Photo by Jennifer Olson

Throughout the state of California and beyond, Cal Poly alumni are making names for themselves and their wine brands, garnering praise and awards for their efforts, and earning legions of loyal fans along the way. Here we profile a handful of remarkable head winemakers — from restrained traditionalists to rebellious renegades to would-be cattle rustlers — and ask them about their favorite offerings.

(Click on a bottle to scroll)


Anthony Yount
Agribusiness and Wine & Viticulture, ’07
1 Denner Vineyards, Paso Robles

Favorite wine:
Grenache. It represents the vineyard site so well. It can be very fruity, spicy or floral depending on where it’s grown, but it always speaks to me.

Describe your approach to winemaking:
“Lazy”-faire. I am fortunate to work with an incredible vineyard manager (Aron Navarez), so my style is to not mess up his hard work. I want the wines to express their time and place but also have personality and character. I think that comes from stepping back and letting them evolve on their own. Some people may call that lazy, but it sure is hard work.

Best part about being a winemaker?
Winemaking is constant problem-solving. You always have to think on your feet.

If you were not making wine, what would you be doing?
Cattle rustling.


Coby Parker-Garcia
Agribusiness, ’02
4 Claiborne & Churchill Vintners, Edna Valley

Favorite wine:
Pinot noir. It is a very elegant red wine — not a lot of tannins. It’s very approachable. It has everything: fruit, earth, spice.

Our riesling won a gold medal at the 2001 Riesling du Monde, an international competition of the world’s best rieslings held in Alsace, France. It’s rare for a U.S.-produced wine to win gold. Our 2009 riesling and gewürztraminer earned 91 points in Wine Enthusiast’s 100-point rating system.

Best part about being a winemaker?
No two days are alike. I get to work in the cellar, process fruit, blend fruit, work in the vineyard. I deal with the science and the art of wine making.


Justin Smith
Ecology & Systematic Biology, ’93
3 Saxum Vineyards, Paso Robles

We have gotten a perfect score from Robert Parker and Wine of the Year from the Wine Spectator, both for our James Berry Vineyard bottling.

Best part about being a winemaker?
I love — among many things — the fact that we are creating something that brings so much joy to people’s lives.What major industry changes do you see in the future? It is growing by leaps and bounds. We are just starting to realize the potential for grapes and wine on the Central Coast.If you were not making wine, what would you be doing? I would be farming and cooking, a farm-to-table style chef … or I’d be a crime-fighting super hero.


Matt Trevisan
Biochemistry, ’95
6 Linne Calodo, Paso Robles

Favorite wine:
Grenache. There’s a brightness to the fruit and a healthy acidity. It can be made in a variety of styles. Everything I make is a blend. There is more intrigue in blends. You can change things, make them better.

Best part about being a winemaker?
I love watching the seasons change. I love the tempo of winemaking. It starts when we prune, in early to mid-winter. In the spring, the vines break bud and then flower. When the temperatures rise, it’s time to harvest. The tempo changes; it picks up speed, then it peaks. And it gradually slows down. When we put our last wine into a barrel, it’s a great feeling.

How did Cal Poly shape your work as a winemaker?
Cal Poly taught me to go after it … that there’s nothing I can’t do, whether it’s farming, fixing a tractor, or designing irrigation or wastewater systems. Learn by Doing gave me the confidence to give it a try.


Jeff Owens
Wine & Viticulture, ’05
2 Odette Estate, Napa Valley

Favorite wine:
Cabernet sauvignon. It possesses a wide array of flavors and aromatics, truly expressing the terroir of where it’s grown. The best examples contain multiple layers, density, focus, energy and tension, making it unlike any other. It has the potential to display extreme body yet never feel heavy, creating a rare combination of power and finesse.

My first wine, the 2012 Odette Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap, released this September, received 100 points from famed critic Robert Parker.Describe your approach to winemaking:
My main goal is to capture the terroir and “sense of place.” I believe wines should always speak to where they came from.

Best part about being a winemaker?
I love the challenge of a new vintage. Each year, Mother Nature gives you a new set of circumstances that you have to react to.

What attracted you to winemaking?
The intrigue of a lifetime of learning. I will spend my entire life learning about all things related to wine, only to realize how much more there is to learn.


Chip Forsythe
Wine & Viticulture, ’09
5 Rebel Coast Winery, Sonoma

Favorite wine:
I love our red blend, Reckless Love, a 50 percent Sonoma cabernet sauvignon and 50 percent Paso Robles syrah. It’s a textbook example of what a California blend should be. Imagine eating a dark cherry, a ripe raspberry, and an over-ripe cranberry all at the same time.

How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
Wine is meant to be fun and enjoyed, not intimidating to consumers. We make wines that are easy to pronounce and fun to share, like our Sunday Funday white blend. New winery owners cannot afford to sit on inventory for years while the wine matures in the bottle or barrel. Our wines are made to be ready to drink as soon as possible.If you were not making wine, what would you be doing? I would be working with my brother, A.J. (Psychology, ’11), building his company, iCracked.

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