The Future of Making Wine at Cal Poly

Getting to learn about making wine with the Wine and Viticulture department was an incredibly rewarding experience that brought all of us an incredible new perspective of Learn by Doing. We all learned a lot about the process of wine making from Jim Schumate, who was kind enough to show us where Cal Poly students make wine. He gave us a “grand tour” of the “winery” on campus. The quotes are there because the winery is a converted storage area that now houses various pieces of equipment used for the wine making process. All this equipment, according to Schumate, is donated from various wineries in order to help Cal Poly students be ready to work in the industry when they get hired. “I was surprised to learn just how much of the departments equipment was donated to them,” said Evan Van Beek. We were all really impressed and blown away with all that students in the Wine and Viticulture department are able to do by the time they graduate.

We had a few ideas of specific subjects that we wanted to focus on and really hone in on with our interviews. We wanted to learn more about the Cal Poly Wines, students making them as part of their senior projects, and the new buildings being built for the Wine and Viticulture department. We ended up learning a lot more about each of these sub-topics than we expected and that they all related a ton. As a group, we found that because they all related, we can integrate all these into our story and give the readers a real nice overall view of the Wine and Viticulture department of the present and future.

Schumate told us about a three part series of classes that Wine and Viticulture students can take that focus entirely on wine making. Over three quarters, students do every step of the wine making process and end taking home a bottle of wine that they made themselves. The type of wine they want to make is up to them, so the students get the creative freedom to create the kind of wine they want to make. We even got a look at wines that were made for research purposes; the faculty member in charge of that, Federico Casassa, was kind enough to meet with us and show us a lab that is exclusive to Wine and Viticulture students who are working with him on his research of wines.

Casassa believes the new facility being built for the Wine and Viticulture department will be extremely beneficial for a variety of reasons. It will give students a better place to make wines and allow for a greater expansion of Learn by Doing. Getting a good look at what Learn by Doing means for students in Wine and Viticulture was fun to compare to what we consider Learn by Doing in Journalism. Lauren Arendt felt this to be especially true: “It was really cool to get out of the JOUR department and experience Learn by Doing in another major.” While we were all tempted to change our majors with just a few short weeks left in our undergrad careers, we won’t be doing so. Anna George sums this up best when saying that Journalism is cool “because I get to learn about cool majors without having to take math or science.”