The Fresno State winery came alive Thursday night with the celebration of Le Vin Nouveau, sharing its freshly made wines with the local community.
The annual tradition originated in France and is generally regarded as a national holiday there, falling on the third Thursday of November, in which wineries sample their first harvest of the season.
The event is the culmination of the current year’s release of light and fruity Fresno State wines, a Nouveau Ridge red wine, and a Nouveau Blanc white wine.
“That is our mission here tonight, to raise awareness here on campus and around the community,” said Jim Kennedy, head of viticulture and enology at Fresno State. “As you can see, an open house like this generates some serious interest.”
More than 150 wine lovers enjoyed Italian cheeses, prosciutto and fresh fruit, while sipping on many different varietals of the new releases. The entourage was made up of alumni, faculty, students and members of the community. They moved gingerly along the long buffet lines, set up on oak caskets, while the smooth sounds of Django Reinhardt emanated overhead.
John Giannini, head winemaker at Fresno State, greeted the group of connoisseurs with some educational information.
“These wines that are being released on this night are not the aged wines that most people think of,” Giannini said. “They were made to be enjoyed right now. So, please enjoy!”
Student winemakers were proud to pour the vintage that they helped produce.
Shayne Vetter, an intern in the viticulture department, poured a 2007 Syrah, which was not a new release, but an aged product brought out for the overflow crowd. Vetter will graduate in May, but realizes it wasn’t an easy journey.
“The learning curve here is huge,” Vetter said. “You really have to use your brain. Not just anybody can make wine. You must also have a passion for the study.”
Giannini believes his true role is to educate the students first.
“They are the ones who do all the steps necessary to make the wine,” Giannini said. “And on top of that, Fresno Sate is the only campus in the U.S. with a full-blown winery. Last year alone, we pumped out almost 9,000 cases of wine, with 26 varieties.”
Andrew Phillips, in his second year as an enology major, jumped at the chance to enroll in the program. After selling wine for a living for five years on the East Coast, Phillips knows his wine.
“I love cuisine and enjoy fine wines,” Phillips said. “How could I possibly go wrong with this program?”
The Viticulture Club is picking up some serious interest from the community. There will be a fund raising BBQ at the Engleman Winery in Madera Friday night.
Sadie Cardiff, a senior in the Viticulture Club, was sold out of tickets for the BBQ event, but was still selling tickets for the scooter that was being raffled off.
“These events are great opportunities to follow our dreams while bringing the community together,” Cardiff said. “My father and I have been making wine from a Tokay grapevine growing in our backyard since I was a little girl. As I got older, I said to myself, why not make it a career?”