- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

WATERVILLE, Maine - Josh Kahn swirls the ruby-red wine in his glass, puts it up to his nose and breathes in deeply. He watches how the 2002 Fairview shiraz from South Africa clings to the inside of the glass before he takes a sip.

This isn’t the typical tasting at a local wine shop. Rather, Mr. Kahn is a senior at Colby College, a private liberal arts college where students 21 and older get together on select Friday nights in a school cafeteria to learn about and drink beer and wine.

The get-togethers are intended to teach students how to imbibe in moderation and how to imbibe well.

The Colby program may not be unique, but it is unusual.

Cornell University has a for-credit course on wine, and the University of California at Davis has a department that focuses on vineyards and winemaking. But the director of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators said she isn’t aware of any other programs like the one at Colby.

Colby student Maureen Sherry said the gatherings have taught her not to be intimidated by wine. “I always thought I hated wine. But now I realize that what I hated were the $3 bottles of wine I bought at the grocery store,” she said.

The drinks-with-supper soirees on the 1,800-student campus have been well-received, but also have met disapproval at a time when colleges and universities nationwide have grappled with ways to deal with problem drinking among students.

Colby officials say the program is one component of the college’s alcohol-education efforts. “We’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive responses,” said Janice Kassman, dean of students. “There are some who say the college should take a just-say-no approach, but I don’t think that’s realistic.”

In a room off a dining hall, an average of 30 to 50 students come and go from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on select Fridays.

The students are limited to two drinks. So far, featured wines have come from Argentina, Chile, California, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand, Sicily and South Africa. Beers have included ales, porters, stouts and Belgian-style varieties from breweries in Maine, Vermont, New York and California.

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