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Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture

From Great Minds Come Great Wines

Published Date: Jun 6, 2017 3:00:00 PM

Horsehill Vineyards Wins Gold Medal at L.A. Wine Competition

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Cal Poly Pomona’s latest Horsehill Vineyards vintage, a 2016 Zinfandel rosé, received Gold Medal recognition at the 2017 Los Angeles International Wine Competition.

The annual event showcases the finest domestic and international vintages and is widely considered one of the most prestigious in the country. This year, 3,002 wines were received from 990 producers in 17 countries, and 661 submissions received Gold Medals.

"The wine exudes a beautiful color with aromas that exhibit fresh strawberries, white flowers, and watermelon and pleases the palate with juicy acidity and a lingering finish," the judges wrote in their remarks on the Horsehill Vineyards entry. 

Horsehill Vineyards is a partnership between Cal Poly Pomona’s Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture, The Collins College of Hospitality Management and South Coast Winery.

The Zinfandel grapes are grown at the university’s on-campus vineyards with Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture students involved in all aspects of grape production and harvesting. Some of the vines provide a link to the Inland Empire’s once-booming wine industry: cuttings were donated by third-generation vintner Don Galleano from the historic De Ambrio Ranch in Rancho Cucamonga. Duarte Nursery in the Central Valley supplied vines for the Huntley Vineyard and AGRIscapes. The wine is bottled and produced by South Coast Winery in Temecula and then delivered to Cal Poly Pomona to be marketed and sold by students of The Collins College of Hospitality Management and the Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch.

Staying true to Cal Poly Pomona’s learn by doing mantra, the entire project is very hands-on. The plant science program helps students understand the science behind the work they perform in the vineyards, and the hospitality management program teaches students the business side of the wine industry. 

“Understanding the science allows for us to not only obtain quality fruit one season, but to create a program in the field that will allow us to harvest quality grapes season after season,” says plant science student Mario Escobar, who works in the university’s Huntley Vineyard, pruning the vines, thinning the shoots and maintaining the irrigation system.

“There are similarities with the other crops that we grow in terms of plant health and from a horticultural perspective,” says David Matias, Cal Poly Pomona’s farm manager. “But grapes need a unique set of growing conditions, and there are techniques in vine-tying and training that are unique to grapes. It’s very hands on and intensive.”

Students, faculty and staff joined forces to harvest the grapes early one morning last summer. The bulk of the grapes came from the Huntley Vineyard on the northeast portion of campus. The students then got to observe the wine-making process as the grapes were loaded into the crusher at South Coast Winery and the juice was moved into tanks for aging. 

"The grapes were lightly pressed to capture a vibrant pink color, all the while extracting the delicate cherry and strawberry fruit characters that give Zinfandel its signature personality," says Professor Margie Ferree Jones, The Collins College's wine expert. "The beautiful color is accentuated with a crisp finish and balanced with just a kiss of fruitiness ~ certainly an invitation for that second and third sip. Try this wine with ceviche, pizza or barbecued chicken."

The rosé is poured and sold by the bottle at The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch, which is managed and operated by students of The Collins College of Hospitality Management, and at the university’s Farm Store.

“We are excited to present and pour or own wine at Cal Poly Pomona,” says hospitality management student Rachel Watts. “Guests are always eager to taste the fruits of our labor.”

The Huntley College of Agriculture did a second harvest in mid-September. The wine from that harvest is still aging at South Coast Winery; it is expected to produce a darker, red zinfandel wine that will be on sale next year, Matias said.