Deep in the Soil

Photo by Chris Leschinsky
Cal Poly benefits from the generous support of winery owners across the state, including Jerry Lohr (above).

Wineries across the state work closely with Cal Poly to build Learn by Doing opportunities for students by hiring student interns, serving as mentors, and providing generous support for programs and scholarships. These wineries, owned by Cal Poly alumni and supporters, are helping prepare students for careers in wine and viticulture — and beyond.

Tamber Bey Vineyards, Calistoga
Alumnus Barry Waitte (Business Administration, ’79) owns Napa Valley’s Sundance Ranch. The ranch is home to both an equestrian performance facility and Tamber Bey Vineyards, producing world-class cabernet sauvignon, merlot and Dijon chardonnay. Waitte has been an executive-in-residence at Cal Poly, mentoring students in the Orfalea College of Business.

Alpha Omega Winery, Rutherford
Cal Poly sports fans will recognize Robin Baggett (Business Administration, ’73), owner of Alpha Omega Winery. The former Mustang baseball star is a member of Cal Poly’s Hall of Fame and has been a generous supporter of Mustang Athletics for years. Cal Poly’s Baggett Field is named in his honor, and in 2013 he and his wife, Michelle, donated Chase, Cal Poly’s first live mustang mascot.

Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford
Alumnus Bruce Cakebread (Fruit Science, ’76), president of Cakebread Cellars, continues as part of his family’s second generation in the Napa Valley wine industry. The winery is certified green and has made continuous efforts to research new techniques for generating and conserving energy at its 11 vineyards.

E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto
E&J Gallo Winery is the world’s largest exporter of California wine and the world’s largest family-owned winery. It also has deep ties to the Central Coast — especially Cal Poly. For more than 15 years, Gallo has partnered with the university’s viticulture program, establishing an on-campus vineyard that offers students hands-on learning opportunities. Several members of the family are Cal Poly alumni, and in 2011, Gallo added to its Central Coast presence by purchasing San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley Vineyard.

J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Paso Robles
Jerry Lohr, owner of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, has been a key supporter of Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program, both as an advisor and through his generous gifts toward a new research center on campus. His own vineyards in Monterey, Napa Valley and Paso Robles frequently employ Cal Poly students and alumni.

Biddle Ranch Vineyard, San Luis Obispo
The founders of Biddle Ranch Vineyard include three Cal Poly families: Mark and Patricia Woolpert (Mechanical Engineering, ‘72 and Home Economics, ‘82), Led and Anne Fortini (Industrial Technology, ‘67 and Home Economics, ‘68) and John Ronca (Business Administration, ‘75) and his wife, Tracy. Its location in the heart of the Edna Valley offers the optimal conditions for creating rich and fruit-forward wines.

Niven Family Wine Estates, San Luis Obispo
For eight years between 2006 and 2014, Cal Poly students worked under the guidance of winemakers at Niven Family Wine Estates to develop and sell Cal Poly Wines.

Center of Effort, Arroyo Grande
In addition to producing delicious pinot noir and chardonnay wines, alumni and co-owners Bill Swanson (Industrial Engineering, ’73) and Rob Rossi (Architecture, ’75) serve as special advisors to Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong as members of the President’s Cabinet. Swanson also serves as chair of the Cal Poly Foundation Board.

Talley Vineyards, Arroyo Grande
Talley Vineyards holds a unique place in the history of wine and viticulture education at Cal Poly. The family vineyard is currently owned and managed by Brian and Johnine Talley (Agricultural Business, ’88). Her senior research project helped lay the foundation for the wine and viticulture program Cal Poly students enjoy today. The family’s partnership with the university, however, traces back even further. First-generation vintner Don and Rosemary Talley, who produced their first wine on the Central Coast in 1986, began supporting Cal Poly in the 1990s.

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