Instructor Spotlight: Nichola Hall

Winemaking Certificate instructor Nichola Hall

Nichola Hall is the newest instructor for UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Winemaking Certificate Program. She will be teaching the third course in the program, Quality Control and Analysis in Winemaking. Hall is currently a staff scientist for Scott Laboratories in Petaluma, Calif., and a co-winemaker for Mathew Bruno Wines in Rutherford, Calif. Additionally, Hall is a past president of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and is the co-chair of the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. Hall will bring her 18 years of experience in the wine industry to educate industry newcomers and experienced winemakers alike.

Hall hails from Scotland, where she earned her undergraduate degree in microbial biotechnology and a Ph.D. in yeast physiology and fermentation science from the University of Abertay Dundee. Hall says she “fell into the wine industry by accident” when she began working her first harvest as a microbiologist for Bronco Wine Company in Ceres, Calif. in 2002. “I was stunned at all the little things that go into every single decision,” she said. “To this day I continue to be amazed by the diversity in our industry.”

We sat down with Hall to get some insight into her experience and teaching philosophy.

Why do you teach?

There is no greater honor than sharing your knowledge and experience with others that have the same drive, passion and goals as yourself. By teaching, you are helping others to better understand their decisions, improve their wine quality and increase their confidence to compete in a global market.

If there’s a single thing you want students to take away from your course, what would it be?

There are many ways to make wine. But if you understand the basic principles involved, you will have the confidence to ask the correct questions, try new techniques and tools, and improve wine quality.

How will learning about winemaking positively impact a student’s life?

Winemaking is a little bit art and a whole lot of science. By having a solid foundation and understanding of what is happening and why, you can adapt to the vintage and make quality-based decisions.

Why is learning about winemaking important?

We work in an agricultural industry that is subject to vintage variation. By understanding what the vintage is bringing, we can adapt and respond to the fruit conditions, as well as adopt new techniques both minimalist and interventionist if, and when, needed.

Describe a moment where, as a teacher, you had an impact on a student’s life. What was the situation? What happened? How did you know you know you had an impact? How did it make you feel?

It is always fulfilling when you have a positive impact from your teaching. I work with a lot of winemakers to optimize the aromatic profile of their wines. We often will do two fermentations/trials/blends side-by-side with their protocol versus an updated one I have developed to achieve their objective. When the updated one becomes the new house protocol, because it drove the wine style in a desired way, that is a huge achievement for all involved.