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Jordan College Uncorks New Wine Business Degree

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May 15, 2024 – Junior enology student Madasen Gutierrez got the opportunity for hands-on experience with all things related to wine at a recent Cedar View Winery position. 

The Dinuba native balanced a busy schedule for one and a half years that ranged from winemaking, assisting with finances, marketing, sales and hosting wine tasting events. 

Her time there led Gutierrez to discover that she enjoys the business and marketing side of the wine industry even more than the art of winemaking itself. 

“Wineries bring people together,” Gutierrez said, “and I enjoy seeing and being a part of that. It’s more than just the wine for many people. It’s also about making relationships and finding friends. Marketing ties directly into that appeal, while connecting consumers to products they might enjoy.”

A new Fresno State wine business degree, being introduced by the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in fall 2024, will help prepare students like Gutierrez for an array of jobs in the ever-growing and renowned California wine industry, which employed 36,000 people in 2020. That number is almost twice what it was 20 years ago, with more than 40% of the nation’s wineries are found in California

Additional sales, marketing, branding, administrative and business personnel are also needed by leading wine producers such E. & J. Gallo, Constellation Brands, The Wine Group and Bronco Wine Company, which have processing locations in the San Joaquin Valley that supply customers around the world.

“The business side is so crucial, just like the winemaking, so it’s great we have a chance to focus on both (with this degree),” Gutierrez said. “The wine industry is so unique and always changing, so the more you know about a company’s operation and market trends, the more successful you can be.”

Students pursuing the new degree will integrate courses from Fresno State’s nationally-respected Viticulture and Enology Department in conjunction with its Agricultural Business Department and other departments across campus.

Classes will be required in the areas of accounting, computer applications, economics, finance, management, marketing, regulations, statistics, viticulture, wine evaluation and production. 

Potential electives expand into the related areas of agri-food supply chains, cooperatives, exports, event planning, food policy, labor, natural resource policy and sales. 

“Our program is tightly connected to several generations of industry leaders” said Dr. Sonet Van Zyl, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at Fresno State, “and this degree is something they’re very excited to see finally happen. We already have a nearly 100% placement rate with our winemaking students once they graduate through internships and jobs, and there’s an equally deep field of careers in the business side, too.”

The Fresno State Winery, the nation’s first commercially bonded winery at a university and still the largest, offers diverse sales channels from wholesale to online and countless hands-on learning opportunities. Wine business students can engage with buyers; develop promotions; utilize industry applications; take part in internships, research partnerships and field trips; and learn from guest speakers.

Kevin Smith, who earned his MBA from Fresno State, is equally excited about the new degree. The viticulture and enology lecturer will teach many of its classes and can share a first-hand perspective after he oversaw the Fresno State Winery’s sales and marketing from 2013 to 2023.

“There are a handful of university programs tied to wine business to some degree,” Smith said, “but none locally, or that have the resources we have here on campus. Students have a 120-acre vineyard, a winery that produces 5,000 cases of wine each year and a raisin processing facility all next to their classrooms. It’s an industry that’s very competitive, and our department is excited to work with other areas on campus to grow with it.”

Gutierrez and other students can access a department road map to see required and elective classes before they begin fall class registration, and can officially apply for the new degree this August. 

In the interim, interested students can apply now for the viticulture or enology undergraduate degrees and switch to the wine business degree in the fall. More information on the new degree is also available by emailing Van Zyl at svanzyl@csufresno.edu.

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