Fresno State Winery’s 10th anniversary was celebrated on Dec. 5, 2008, with the release of a wine commemorating the 10th vintage honoring professor emeritus Dr. Carlos Muller, who helped establish the California State University, Fresno viticulture and enology program.
The 10th anniversary wine, a 100 percent Syrah harvested from Fresno State vineyards in 2007, was released at an event at the winery. The new wine will sell for $24.95 a bottle.
The anniversary was first observed in 2007, marking 10 years since Fresno State received commercial bonding for its winery, the first such operation on a United States university campus.
With students actively involved in all aspects of production and marketing, the program sells 27 wines and one vinegar. The winery produces approximately 10,000 cases (120,000 bottles) per year. The wines have won more than 200 awards in prestigious competitions with other commercial wines.
Muller is honored as one of the visionary individuals who made the winery possible, said Dr. Robert Wample, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology and director of the Viticulture and Enology Research Center. Muller directed the enology program and was a professor of enology.
“Dr. Muller is credited by many as being the individual driving force behind making the Fresno State Winery a reality,” Wample said.
Among the many guests and former students returning to Fresno State to honor their mentor was Greg Stach, assistant winemaker for Landmark Winery and Vineyards in Kenwood. He and another Fresno State enology alum, Eric Stern, Landmark’s winemaker, created the Damaris Reserve (2006) Chardonnay that was selected and served for the G-20 Summit State Dinner held at The White House in November. The dinner, hosted by President George W. Bush, was attended by the leaders of nearly 20 nations.
“This kind of success among our alumni is a testament to Fresno State’s viticulture and enology program and especially to faculty like Dr. Muller,” Wample said. “It is very significant that many former students will be returning to honor him with us.”
Fresno State viticulture and enology programs have served students since 1948 through several departments before today’s Department of Viticulture and Enology was officially established in 2000 to offer undergraduate degrees in both fields. It became the first university in the California State University system to combine research and academic offerings in viticulture and enology.
By 2003, the CSU approved a master’s degree in viticulture and enology.
Fresno State’s enology program operated with an experimental winery until 1997, when it received its commercial bond and crushed its first commercial vintage. The winery was built with $10 million in state funds and donations. In 2001, the 1,600-square foot World Cooperage Barrel House was dedicated, for aging in Hungarian, European and American oak barrels.
University Winemaster Kenneth Fugelsang, who joined the Fresno State faculty in 1972, has earned international acclaim for his expertise, including the 2007 Prix de l’OIV Award from the International Office of the Vine and Wine in Paris.
Winemaker John Giannini graduated in 1999 from the Fresno State enology program and worked at Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol and Wild Horse Winery in Templeton before joining the university winery staff in 2004 and is responsible for all winery related business including production and sale inquiries along with Marketing Manager Jessup Wiley.
As part of the university’s connection with the region, the Fresno State Winery works with growers throughout the San Joaquin Valley. An example is the Fresno State wine that has won the most awards is the 1999 California Barbera from the Duarte Nursery Linden Hills Vineyard in San Joaquin County. Its top award was Best of Class in California at the 2001 California State Fair.
Fresno State received a double gold award from the California State Fair Wine Competition for the 1998 Shiraz, produced from grapes grown in campus vineyards, and for 2001 Muscat Canelli, made from grapes harvested in the John Diener Vineyards of western Fresno County.
In its 10th anniversary year, the Fresno State Winery netted 32 prizes at eight competitions including one Best of Class, two double gold and three gold medals, 14 silvers and four bronzes.
“Fresno State, in partnership with San Joaquin Valley wine grape growers, continues to receive top awards at various wine competitions, reinforcing the Central Valley’s status as a producer of top wines in the state and the world,” said winemaster Fugelsang.
The winery produces two “special” wines. Its Nouveau-style wines have gone through carbonic maceration and are released the third Thursday in November, just after harvest, following the French tradition. An ice-wine style dessert wine, Solaré, is made from grapes frozen in a walk-in freezer before fermentation.
The winery, the viticulture and enology programs and Fresno State winemaking graduates have received coverage in local, state and national, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunset Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, ESPN and PBS’s “California Heartland.”
Fresno State Wine is sold through the Gibson Farm Market on campus and several Valley retailers. The wine also is available online at FresnoStateWinery.com, which has a list of retailers carrying the student wine.
Fresno State Wine tastings are held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at the Farm Market.
For more information, contact Jessup Wiley at 559.278.WINE or [email protected].