The college football world has the Championship Bowl Series. The wine industry has its’ version of this matchup, UC Davis vs. Fresno State.
These two California state public colleges have produced most of the winemakers in the United States. If you are not from California you are probably not familiar with the distinction between the UC colleges and State colleges.
The UC stands for University of California. Davis is the city where the campus is located. UC Berkley, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, UC Los Angeles (always referred to as UCLA…who knows why. It’s kind of like Southern California people referring to Highway 101 as The 101), etc. UC’s should not be confused with USC, University of Southern California, a private college where most of the rich kids go, who will probably wind up owning the winery!
The California state schools are referred to as Fresno State, San Francisco State, Sacramento State, etc.
There has been class warfare between the UC’s and the State schools for as long as I can remember. UC’s are considered the upper crust of the two college systems. I guess there is some truth to it. UC Berkeley was rated the 4th best college in the WORLD. Why do I know that? My wife graduated from Cal (That’s UC Berkeley for you non-Bay Area people) and was happy to tell me again that she was a Cal Grad, and did I see the latest college rankings. “Yes, I know dear. I married the smartest girl in the class”.
State schools automatically have an inferiority complex with UC’s. This has spilled over into the winemaker world. There are two distinct camps in the winemaker world. You're either a UC Davis winemaker or a Fresno State winemaker.
The geographical location of the two schools is interesting and parallels some of the differences in the California wine industry. UC Davis sits off Highway 80 outside Sacramento. It’s close to Napa and Sonoma. Fresno state is in the Central Valley. It is not close to Napa and Sonoma. UC Davis has a performance theatre donated from the Mondavis via donation. Fresno State does not.
When you think about UC Davis, think about small vineyards and boutique wine shops. When you think about Fresno State, think about large scale Central Valley agriculture and grocery store aisles. Mondavi vs. Gallo.
Is that a fair generalization? Probably not. I just find it interesting that we have two schools in California that churn out most of our winemakers and they are located at different ends of the wine industry spectrum.
The unofficial tagline for the schools is, “if you want to talk about wine, go to Davis. If you want to learn how to make wine, go to Fresno”. Fair? Again, probably not.
I have hired and worked with many winemakers from both schools over the years. Given that I couldn’t pass a chemistry class if my life depended on it, I will not give an opinion on which is better. I have equally enjoyed working with graduates from both schools. They both produce people who are unbelievably passionate about what they do and take joy in doing it. Not many degrees come with that benefit. They are the artists of our industry and I am consistently blown away by their skills.
Still, I wonder if you had a televised game of winemaking...would anyone watch? Go Bulldogs. Go Aggies.