Behind the scenes: Cal Poly’s sold out wine

For the last four weeks of this quarter, we begged the question of why Cal Poly wine had been sold out. After finishing our third senior project, one of our members, Lauren Goff, had brought up the question once again. So, for our final project, we decided to tackle the news story of Cal Poly wine.

A Cal Poly wine barrel in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo
A Cal Poly wine barrel in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo has one of the biggest wine & viticulture programs in the country. When we noticed that Cal Poly Wine was currently sold out; we started working to find out why. Our research led us to find out that in 2010, Mustang News published an article on Cal Poly wine winning awards at the Orange County Commercial Wine Competition in Costa Mesa. After that, there was no further lead on the topic.

I emailed Adrienne Ferraro and Federico Casassa to find more information on the topic. Ferraro is the Cal Poly wine brand manager and Casassa is an assistant professor on enology. This is where we faced a huge challenge. We had to try and set interviews before Thanksgiving week. Most of our sources were either going to be busy or going out of town since classes were not going to be in session. Unfortunately, we were not able to schedule interviews before the holiday week.

The bottling process of Cal Poly wine in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo
The bottling process of Cal Poly wine in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo

The following week we managed to interview Ferraro, Casassa and check out the pilot winery. We were able to see students in action at the pilot center. “I’m really happy we were invited to view a student bottling because it gave us great content and showed us learn by doing action through wine and vit[iculture],” said Multimedia group member, Andi DiMatteo.

We discovered that there is a student wine and a commercial wine. The commercial wine is the one that is currently sold out. The difference between the two is that the commercial wine is sold out and there are students involved but not as much like in the student wine. The commercial wine is bottled and labeled by a machine. There is a company that produces this wide manufacture.

Print group member, Jordan Hanna, interviewing Federico Casassa in his office on November 28, 2017.

Casassa mentioned how students are very involved in the student wine production. From crushing grapes to bottling and labeling the wine. Broadcast group member, Lauren Goff, was excited about having the opportunity to see students creating wine and bottling it. “This project was really cool getting to see Cal Poly students participate in a true learn by doing experience,” said Goff.

All of the people we contacted in the department were helpful and informative. The department head of wine & viticulture, Dr. Benoit Lecat, provided us with the program’s newsletter. That really helped us in learning more about the program. Learning about the program was a great experience for Print group member, Jordan Hanna. “I really enjoyed learning about the department and all the teachers were so helpful with writing the story,” said Hanna.
We ended up finding out that there was a recent virus in the vineyards and it infected the grapes. Since they mostly rely on donated grapes, it’s been difficult.  So, that is one of the reasons for the lack of Cal Poly wine produced. They are currently in the process of making more wine within the next two weeks. About 2,500 cases are going to be made for the upcoming year.