From Grape to Glass

Photo by Brittany App
Students learn the finer points of vine work from Cal Poly Professor Jean Dodson Peterson.

By Diego Abeloos

Two years ago, the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences (CAFES) grew its popular wine and viticulture program into a full academic department. Now the college is taking another step forward with the Center for Wine & Viticulture — a new state-of-the-art 22,000 square-foot facility designed to prepare Cal Poly students to become the innovative leaders of tomorrow’s wine industry.

Located on campus in the middle of the world-famous Central Coast wine region, the new center will offer students a comprehensive academic experience and connect them with real-world opportunities in the industry. A 2012 study by the Wine Institute notes that California produces 90 percent of all U.S. wine exports — a $61.5 billion impact on the state’s economy.

“There is a need for new talent in the wine industry, and that need will increase with even greater demand in the coming years,” says Marianne McGarry Wolf, interim head of the Wine & Viticulture Department.


An architectural concept of Cal Poly’s proposed Center for Wine & Viticulture.

The center will provide abundant Learn by Doing opportunities, featuring crush, fermentation, barrel, bottling and teaching facilities. Plans also call for sensory, enology and viticulture teaching labs. All told, the new facility will allow for a three-pronged educational approach in grape growing, winemaking, and marketing and distribution.

Several partnership opportunities are available, including the naming of the center. Current partners include renowned winemaker Jerry Lohr, who has generously contributed $1 million to the project.

“The graduates that come out of Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program have been invaluable to our company,” says Lohr. “With the dramatic growth of the industry, and the high quality of Cal Poly students, I am pleased to lead the industry support of the university’s new center for education and research.” 

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