Following the success of the inaugural Cornell Alumni Wine collection in 2018, the Cornell Alumni Association reached out to alumni wineries in search of more wines to share with you. The response was impressive! Our final three were chosen in a blind tasting conducted by an expert panel. The 2019 Collection represents the breadth, uniqueness, and quality of the wine being made by Cornell alumni across the country.
$38 per bottle
In Eastern Sonoma County, 11 acres of loamy volcanic soil sit perfectly perched at an elevation of 1300' in the foothills of Mt. St. Helena. Cool evening breezes from the Pacific waft over the vines further enhancing these already ideal growing conditions for Bordeaux varietals. This blessed-by-nature spot inspired Cornell alumni Steve (MS ’74, PhD’ 77 CALS) and Joan (CHE ’74) Heller to create H•L•R® Cellars in 2010. The small boutique winery represents a personal passion turned second career for both Steve and Joan.
“My Cornell experience has lasted a lifetime!” Joan Heller exclaims, relating that a CALS visual communications class prepared her to manage the winery’s marketing, including their website, newsletter, and promotional materials. After Cornell and before H•L•R®, Joan worked with Cornell’s Cooperative Extension Specialists in the Division of Nutritional Sciences before taking time to raise her family and do volunteer service. Steve also credits his Cornell background—Food Science (CALS)—for equipping him to pursue winemaking after his retirement from General Mills.
H•L•R® is certified sustainable by Sonoma County and produces estate grown and bottled wines that are delightful expressions of the vineyard's outstanding mountain location.
$20 per bottle
Named the 2019 California Family Owned Winery of the Year by the New York International Wine Competition, and called the "Best Value in Napa Valley" by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate, Rutherford Ranch is located on the historic Silverado Trail in Napa Valley's renowned Rutherford appellation. The winery and estate vineyards, originally established in 1978, were acquired by the Zaninovich Family in 2000. Including a beautiful tasting room and a 100-year-old olive grove, the winery is certified as California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) and the estate vineyards are a combination of sustainable, organic, and fish friendly.
The Zaninovich family has been farming in California for over 50 years, combining the wisdom of tradition with the most recent technological advancements available. Decades of practical experience have resulted in clear knowledge of the soils, ground water, and particular vineyard microclimates.
Marko S. Zaninovich '90, P’23 (CALS) who devoted himself to the family business after college, summarizes the most important life lessons he learned at Cornell thusly: “Be nice to your banker, appreciate your employees, and listen to your customer’s needs.” Just this Fall, Marko’s son Marko Emmanuel Zaninovich, began his first year at Cornell studying Viticulture and Enology, indicating a fourth generation of Zaninovich Family winemaking is in the works!
With a Wine Enthusiast score of 90 points, the Rutherford Ranch 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect expression of the Zaninovich Family’s commitment to sustainable viticulture and to the art of crafting fine wine. The Sauvignon Blanc features bright aromas of fresh citrus with tropical guava and passionfruit, delightful flavors of key lime and grapefruit, a round texture, and a refreshing, crisp finish.
$21 per bottle
Cornell alumni Oscar Vizcarra '79 (CALS) and Melinda Vizcarra '79 (CALS) launched Vizcarra Vineyards in 2004 with a sense of adventure. The couple had successfully transformed Melinda’s fourth-generation family farm from a small operation to a successful U-pick operation, and we’re looking for their next project. While touring New York State as an appointed member of the USDA Agricultural Advisory Committee, Oscar realized the vineyards and wineries he encountered were the next big thing. Once home, they decided to go for it and Melinda was appointed wine maker because she was “better at chemistry.”
In less than a year Vizcarra Vineyards launched with a series of fruit-based wines produced from excess strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries left from their U-Pick. Over the years, the Vizcarras have transitioned some of their land to grow grapes and continued to expand in perfect synch with their market’s demand. Today, Vizcarra Vineyards is just one vibrant aspect of the destination attraction that includes 2 wedding spaces, guest lodging, a bakery that produces thousands of pies annually, and a craft brewery. Son Andres makes the wine now, daughter Amanda oversees the wedding operation, and older son Oscar Jr. orchestrates the 200 member CSA.
Traminette seed, originally created at the University of Illinois from a cross of the French American varietal, Joannes Seyve and Gewürztraminer, was sent to Cornell and planted in 1968 with first fruiting in 1971. Read More
When you pour the Vizcarra Vineyards 2018 Traminette, your glass will be filled with both the Cornell heritage of the grape and Oscar and Melinda’s indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, deep family values, and palpable true love.
Read more about Oscar and Melinda’s story of hearth, home, and progress in the September – October 2019 issue of Cornell Alumni Magazine.
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Are you an Alumni Winemaker who didn’t get our call for submissions this year?
Please let us know if you’re interested in participating in 2020!