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Cal Poly's Wine & Viticulture Program makes the grade 

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Do you lie awake at night worrying that Cal Poly’s Wine & Viticulture program has an inferiority complex? Are you baffled by the superior treatment of programs like English and Engineering, whose students, I’ve heard, are given access to a secret lounge stocked with boba tea fountains and baked potatoes with all the fixin’s? (They used to get caviar and Twinkies but times are tough, and one must do one’s part.)

OK, so I have to admit that there’s been no evidence of English majors or Engineering students receiving preferential treatment. Although, it might be fair to give the English majors some free food to make up for the fact that there are no jobs for someone with a degree in English. Trust me.

But it’s also true that the Wine & Viticulture Program wasn’t previously an official department within the university’s College of Food, Agriculture, & Environmental Sciences (CAFES). Which is good, because according to a press release, the new department has 90 new incoming students for the 2013-2014 schoolyear—the largest incoming class the program has had thus far.

The program began with a minor in 1999, graduated to a major in 2004, and became a stand-alone program in 2011. But it wasn’t until this year that Wine & Viticulture joined nine other official departments within CAFES.

Given the fact that Cal Poly’s program is distinct from that offered by other universities, focusing on enology, viticulture, and wine business, we have every reason to expect that it will continue to expand. Especially now that it’s escaped from the shadow of those pesky book nerds. Always droning on about Chaucer and Mary Shelley and Shakespeare when they could be learning the difference between a cabernet and a pinot noir. One’s red and one’s white, right?

While some of you may be assessing tannins as we speak, and thinking that a degree in wine sounds like easy street, the department requires students to engage in hands-on work in vineyards and wineries as well as participate in paid internships. It might not be easy street, but when you’re doing what you love, even pruning vines under a hot Paso Robles sun doesn’t sound so bad.


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