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CSU-brand wine in stores soon

If you haven’t heard it through the grapevine just yet, CSU-brand wine could be coming soon to stores in Fort Collins.

The Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture offers a concentration in viticulture (science, production and study of grapes) and enology (science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking), which was developed in 2008 by CSU professor Stephen Menke.

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“We have two purposes to the program,” Menke said. “One is to get more students trained so that they can work in Colorado or work in a place and have a background in enology. The second is to really help the industry grow and maintain good quality in Colorado.”

In designing the program, Menke developed and implemented the Ram’s Point winery. It is a fully functioning winery located in Grand Junction that is owned by CSU and run by Menke and CSU students.

“The idea is for (the students) to take charge of making and deciding which wines to produce and implementing their innovative ideas,” Menke said.

In addition to the winery, the program utilizes a grape vineyard located in Fort Collins that is co-owned by CSU and a Fort Collins local, Abe Bergalame. Here the students learn to grow grapes that will be used at the winery.

The grapes grown at the vineyards in Fort Collins will be harvested in the fall and sent to the winery to be processed and made into wine.

“We’ve already had a couple of opportunities to take classes out there in the fields for hands-on work,” senior enology major Paul Rupp said. “It’s a really great asset for teaching in a laboratory environment that we didn’t have before.”

Rupp, a Fort Collins native, decided to get into the wine business after serving in the military.

“I always wanted to come back to my home town and do something in agriculture,” Rupp said.

“When I was in the military I got to see a lot of vineyards throughout the world and I thought that it would be a really great agriculture thing to get into. CSU had a viticulture and enology program when I got back so I just signed up for it.”

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Rupp already has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and looks forward to graduating in the spring so that he can pursue a career in viticulture and enology.

“I think it’s extremely interesting because it’s a full circle,” Rupp said. “What I want to do is actually grow my own grapes and make high quality grapes so that I can produce my own wine. I just like the whole idea of the end-to-end agricultural business that has been around for ten thousand years.”

Like Rupp, Daniel Pfretzchner, an aide at the Western Colorado Research Center where the winery is located, has taken full advantage of the viticulture and enology program offered through CSU.

Beginning as a plant biology major his freshman year, Pretzchner quickly transitioned to viticulture and enology after having visited several vineyards when he was younger.

“My family moved from Denver to Palisade eight years ago with my dad’s dream being to retire on a vineyard,” Pfretzchner said. “It’s been an idea for a long time. On family vacations we would visit wineries.”

While both Rupp and Pfrentzchner were some of the earliest students to experience the program, Menke hopes to grow the program and eventually compete in the international wine market.

“Most people don’t even know that Colorado exists (in the wine world),” Menke said. “It’s important to me because one of the things that we are trying to do is to enlarge and to raise the quality of Colorado wines in the industry.”

While Ram’s Point wine is only sold online and has not made it to shelves just yet, the program continues to grow momentum and Menke is hopeful that it will continue to grow at CSU.

Collegian Reporter Natasha Leadem can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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