Cal Poly News

Alumni Pledge $1.2 Million Toward Wine and Viticulture Center 

By AnnMarie Cornejo

Photo by Jean Paul Molyneux
Troy and Basia Gillespie (center and right) visiting the Cal Poly vineyards with their daughter, Courtney (left).

Alumni Troy and Basia Gillespie (both Business Administration, ’85) have been in the agriculture industry for generations. “We know the value of viticulture and want to invest in its future because it is so important that students go down that path,” said Troy Gillespie. “Cal Poly’s hands-on style of teaching is invaluable to the future of the industry.”

That’s why they recently decided to put their support behind the next phase of development of Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program, with a $1.2 million pledge to the new Center for Wine and Viticulture. The gift will help fund a new viticulture lab that is planned as part of the center.

The pledge isn’t the only way the couple has expressed their confidence in Cal Poly. Their daughter, Courtney, is a wine and viticulture senior at Cal Poly. Their son, Austin, is studying business at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

The Center for Wine and Viticulture will feature a commercial-grade, bonded winery and learning facility that will provide students a holistic understanding of the wine and viticulture industries — from growing the grapes and making the wines to marketing and distributing the finished product.

The facility will include crush, fermentation, bottling and barrel rooms, plus teaching and meeting facilities. There will also be sensory, enology and viticulture teaching labs and commercial and catering kitchens. A grange hall will offer university and public meeting spaces, and serve as a gathering place for the Central Coast wine industry.

“The Cal Poly Center for Wine and Viticulture will be a model for the hands-on learning for which Cal Poly is known,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “With the visionary support of generous individuals and families like the Gillespies, we will soon have a world-class facility for teaching the next generation of wine professionals.”

The center will complement the university’s existing 14-acre teaching and commercial vineyard that produces chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah and tempranillo grapes. Construction is expected to begin within the next couple of years.

The Center for Wine and Viticulture is part of the college’s overall vision of a fermentation sciences institute, which will eventually include a brewery, oil processing facilities, and pharmaceutical development processes.

“We are stepping forward and putting our pledge down in the hope of inspiring others to do the same,” Gillespie said. “This is our way of shepherding the dream to a reality.”

To join the effort in taking the next big step for Cal Poly’s Center for Wine and Viticulture, contact Grant Kirkpatrick, senior director of development, at 805-756-2173 or

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