By Justin Velasco
Cal Poly may not have the cultural cachet of the Napa Valley or
the romantic appeal of the Burgundy region of France, but it proved
its Horsehill Vineyards can produce wine with the best of them at
the 70th Annual Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits
Competition held in May.
Horsehill Vineyards’ two wines received four awards, including
gold, at the competition, which was held at the Fairplex in
The Zinfandel Rose swept its category, receiving the gold, best
of class and best of division for pink, blush and rose wines.
The Zinfandel won a bronze medal for limited production wines.
The awards were especially notable because these were the first
wines that Cal Poly has produced.
The win also means the wines will be available for public
tasting at the Los Angeles County Fair, which runs until Oct.
Horsehill Vineyards was first conceived in 2003 when Don
Galleano, a fourth-generation wine maker from Mira Loma, rescued
around 400 of the best vines from the historic De Ambrogio Ranch in
Rancho Cucamonga, which was slated for development as a shopping
center. Some of these vines were nearly 100 years old.
Galleano donated most of the vines to Cal Poly, where they were
planted on a hill behind the Farm Store, and on the slope below the
Collins College along University Drive. He gave the remainder of
the rescued vines to UC Davis for research.
The vineyard has progressed as a joint venture of the College of
Agriculture and the Collins College, with Bob Small, the former
dean of the college, Collins Professor Margie Jones, and Paul
Nurre, a second-year graduate student in the College of Agriculture
providing the driving force behind the project.
Nurre, who is studying plant science and technology, said he has
been a grape and wine enthusiast for some time, but his interest in
the field was cemented by working for his relatives at their winery
in the summer of 2004.
Nurre said the awards were surprising, but only because he went
into the competition with no expectations.
“Seeing our product in a bottle was enough for me,” he said.
“[Winning the awards] was the icing on the cake.”
While the grapes are grown on the Cal Poly campus, the
university lacks the facilities to convert them into wine. After
being harvested, the grapes are shuttled to the South Coast Winery
in Temecula, where wine maker John McPherson takes charge of the
McPherson developed a working relationship with Cal Poly by
allowing students from the Collins College’s Wine and Spirits
course to tour his winery three times a year.
Dean of the Collins College Andy Feinstein said he is really
proud of what everyone involved in the project has achieved.
“This is all about collaboration,” he said. “We take the mission
of learn by doing very seriously.”
Feinstein said there are no plans at this time to expand the
vineyard or add any other varietals of grapes, but hopes to add a
sparkling Zinfandel Rose to their production for next year.
“The rose was obviously a huge hit,” he said. “It’s an
approachable grape that people really like.”
Both wines are available for purchase at the Restaurant at
Kellogg Ranch. The rose sells for $14 per bottle and the Zinfandel
retails for $20 per bottle.
Proceeds from the sales fund the continued operation of the
vineyard and a culinary garden, which supplies the restaurant with
fresh vegetables and herbs for use in its kitchen.
Reach Justin Velasco at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Rosales/Poly Post
Horsehill Vineyards’ wine receives top honors
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