He has been working with Napa Valley vintners for more than 30 years and is the co-author of The Winemaker’s Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley. Along with Douglas Posson, Howell leads wine and geology tours in California and France. After retiring from the US Geological Survey, Howell was an adjunct professor in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences from 2005 to 2009. He received a PhD from UC Santa Barbara and has authored more than 150 scientific articles.

Owner, Hexagonvins; IT Leader and Former Regional Director, US Geological Survey

Douglas Posson gathers and compiles data and information on wines. He is a co-founder of the US Global Change Research Program and led the US Geological Survey’s Arctic data team that received the Presidential Design Achievement Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Visiting France annually for the past 35 years, he has explored the geography, terroir, food, and especially the wines throughout all of France. Together with geologist David Howell, Posson leads wine and geology tours of wine regions in California and France.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Karen MacNeil, The Wine Bible, 3rd Edition (ISBN 978-1523510092)
(Required) Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson, The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition (ISBN 978-1784726188)