Catch up on the latest updates from the Wine and Viticulture Department at Cal Poly.
Wine and viticulture student Justin Trabue in Australia.
Exploring Wine and Viticulture Away from Home

Many of Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture students past and present spend their time abroad, furthering their studies, and immersing themselves in new cultures.

“Exposure to a new culture, possibly a new language, economy and labor force, winemaking philosophy, and environmental factors all force students to adapt and grow,” said Adrienne Ferrara, lecturer in the Wine and Viticulture Department. “The ability to taste different wines also helps students avoid developing a house or regional palette. They can really begin to develop a global palette.”

Check out some of their stories and more news from the Wine and Viticulture Department below.

More from Cal Poly's Wine and Viticulture Department
Alex Baer (Wine and Viticulture, '14) in the vineyards of Petrus in France.

Alex Baer, France

Wine and Viticulture (Enology), '14

Alex Baer began his international adventure while still in his hometown of Paso Robles, Calif. It was there that he met French winemaker Guillaume Fabre, who has been living on the Central Coast for the last decade.

Baer worked one-on-one with Fabre at Clos Solene, a small winery in Paso Robles. "I loved the work atmosphere and I saw myself settling there. But toward the end of harvest, Fabre planted the idea in my head to work in France, and I went to work at Petrus, where Fabre had family. What I learned while working at Petrus is to pay attention to detail. The winery spares no expense to ensure that the highest quality product is produced. To see firsthand how that is accomplished is the biggest benefit of this experience."

Kenny Straus (Wine and Viticulture, '16) enjoys a glass of Torrontes after work.

Kenny Straus, Argentina

Wine and Viticulture (Enology), '16

Kenny Straus traveled to Argentina to improve his Spanish while studying wine. There he worked at Viña Cobos Winery under well-known winemaker Paul Hobbs, originally of Napa Valley.

"I was able to participate in all aspects of wine production, including sanitation, pump overs, barrel work, racking, analysis and tasting. Every day was different, but the best part was that I was forced to speak Spanish because very few of my colleagues spoke English," said Straus. "The winemaking process is very similar all over the world, so what I learned abroad was how to be out of my comfort zone. I was in an all-Spanish-speaking community with very basic Spanish knowledge, and that really accelerated my ability to learn the language. I was also able to taste and become familiar with grape varietals that are not as common in the U.S., such as malbec, torrontes and bonarda."

Grace Kegel (Wine and Viticulture, '11) feeds the destemmer at Mullineux Family Wines in South Africa.

Grace Kegel, South Africa

Wine and Viticulture (Wine Business), '11

Grace Kegel was looking to gain hands-on experience working with chenin blanc — so she sought an internship in South Africa, the world’s leading producer of chenin blanc. Once there, she worked for the Mullineux Family Wines in the Swartland region of South Africa. She was involved with daily fruit processing by hand, pump overs, punch downs and calculating sugar and temperatures.

“Like most harvest jobs abroad, the day-to-day experience is what we expect in winery production,” said Kegel. “The intrinsic value of interning abroad is limitless. Especially for young, green and eager students with little winery production experience, working abroad can be eye-opening, exciting and inspiring. In my travels, I met fellow winemakers and interns who are now friends and connections in wine-growing countries all over the world.”

Marin Wolgamott in the barrel room of Sunshine Ceek in Australia.

Marin Wolgamott, Australia

Wine and Viticulture (Enology), '14

Marin Wolgamott spent her summer in Australia, working the harvest at Sunshine Creek Vineyard in the Yarra Valley, about an hour outside of Melbourne. She was one of four people doing the hands-on work at the small winery, including working with cloned varietals that she had not yet learned about.

“I enjoyed learning about their different fruit characteristics during the harvest and fermentation process,” said Wolgamott. “I highly recommend that other students studying wine and viticulture choose to intern abroad. Traveling to a new country opens your eyes to not only a whole new lifestyle and the diversity of people, but also to efficiencies in the wine-making process.

Federico Casassa checks on macerated Pinot Noir fruit.
Current Research in Wine and Viticulture

Frederico Casassa, assistant professor of enology at Cal Poly, is immersed in several research projects that include partnerships with industry supporters. One such project with Chamisal Vineyards in San Luis Obispo, Calif., is studying the effect of whole cluster fermentations and dry stem additions to pinot noir from the Edna Valley and the effect of cluster thinning at selected phenological states on the chemistry and sensory properties of pinot noir. Cal Poly senior Maggie Thompson is assisting with the research for her senior project. Other research underway by Casassa includes the wine matrix effects on tannin extraction and retention into pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon wines, berry size and wine quality, and the sensory impact of the co-fermentation of Rhone grape varieties from select Central Coast areas.

Wine and viticulture students and faculty pose for a photo during spring commencement.
By the Numbers: A Look at the Wine and Viticulture Department
Statistics from the Wine and Viticulture Department.
Wine and Viticulture Department Head, Benoit Lecat.
News From our Department Head

It was an active summer for Wine and Viticulture Department Head Benoit Lecat. Lecat, who joined Cal Poly last October, traveled the globe to attend professional conferences, further develop internationalization for the department, and learn about spirits production for a future distillery project on campus. Highlights from his travels include presenting research at the 2016 Global Marketing Conference in Hong Kong and the 10th annual conference of American Association of Wine Economists in Bordeaux, France. In addition, department faculty and staff participated in industry outreach events in Napa-Sonoma and Lodi, Calif. The professional development, outreach and internationalization efforts led by Lecat are helping the department move forward in four key areas.

Read More About the Department's Four-Point Growth Plan

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