Sep 17, 2019

Fresno State’s award-winning wine

Many of the Fresno State Winery’s award-winning wines were displayed at the winery’s 10-year anniversary on Nov. 3. 'Tailgate Red is our most popular wine,' marketing manager Jessup Wiley said. 'It’s a local favorite and people love to support the university.'
File photo / The Collegian

An array of orange, blue, yellow, pink and red ribbons are displayed behind a glass case. Articles with large font reading “Best of Class” and “Best of Region” line the four walls; this is the Fresno State University’s winery.

“There’s over 200 medals … we need a new case,” said Jessup Wiley, marketing manager for the university’s winery. “Just four weeks ago we won an award.”

The winery is the first of its kind, priding itself on being the first academic-based winery in the nation. Fresno State’s winery is the only university-owned winery that has a license to sell and bottle its wines. According to Wiley, who specializes in public relations, external marketing and enterprising products, Fresno State is the only one of this magnitude.

The students are the ones who do all the work to make this wine worthy of the shelves. Students sort grapes, bottle, blend, distill and taste the wine to make sure it meets the universty’s high standards of quality.

No one person is more important than the next. The students work as a team to create the university’s awarding winning wines.

According to Wiley, there are about 30 to 35 students who work in the wine program; three are employed workers. The student staff also includes five volunteers.

The university competes as a whole unit in wine competitions across the county. The students’ hard work pays off in the end, as shown in the winery’s trophy-heavy display case

In 1991, the winery started out with their Perruci vintage named after Vincent Perruci, a professor at the university who founded the program more than years later, the university’s winery offers about 20 different wines, selling roughly 12 to 15 cases per wine per year, according to Wiley.

John Jennini, who oversees the university’s wine program, is in charge of wine making, production managing and label approval, among other tasks.

“I kind of run the winery,” Jennini said. After eight years of hands on experience, a degree in nutrition and surviving four harvests, Jennini is knowledgeable about wines and the wine making process.

“I don’t love the paperwork, the rest I love … it’s very exciting for me. It’s a fun job,” said Jennini.

“Tailgate Red is our most popular wine,” said Wiley. “It’s a local favorite and people love to support the university.”

Tailgate Red sold 22 cases this last year. Gallo Sales distributes the university’s wine ,and many local stores, restaurants and clubs shelve it.

Despite local support, Wiley admits the wine is of medium grade when compared with the more expensive wines. However, the university seems to have found a niche in the Central Valley. As long as people keep buying and drinking their wine, the students will continue to produce it.

“I think ‘06 will be a very good wine as well,” Wiley said. The 2006 wine will be ready to bottle soon and put through rigorous taste testing for texture, tamin and flavor.

The people of the Central Valley would expect nothing less of the university’s winery as it has proven itself time after time to be an award-winning wine.

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