Classroom to Bottle: Tales of Cross-Cultural Winemaking

We will discuss the differences between Swiss and American winemaking and how the two techniques complement one another. Tastings from the Ecole d’ingénieurs de Changins in Switzerland and Alpha Omega Winery in Napa.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


December 04, 2009 from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)



This year for our holiday celebration, swissnex is pleased to welcome the director and two alumni of Switzerland’s enology and viticulture school, Ecole d’Ingénieurs de Changins.

Our guests discuss differences between Swiss and U.S. winemaking techniques, marketing culture, and business models, and how these differences actually complement one another. This is best illustrated by our speakers’ own professional pathways, which brought them to Changins in Switzerland and to winemaking careers in California and Oregon.

Of course, we cannot talk about wine without tasting it. We welcome you to sample wines from Switzerland and from Alpha Omega winery in Napa.

Please make sure you register early as participation is limited. Festive attire.


6.30pm:   Doors open, refreshments
7.00pm:   Introduction from swissnex San Francisco executive director, Christian Simm
Overview of Ecole d’Ingénieurs de Changins from director Conrad Briguet
Presentation and discussion with alumnus Krista Fast-Merlier and Jean Hoefliger of Alpha Omega Winery
8.30pm:   Wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres
10.30pm: Doors close

 Jean Hoefliger

Jean Hoefliger was born and raised in Switzerland. His experiences took him from his home country to Bordeaux to South Africa, making wine at esteemed estates including Chateau Lynch-Bages, Chateau Carbonnieux, and Meerlust. He completed a winemaking and viticulture degree at the Swiss federal school of Changins, then spent five years as winemaker for Newton Vineyard in California before joining Alpha Omega. His passion, knowledge, innate ability, and scientific training put him in a unique position to take the best grapes from Napa Valley and transform them into world class wines.


Krista Fast-Merlier

Krista Fast-Merlier, originally from Oregon, graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science in 1997. After teaching science for a year, her passion turned to winegrowing when she worked in a tasting room for a summer. She spent the next nine months traveling and working in several wineries in New Zealand, Oregon, and Burgundy (France), an experience that turned into a year-long internship. She began studying enology and viticulture at Changins, where she received her Engineer of Enology/Enologist degree in 2006 and was immediately hired by the school to work in research. Along with her enology research, she taught classes in viticulture and assisted with the creation of Changins’ Summer University exchange program with Cal Poly and Fresno State. Last summer, after seven years in Switzerland, Krista moved back to the U.S. with her French husband and young son to be closer to her family and continue her career in the Oregon wine industry. 


About Ecole d’Ingénieurs de Changins

Founded in 1948 and located in Nyon, near Geneva, the University of Applied Sciences Changins is Switzerland’s only viticulture and enology center. The school offers several training programs designed to meet the wide variety of needs in the field and has three schools: enology, viticulture, and arboriculture.

  • The UAS Changins (graduate school) in enology: how to become an enologist (Bachelor UAS in Enology and in a near future Master UAS in Enology)
  • The Specialized School: how to become a crops manager or a team manager in wine production businesses and cellars
  • The Wine School: continuing edcation in enology and viticulture, with modular units.
  • The Summer School: an exchange program designed for enology students in partnership with Fresno State University and Cal Poly University.


Photo: Myleen Hollero