• Students have been successfully putting on Wine Festival for the past 10 years

  • Wine Festival is a huge contributor to the Wine and Viticulture program

  • The two-day event benefits Wine and Viticulture students looking to break into the wine industry after graduation


Over the past decade, Cal Poly Wine Festival has been attracting wine enthusiasts to the heart of the Central Coast. At Margarita Vineyards, home of Ancient Peaks Winery in Santa Margarita, students, alumni, and many other California wine lovers, flock to see one of the only wine festivals organized and produced by a student run committee.  This year marks the 10th anniversary of Cal Poly Wine Festival, also known as Wine Fest, as committee members continue to make the festival a success on the Central Coast.

The executive board, made up of around 10 students, begins planning for the event as early as September. Each student is in charge of a smaller committee to help divvy up necessary tasks in order to put on festival. “I first heard of Wine Fest during a meeting for Cal Poly’s Vines to Wines club,” explained Clayton Williams, senior Wine and Viticulture major and President of the Wine Fest committee. “I had general interest in the festival because of my major, but also knew that running an event like this would help me develop stronger leadership skills and gain a better knowledge of how an event works, both crucial for my future career.”

Even though at times planning is stressful, committee members are always pleased with the end result. Liza Jaros, senior Wine and Viticulture major and Brand Manager of Wine Fest describes it as her favorite part of the whole weekend. “At the end of Wine Fest, it’s so rewarding seeing people have a great time at something you helped create. We spent a lot of time planning it and put in a lot of hours, and the fact that people are enjoying something you contributed so much to is a great feeling.”

Wine Fest is an important event to help get the word out about Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture program, which continues to reap the benefits of the festival. “Last year it brought in a lot of money to the department. When the event goes well, more alumni are willing to support the program,” explains Sophia Cappa, senior Wine and Viticulture major and Communications Officer for Wine Fest. “[Wine Fest] also shows the local industry how the department continues to implement the ‘Learn by Doing’ motto,” adds Williams. “To start an event like this at a student level, which revenue’s around $70,000, shows how our program goes above and beyond.”

This year’s Wine Fest is focused around celebrating “A Decade in Wine”, the theme of the weekend. Wine Fest has been around longer than the Wine and Viticulture major at Cal Poly and it’s a great event that continues to benefit both alumni and students. “It’s an event that gives off the spirit of Cal Poly,” explains Jaros. “It gives alumni a reason to come back and connect with the school while having a good time.” What’s different about the 10th anniversary of Wine Fest is that they’re aiming to change the way people think about the festival as a whole. “Wine Fest may be preconceived as a party where people drink as much wine as possible to get drunk, however, it’s more valuable to find out what you are drinking and see if your palate can recognize the variations of wines,” states Williams. “If more people come with that mentality, they’ll get a lot more out of it than a headache the next day.”

The two day weekend festival features the following events:

Educational Seminar

Every Friday before Wine Fest, there is an Education Seminar that highlights trending issues in the wine industry. Since this year marks the 10th anniversary of Wine Fest, the Educational Seminar will feature a presentation that examines a vintage wine over the last 10 years. There will be 10 different flights of the same wine, from different years, and attendees will be able to learn about and taste the wines through the decade.

Kickoff Barbecue

The Kickoff Barbecue takes place right after the educational seminar on Friday night. This barbecue is a place where people can go to mingle and get a taste of what’s to come the following day at the actual festival. At this event, many students and alumni gather to network and talk about their shared love of wine.

Wine Festival

The Wine Festival is the most popular event of the weekend. Usually always sold out, it will most likely draw a crowd of over 1,200 people. Attendees are given a class upon admission and have the opportunity to walk around festival tasting wine and food from over 60 wineries and restaurants surrounding the Central Coast.