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“It’s a landscaping project that got completely out of control,” says Richard McClellan, owner of Highland Hills Vineyard and Winery in Ramona, Calif., when asked about how he got into the wine industry. His “project” is a family affair that has grown into a successful boutique winery that produces 500-750 cases of estate wine each year.

San Diego County, where Ramona is located, was the birthplace of California wine, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries and it flourished until flooding and the Prohibition devastated the industry. But since the early 1990s, the region’s wine scene has resurged, and McClellan is a part of that renaissance.

“I had been making wine as an amateur for 20-30 years, but the literature aimed at the amateur world didn’t leave me feeling very confident. My previous education and background was electrical engineering, so I like to know what’s going on and that’s what led me to the Winemaking Certificate Program. I decided that there was a lot I needed to learn and understand.”

“The amateur literature is more like a cook book, and at some point I heard that the Winemaking Certificate Program doesn’t teach you how to make wine, it teaches you about making wine. Other programs tell you how to do it, and that works when it works, but it doesn’t always work. So the certificate program helped me understand why it might not be working. I’m not as recipe oriented as I used to be. I assess the situation and decide what needs to be done. I understand why I’m doing things. It seems trivial, but understanding what you’re doing and why makes a huge difference.”

As a landscape architect, Richard Krumwiede, now winemaker/viticulturist at Sycamore Ranch Vineyard & Winery, always enjoyed visiting the grounds of the many wineries he worked on. In 2007, he decided to plant a zinfandel vineyard on his own property after a beetle infestation killed off the native pines. As the vineyard developed, he began making wine, further cultivating his interest in viticulture and winemaking.

In 2012, Krumwiede and a co-op of friends purchased grapes from central coast vineyards. “We made 150 cases initially, to finally 225 cases in 2015, winning many amateur winemaking medals along the way.” Having enjoyed success as an amateur winemaker, he decided to become licensed and make a career out of it.

To launch his career in winemaking, Krumwiede decided to apply for UC Davis Extension’s Winemaking Certificate Program. “My wife and I attended several weekend courses at UC Davis Extension and had heard very good things about the program from others in the industry,” said Krumwiede.

“Problem solving, of both winemaking issues I was familiar with, as well as those I hadn’t yet experienced. There were lots of production and stability details that, if you pay attention to, you’ll end up with way fewer problems and much better wine.”

“The amount of time and effort required to complete it. I was still running my landscape architecture company and launching my winery. During the 2016 crush, I suspended my course work for a quarter so I could focus on the winery. We have a small tasting room and winery where we produce approximately 500 cases of red wine, ±100 cases of white wine and 150-200 cases of hard cider. It’s very challenging program that gives you a solid grounding and understanding of the fundamentals of winemaking.”