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April 2015 People: Vine School, Milestones

April, 2015 Issue

Vine School

In 2002, business consultant Darlene Walley and her husband purchased a vacation rental on Starr Road in Windsor that included a more than 100-year-old, one-acre Zinfandel vineyard. Because they don’t live in Sonoma County, Walley says, “We needed someone local to tend the vines.” It took a few years, but the current solution has turned into an unexpected community benefit.
Since 2005, Windsor High School has offered a Vineyard Academy (VA) to 11th and 12th graders as one of seven different elective cores of study (VA is a California Partnership Academy, which means it takes 50 percent at-risk students and tries to help them find motivation as they transition to college or into the working world). Each year, about 150 students enroll in the VA.
Since 2009, VA students have been caring for the Starr Road vineyard under the tutelage of Barney Kaufman, who teaches business and viticulture courses (with further guidance from professional vineyard manager Phil Bertoli, who donates his time to the project). Kaufman explains, “The goal is to expose these students to jobs in the wine industry. I teach them about viticulture by taking care of [Walley’s] vineyard. I also take them on tours of wineries and to businesses that supply products to the industry.”
For the first two years, Kaufman made wine from the vineyard himself, because he couldn’t find a partner to help with wine processing. In 2011, Mike Martini and the team at Taft Street Winery stepped in to donate winemaking and storage, and to support the program and its students.
Taft Street is proud to partner with Windsor Vineyard Academy, which seeks to expose students to the many opportunities for employment in the wine industry,” says Martini. “The benefit is doubled as exposure to career options in viticulture, hospitality and business. It also serves as interesting lesson plans in biology, chemistry and math.”
Students tend and harvest an annual average yield of one ton of winegrapes, which produces 50+ cases. Windsor Jaguar Old Vine Zinfandel is available for $25 per bottle through Taft Street Winery (, and all proceeds benefit the academy, including equipment to maintain the vineyard, technology (computers and iPads) to support the students in the classroom and the Phil Bertoli Viticulture Scholarship for graduating seniors.

Milestones: Kevin Jorgeson & Tommy Caldwell

In January 2015, history was made when free climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell successfully climbed the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. What better way to celebrate than with a toast of Iron Horse Ocean Reserve? Jorgeson will address the crowd April 19 at the annual Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley event at the winery, which will use the occasion to release its limited-production Summit Cuvee (for more information, visit [Photo by Jim Seida/NBC News]



Did You Know?

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson spent 12% of the $25,000 Presidential salary on wine.


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