Grape Way

TastingsNorm Peters understands the allure of a supple Pinot Noir and a jammy, fruit-forward Zinfandel.

“Everyone wants to listen when you talk about grapes and wine. Everyone leans forward,” said Peters ’89, M.E. ’03, E.C.R. ’04, who oversees Livermore’s Cupcake Vineyards and Concannon’s Estate Reserve grapes.

Peters’ earliest experiences with wine aren’t the kind of thing you put on a resume. As a resident adviser in Justin Hall in the late 1980s, the only wine he remembers students drinking was Boone’s Farm.

But after getting a bachelor’s degree in diversified liberal arts and a master’s in education leadership, Peters went on to combine a 15-year career in the classroom and the vice principal’s office with his love for viticulture.

It started with a phone call in 2005 from the owners of a construction company he’d worked for in his undergrad years.

“They said, ‘Hey, Norm, come out and run this farm and winery for us.’ They’d just gotten rid of vice principals in elementary schools, so I thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’ I loved agriculture and the fact that I would be outside working.”

Peters said he “took a beating” the first two years, but his bosses had faith in this Saint Mary’s grad.

“They didn’t care that I was a newbie,” he said. “I was a Gael.”

Peters worked hard to master the vineyard, and the wine got better with the help of a winemaking consultant. By year five, he’d turned things around. Today, the Oakley father of three has come full circle with SMC, teaching a Jan Term class in winemaking. And with his business, Vineyard for You, Peters provides vineyard design and management services for backyard wine producers, including an SMC alum and a professor.

“I love grapes and love teaching,” said Peters, who sees it as a perfect way to give back to Saint Mary’s. “I’m just trying to stir the pot and get people excited.”

By Ginny Prior