January 31, 2013
By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
When you visit a wine shop, you won’t see a whole lot of varietals boasting they come from Fresno. But you may see more vintners being trained there.
Officials with California State University Fresno are set to announce in a few weeks a $1 million donation to Fresno State Vineyards, which is run by the university’s Department of Viticulture and Enology.
Fiscal year funding to the university from the state, “doesn’t promote efficiency and what we want to teach our students,” said Jim Kennedy, the chair of that department. The additional money, spent over the next 10 years, will allow students to learn in an environment that feels and has the pressures of a business. The name of the donor is secret for now, Kennedy said, and it’s a well known name in California’s wine making industry.
More modern facilities for bottling are planned, Kennedy said, as well as replanting of the 120 acres of teaching vineyards. Year after year, winemakers experiment with wine varieties, in response to the changing and voracious taste for California wine. And that’s what the university should offer, he said.
Fresno State is one of only two universities in the nation with a stand-alone winemaking department. UC Davis has the other.
Cal State Fresno graduates several dozen students. They work as vineyard managers and winemakers in both mom and pop businesses and massive operations. Kennedy said those jobs pay from $60,000 to over $100,000 for hot-shot winemakers.