Sonoma State Cellars Launches First Release to Great Success

cuvee.jpgOver the past two years, more than a dozen wine business students have worked with the team at Kokomo Winery and Timber Crest Farms in Dry Creek Valley to create the first Sonoma State wine.

Selling at $28 a bottle, Sonoma State Cellars Cuvée is a unique blend of vineyards and varietals from across Sonoma County, selected to showcase the versatility of the North Coast. The blend is 49% Merlot, 26% Carignan, 17% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah. Read the complete winemaker notes.

On July 14, at the pick-up party at Kokomo Winery, all 25 cases of the first supply were sold. Proceeds go to support wine business programs at SSU.

The idea for the brand was first considered by a group of four MBA students working with Professor of Business Armand Gilinsky, Jr. Liza Goldstein, Kendal Georgeson, Abigail Smyth and Leah McNally, who have since graduated and grown in their careers, conducted a feasibility study to assess the viability of the proposed brand during the summer of 2010. 

During the following semester, a second group of MBA students worked with Dr. Gilinsky to develop a business plan for the new venture. Jacob Avery, Stephanie Gremban, Sean Headden, Kendall Hoxsey, Dylan Karahalios, Marin McElhany, Brian Perkins, Andrew Pimentel and Nick Rood outlined the start-up necessities and a path to sustainability.

At the end of the semester, the students created a 40-page report and delivered their final presentation to members of the wine business faculty, administration and the wine industry.

Attending the presentation that evening was Erik Miller, owner and winemaker at Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek Valley. Miller was impressed by the students' enthusiasm and immediately offered his support.


After crush was over, he set aside a barrel of his 2010 Red Cuvée to provide the foundation for the program and the first release of the future Sonoma State Cellars.

Over the course of the following year, he coached the students on the start-up of a winery and the building of the brand. One of the student team members went on to work with Erik and his assistant winemaker Josh Bartels, while others contributed to the project whenever they could, squeezing in hours between study and work.

In the fall of 2011, Ruth Waltenspiel, the proprietor of Timber Crest Farms, hosted a launch party where the students shared their story with a group of 60 friends and supporters.

Throughout the project, the MBA students were guided by the leaders of the Wine Business Institute Alumni Council, whose members work in key positions throughout the North Coast. The alumni will provide continuity to the nascent program over successive semesters and generations of students.

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