The weather was hot, the Chardonnays and Zinfandel Roses were chilled and the camaraderie was warm when a group of winemaking alums, along with spouses and friends, gathered at California Cellars north of Isleton in early June to revitalize a tradition of regular SMC wine gatherings.
Bob Kozlowski ’50, the longtime winemaker and co-owner of Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County, planned the picnic lunch at Norm Peters’ picturesque winery in the Delta. He brought with him a magnum of 1974 Kenwood Zinfandel, which had aged excellently into a smooth, claret-colored wine. It was the last 1974 Zin he had in his personal cellar.
“This is the group I wanted to share it with,” Kozlowski said, as fellow wine veterans Jim Concannon ’53, Jim Pedroncelli ’54 and Peters ’89 nodded their approval of the vintage wine.
Wine has long had a special place at Saint Mary’s. The Christian Brothers owned the successful Christian Brothers Winery from 1882 until 1989, and longtime cellarmaster Brother Timothy Diener was inducted into the first class of the Vintners Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America in March. Over the decades, students have learned appreciation for fine wine by taking wine tasting classes at the College.
Some of those classes were taught by Denis Kelly ’60 and Brother Myron Collins ’54, who also attended the picnic, held in the headquarters of California Cellars. The group traded stories about their dealings with famed winemakers, including tales of how this vintner or that got around Prohibition laws and how the wine industry has changed from a jug of white or a jug of red to the seemingly unending types of varietals and blends being made today.
They also shared tips on how to make wine or deal with rules and regulations, a specialty of Mari Kirrane ’82, a former Concannon winemaker who is the technical advisor on wine for the U.S. government.
“Whatever we learn, we share,” Kozlowski said, noting that the California wine industry has generally been collegial even while it’s competitive.
Kozlowski is gathering names of other alums who are in the wine business. Submit names and contact information to [email protected].