Fresno State students from the viticulture and enology department showed off the fruits of their labor last week at the Taste of Spring event.
Guests were invited to the Fresno State Winery last Thursday to try five different wines produced by students and bottled in March.
All of the wines available for tasting will be officially released to the public on May 4, said Kevin Smith, the business and marketing manager at the winery.
“We’re releasing what we just bottled, showcasing them to the public,” Smith said. “The students get to show off what they’ve made through the last year, and that’s what tonight’s about.”
The wines included were a 2015 petite syrah; a 2016 cabernet sauvignon; a 2017 chardonnay SJ; a 2017 muscat canelli; and a 2017 viognier. The wines were available for pre-order for 25 percent off, and a special aged sherry wine was available to purchase and take home
Guests were also able to try sausage from the Fresno State meat lab, tri-tip sliders from The Meat Market in Fresno and baguettes from La Boulangerie.
The evening also featured live music from Fresno State music students Patrick Aguirre, Darion M. Coronado and Joseph White.
A sangria-tasting competition also took place during the event. Three student assistants at the winery – Javier Garcia, Adrian Garcia and Alex Romero – were able to make their own sangrias, and the guests voted on their favorite.
Javier Garcia said that each student assistant used his own recipes and added whatever fruit he wanted to perfect his sangria.
“We all use different types of wine from the lineup that we just bottled,” Javier Garcia said. “I used the viognier that we bottled; Alex used the muscat; and Adrian used the pinot gris.”
Adrian Garcia said that he was wary of making his sangria too sweet.
“I’ve never made a sangria before, and I heard they’re supposed to be sickeningly sweet, so I put a decent amount of lemon juice in there to hopefully add some tartness,” he said.
Along with the 2017 muscat and fruit, Romero added an extra ingredient – jalapeños.
“It’s my secret ingredient, so it gives it a nice little kick,” Romero said.
By the end of the evening, Javier Garcia’s sweet sangria was voted as the guests’ favorite.
He explained that the process of testing sugar levels of grapes on the vine, maintaining acidity levels, filtering and bottling has made himself and the other students take pride in the release of wines they’ve worked to help produce.
Romero explained that the delicacy of wines entails a lot of effort to preserve them.
“A lot of work goes into these wines,” Romero said. “A lot of people don’t necessarily get to see what goes on behind the scenes, but I’m telling you, it’s a lot of labor.”
Also present was Tom Montgomery, the winemaker from the viticulture and enology program. As an alumnus of the program, he said he was glad to be back home to train young winemakers at the university’s commercial winery.
“When [students] put grape vines in the bottle and they apply all the things they’ve learned, they get to see the outcome,” Montgomery said. “As a winemaker that’s been producing premium wines for many, many years, it’s nice to teach the students to do that, and they’re very excited about it.”
Smith, the winery manager, said that the students at Fresno State are what make the winery more exciting.
“I guarantee you, there’s no other winery in this country that has a constant flow of new ideas, new energy and new approaches because of the students,” Smith said.
Fresno State staff members Bryan Alvarado and Isamar Alvarez attended the event and agreed that the students made the wine tasting more special. Having never shopped at the Gibson Farm Market for wine, Alvarez said this event was a great way to support students.
“It invites people to start really getting exposed to Fresno State wine and start purchasing it and to see what we have here on campus,” Alvarez said.