For nearly 45 years College of the Canyons has cultivated an unequalled reputation for providing access to higher education, job training and by extension, opportunity. But with the addition of a recently installed vineyard at the Valencia campus, that reputation may soon include a nod toward viticulture.
Situated among the slopes located in the western section of campus, the college’s new vineyard includes high-quality California Zinfandel grape vines, which were donated to the college by Remo Belli Vineyards in Paso Robles, and transplanted by local vintners and friends of the college Steve Lemley and Nate Hasper of Pulchella Winery and tasting room.
“The addition of a vineyard to our Valencia campus couldn’t come at a better time,” said COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook. “It will perfectly complement the Culinary Arts facility we are building, creating unique learning opportunities for our students and augmenting our Wine Studies curriculum.”
The installation process began on Feb. 1, with Lemley and Hasper working to transport and subsequently replant the 50-year-old vines — establishing COC as one of the only Southern California-based community colleges to maintain an operational vineyard.
Plans also call for the planting of additional vines —to be cloned from the original vines —in an adjacent plot of land, sometime in fall 2014.
According to Lemley and Hasper, the newly installed vines “hold quite a bit of history” having originally been planted by famed Central California viticulturist Richard Sauret for Remo Belli Vineyards in 1969.
Hailed as one of the godfathers of vineyard management for the central coast region, Sauret is widely credited for pioneering the start of Paso Robles grape farming in many ways, with his grapes still garnering awards nearly 45 years later.
Now, that rich legacy will have the opportunity to take root at College of the Canyons.
“We are very excited to be able to transplant and manage these vines, which have such a rich history, and are associated with an area we are so familiar with,” said Lemley, co-owner of the Pulchella Winery and tasting room, which recently relocated their crush pad facility and tasting room from Paso Robles to downtown Newhall.
Although Pulchella Winery has volunteered to oversee the vineyard for the next several months, college officials envision that task eventually being handed over to students and faculty at the College of the Canyons Institute for Culinary Education (iCuE).
“This vineyard is a testament to the power of partnerships,” Dr. Van Hook said. “It is proof that we can do more together than we can alone. Remo, Nate, and Steve are amazing supporters of College of the Canyons, and we are proud to be the recipient of their generosity and selfless service. The glasses filled from our first harvest will be raised in their honor.”
In addition to the multitude of classroom curriculum applications that the vineyard will create for students enrolled in culinary arts and/or wine studies, the college will also be able to surplus portions of its annual grape harvest to local winemakers looking to blend COC’s grapes with their own.
The proceeds received from the surplus of the harvests can then be used to augment the college’s annual budget and help fund operational costs, while providing students and community members with increased access to educational and workforce training opportunities.
College officials are anticipating an initial harvest in fall 2015.