With vineyards and citrus groves making way for developments, the agricultural history of the areas surrounding Cal Poly Pomona has slowly become obscured by new homes and businesses. The university harks back to the rich tradition of the Cucamonga Valley wine industry as it unveils its private label wine, Horsehill Vineyards.
The inaugural vintage of the Zinfandel rosé wine will be available for sale on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch.
The wine features grapes grown from prize-winning Zinfandel cuttings from the historic De Ambrogio Ranch in Rancho Cucamonga. During the local wine industry's heyday in the 1940s, the Cucamonga Valley floor was covered with 40,000 acres of vineyards. Since the mid-1800s, early settlers recognized that the region's sandy soil and favorable climate would promise dependable harvests. Before De Ambrogio Ranch was razed for development in 2001, Don Galleano combed the fields and selected 400 grapevine cuttings, some of them nearly 100 years old.
“We wanted to take these prized cuttings from the De Ambrogio Ranch, which represents a lot of the history of the Cucamonga Valley, and preserve them for future generations,” says Galleano, a third-generation vintner who operates the Galleano Winery in Mira Loma and Galleano Enterprises, the largest shipper of grapes in Southern California.
With help from Cal Poly Pomona faculty, the Zinfandel cuttings were potted in the university's nursery with the hope of maintaining a small piece of the area's wine-producing history. They also represented an opportunity for the university's College of Agriculture and The Collins College of Hospitality Management to cultivate new programs for students to explore the agriculture and business aspects of the wine industry.
“Grapes are the second-largest agricultural commodity in the state, and we didn't have a single grapevine on this campus,” said Dan Hostetler, a professor and chair of the plant sciences department in the College of Agriculture. “A lot of our students are getting jobs in viticulture or consulting to vineyards, and we wanted to create a hands-on lab in that area.”
Faculty, staff and students from Agriculture's plant sciences department cultivated and harvested the grapes. Each step of the way, students had hands-on learning experiences, plowing the field, tending the cuttings in the nursery and grafting them in 2004 to more than three acres of root stock planted on campus.
The multi-year process of acquiring the prize-winning Zinfandel cuttings and nurturing the grapes so they have the right levels of sugar and acid for wine resulted in the first harvest of wine-ready grapes this August.
The wine was bottled on Nov. 20 at South Coast Winery in Temecula under the direction of Master Winemaker Jon McPherson, who oversaw the crushing, fermentation and bottling of the Zinfandel rosé wine.
Horsehill Vineyards, named for the location of the vines on campus, will be served this holiday season in The Collins College's Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch. Proceeds from the wine will support future grape harvests and a vegetable garden project spearheaded by The Collins College and the College of Agriculture.
Order forms for the Zinfandel rosé wine are available at www.cpp.edu/~horsehill and can be faxed to (909) 869-4898. For more information, call (909) 869-4864. Directions to the Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch are available online at www.rkr.cpp.edu/directions.htm.