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UNF class offers taste of wine but not for credit

All students take classes, and some drink wine, but they certainly don’t drink wine in class. One bold man is changing that – and even encouraging it.

Rick O’Neill, a Jacksonville resident, is the owner of the two and a half year-old Cork and Keg – a quaint, French-infused wine and beer shop in Julington Creek.

One peek into his history reveals not just a man, but a connoisseur, with a refined taste in the art of winery.

Apart from serving Fruit Cove inhabitants, O’Neill also instructs some UNF classes, where the focus is wine.

This spring, he will instruct a series of six courses from April to June.

Each class will focus on a specific topic within wine studies. The most popular include Familiarization with Common Wine Grapes and Pairing Food and Wine, said Valerie Murphy, program director for Continuing Education.

The UNF Division of Continuing Education is offering the classes through a program called LEARN Jacksonville.

LEARN is a non-credit, personal enrichment program with courses designed to appeal to cultural interests, according to the Continuing Education Web site.

It is paid for by the fees it costs to take the courses.

O’Neill jumped on board with the LEARN program about a year and a half ago.

A UNF dean who heard about his store attended an industry get-together and approached him about the idea of a wine course being part of the LEARN program, which was relatively new at the time.

“He gave me a description of what he was going to do, and it fit in perfectly with what I was thinking,” Murphy said.

Participants can expect a free-form class, with one hour dedicated to a lecture and the other two to interacting, tasting and evaluating.

The enrollment size in each class is usually between five and 15 people to allow people to get their money’s worth in a personal setting, O’Neill said.

The six classes are scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. in the University Center.

The cost for each session is $39, which covers the cost of the wine.

The courses, catering to those 21 and older, are valuable for people who enjoy wine and want to learn more about it, Murphy said.

O’Neill’s shop, which opened in 2006, has wine tastings scheduled every Wednesday night, when indulgers pay $5 to sample the best of more than 400 wines, he said.

His shop was offering in-house classes, but it has temporarily stopped.

“The popularity of [the classes] at UNF really picked up,” he said. “I also have this day job, so I’m now referring everyone over to UNF. It’s been successful, and you can’t beat a class you can drink in.”

E-mail Sarah Gojekian at [email protected].

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