The Prized-Lineage of Horsehill Vineyards
In 2001, Don Galleano combed the fields in Rancho Cucamonga and selected 400 grapevine cuttings, some of them nearly 100 years old, from the De Ambrogio Ranch vineyard just before it was razed for development. The third-generation vintner operates the Galleano Winery in Mira Loma and Galleano Enterprises, the largest shipper of grapes in Southern California.
“We wanted to take these prized cuttings from the De Ambrogio Ranch, which represents a lot of the history of the Cucamonga Valley, and preserve them for future generations,” says Galleano.
The Cucamonga Valley's grape-growing history dates back to the mid-1800s – when settlers (and later, the De Ambrogio and Galleano families) recognized that the region's sandy soil and favorable climate would promise dependable harvests. At their peak in the 1940s, vineyards covered 40,000 acres of the valley floor. Due to eastward expansion and urbanization, only a handful of wineries remain.
The cuttings from De Ambrogio Ranch were potted in Cal Poly Pomona's nursery with the hope of maintaining a small piece of the Cucamonga Valley's rich wine-producing history. Today, the old-line Zinfandel vines, which have won multiple gold medals in international wine competitions, are part of the university's viniculture program preparing students for careers in one of California's leading industries.
Experiential Learning in a Bottle
“Grapes are the second-largest agricultural commodity in the state, and we didn't have a single grapevine on this campus,” says Dan Hostetler, chairman emeritus of the plant science department. “A lot of our students are getting jobs in viniculture or consulting to vineyards, and we wanted to create a hands-on lab in that area,” says Hostetler.
Each step of the way, students have done the bulk of the work in the vineyards, plowing the field, tending the cuttings in the nursery and grafting them to the roots, cultivating and harvesting the grapes.
The university’s grapes are delivered to the winery, where Master winemaker and South Coast’s Director of Winemaking Jon McPherson oversees the actual winemaking process, bottling about 400 cases of each vintage for the university.
“Our intent was to produce wine, but also to look at developing programmatic options for the university as well,” recalled Small. “We ended up with something we were able to sell while also promoting The Collins College and the College of Agriculture.”