Central Lakes College, the lone Minnesota partner in a 17-state grape and wine production educational consortium, is among the recipients of a $4.99 million National Science Foundation grant that will establish a National Center of Excellence. CLC, as a member of the Viticulture and Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), will receive $203,233, about $50,000 per year, during the four-year period. Purpose of the grant is to enable colleges across the country to train technicians with industry-validated credentials in grape and wine production. VESTA began in 2003 as a three-state partnership and has since expanded to enroll almost 800 students from 41 states while increasing its network of partner vineyards and wineries from 64 in 2007 to 140 in 2011The VESTA National Center of Excellence incorporates distance education to provide two-year institutions and the larger grape and wine production industry access to knowledge and skill development programs that would not be available if each institution had to sustain a program of its own. CLC offers the Associate in Applied Science degree in Enology (wine production) and Viticulture (grape growing), with shorter diploma options. The coursework is online and includes internships. A local vineyard demonstration site at the CLC Agricultural and Energy Center at Staples features several grape varieties in partnership with the University of Minnesota. More than 100 grapevines boast winter-hardy grape varieties suited to the north central climate.Minnesota has nearly 30 wineries in production, using grapes grown and harvested in the region.