In the heart of Las Positas College lies a hidden gem – the Campus Hill Winery. It is a stunning teaching Winery, a place where the art of winemaking meets education. Here, the students master the craft of viticulture and winery technology, transforming the grapes from the 4-acre Campus Hill Vineyard into exquisite student-made wines.
“Livermore Valley has a very deep history of winemaking. And the college should show that commitment to the local industry to have a wine program to teach about winemaking and wine growing, sensory analysis, tasting and basic mind appreciation,” – shares David Everett, Chief Winemaker at the Las Positas College.
The college has a wine program that was started 16 years ago by Dean Neil Eli to support the local wine industry in Livermore Valley. The program is hands-on, allowing students to interact with the equipment and process of winemaking from vineyard to bottling. Graduates have found success in various roles within the local wine industry. The program can be completed in about two and a half years for a degree and two years for a certificate. The college practices sustainable methods in their vineyard and winery, using minimal pesticides and sulfites.
“It’s very interactive. And I think that’s the strongest component of the program. And it’s what the students really appreciate because they’re doing things here in our on-campus winery site that you just can’t do in a public winery,” added David Everett.
Students, in both theory and practice, delve into the intricacies of vineyard operations, including canopy management, pest control, and harvest. The Open Bottle event turned out to be an open-door tour for diving deep into behind-the-scenes winemaking for the Chabot student journalists. We traced the journey of the wine from grape to bottle, following all the stages of its production, ending up with bottling, corking, and labeling. Also, we were given a unique chance to have a sophisticated wine tasting. David Everett uncorked a special bottle of wine himself.
“The wine being sampled is the 2022 Campus Hill Winery Albarino, grown at the Campus Hill Vineyard at Las Positas College. The wine was just bottled and filtered. So you have to keep in mind that this wine was just filtered, too. And it needs a month to relax and bottle to really show its full potential,” – explained David.
The revenue generated from sales supports the Viticulture and Winery Technology program.
“I joined the program because I wanted to learn how to make wine after an unsuccessful attempt with my backyard vineyard. Here, we’ve harvested and tested the grapes. You saw the little operation here. We were bottling today. So I mean, it’s a real learning experience. I’m learning a lot here,” – shares her experience with Jill Scarlet, one of the students of the program.
“If you don’t have sterile equipment, wine turns bad. And then, as you saw here today, helping with bottling and kind of overseeing the students and making sure that they’re being safe and kind of guiding them along the way if they have questions,” – emphasized Damian Bramlett, a part-time lab technician for the Viticulture and Enology program at Las Positas.
Damian’s role involves supporting the program and instructors, maintaining the lab, and assisting students:
“It could be one day I’m up in the vineyard, rolling up netting, the bird netting after we’ve harvested. I could be up there harvesting. I could be mowing weeds or running the tractor the next day. I could be down here in the fermentation room, cleaning equipment, managing supplies and stocks that we need. Glass bottles or cleaning supplies that we use because a lot of the job is cleaning, so it’s making sure things are sterile,” – Damian described his work and passion for winemaking.
Whether you’re a prospective student or a wine enthusiast, the winery offers an open invitation to explore, taste, and appreciate the artistry and dedication that go into each bottle. If you want to purchase an award-winning wine, stop by on campus every first Thursday of the month from 12-5 p.m. at Las Positas College, at room 806, building 800.