First Harvest

At Cal Poly's Trestle Vineyard

When Jean Dodson Peterson, associate professor of viticulture, arrived on campus six years ago, she faced a harsh reality: large portions of the nearly 13-acre Trestle Vineyard had fallen victim to a virus.

The decision to reestablish the space with teaching and production blocks — what sections of the vineyard are referred to as — paid off with its first harvest this September. The newer vineyard blocks — 11 in total — were designed specifically to integrate into the Wine and Viticulture Department’s enhanced curriculum.

The teaching section includes rootstock, wild species, wine and table grape demonstrations, as well as training, rotational and research blocks. The demonstration blocks are used for grapevine identification and assessment of growth factors.

In all. there are 52 winegrape cultivars, 30 rootstock selections, 26 table grape cultivars and 10 wild species.

The rotational block consists of 15 rows, within which three new rows are planted every year. In the Vineyard Management course, students use this block to explore new vine establishment, training and trellising over the course of the first five years post planting.

The rootstock and research blocks support senior projects. The production vineyard includes three blocks of Pinot noir and a block of Chardonnay, which are divided among the commercial wine program, the wine production course and student research projects.

“When I joined Cal Poly, I knew it would be important for us as a department, a university and an industry to do everything possible to ensure we are committed to achieving the highest level of excellence in our curriculum,” Dodson Peterson said. “I have always felt responsible for inspiring the next generation of viticulturists that come through our doors. To achieve this, I recognized the dire need to re-imagine the vineyard teaching facilities.

“The effort has resulted in one of the most unique and engaging Learn by Doing opportunities that exists for agricultural students today,” she continued. “I am continually humbled by the gracious support of our alumni, Dean Andrew Thulin, my fellow faculty and our students. We have united with a common vision, and in doing so, created an exceptional vineyard facility with new and expanded curricular offerings.”

To make a gift to support the Trestle Vineyard, go to or contact Allyson Dela Cruz at

Visit Cultivate Fall 2020 to read more stories.

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