Despite starting a wine and viticulture major just three years ago, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is well on its way to becoming a national academic leader in the wine industry.
This fall, Cal Poly released its first student-made wine – from the 2006 harvest – and is planning a large public release homecoming weekend Nov. 8.
Led by two student winemakers – Kathryn Allegra and Luke Holcombe – Cal Poly students produced three varietals from the 2006 vintage from start to finish: a chardonnay, pinot noir and “Mustang Red,” which is a blend of zinfandel and syrah. As far as anyone I spoke to knows, Cal Poly’s wine is the only entirely student-made wine in California. It is challenged only by Fresno State University, which also produces wine under the university’s label, but its program is led by a team of professional winemakers.
“In my experience, this industry is so supportive of Cal Poly and this area and so eager to work with and hire Cal Poly students that it’s just hard to anticipate anything but an amazing success,” Allegra said of the program. Allegra was one of the first wine and viticulture graduates in 2006 and is now the lab manager at Orcutt Road Cellars in San Luis Obispo.