illustration of four wine bottles on a graphic background

Red, White, and Sparkling: 2023’s Alumni Wine Collection 

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The annual celebration of Cornellian vintners has launched for the holiday season with a quartet of offerings

By Joe Wilensky

Cornellian wineries from the Finger Lakes to Oregon are getting some Big Red love with the sixth annual Alumni Wine by Cornell Alumni Affairs collection.

This year, a team of expert sommeliers selected four wines from three vintners: two reds, one white, and—in a program first—a sparkling variety. It adds up to what the collection’s website describes as a “delicious assemblage of taste-test-winning East and West Coast alumni-made wines.”

Tying the offerings together are custom-designed bottle labels, with art by a Cornellian couple. Maria Calandra, MFA ’06, and Erik den Breejen, MFA ’06, met on the Hill and now share a studio in Brooklyn. The colorful swirls and patterns that grace the four bottles comprise details from several of their artworks.

The limited-edition wines can be ordered in increments of three to 48 bottles, with the chardonnay priced at $20 per bottle and the two reds at $30 each. (The sparkling Traminette is sold out.)

Reds: Real Nice Winemakers 2022 Pinot Noir & 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon

Real Nice Winemakers was co-founded by Anthony Van Nice, MBA ’10, who manages the winery with wife Lindsay. Located in the Willamette Valley south of Portland, OR, it uses grapes from some of the region’s most renowned growers.

Grape harvesting at Real Nice Winemaker in Oregon
Harvesting at Oregon's Real Nice Winemakers.

The collection’s website describes the pinot as having “a beautiful nose of ripe cranberries, rich earth, black tea, and cinnamon bark; the palate is true to Oregon Pinot—fresh raspberry and black cherry with a hint of red currant, all framed by silky tannins and balanced acidity.”

The cabernet sauvignon, it says, “deftly balances lush dark fruit and firm tannins. This powerhouse makes a statement with aromas of bramble pie, brooding plum, and forest leaves. French oak aging adds layers of spiced cedar and tobacco.”

White: Lakewood Vineyards 2022 Chardonnay

“Complex aromatics speak of pineapple, pear, and apple knitted in with notes of freshly baked biscuit,” the Alumni Wine site notes. Its “texture is creamy and rich, finishing long with balanced acidity and just a hint of butterscotch.”

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Tasting room at Lakewood Vineyards
Tasting with a view at Lakewood.

Located just north of Watkins Glen on Seneca Lake, Lakewood Vineyards has been family owned and operated since 1951. It’s now run by its third generation, siblings Chris Stamp ’83, Dave Stamp, and Teresa Stamp Knapp ’90.

(Liz Myer Stamp ’85, Ben Stamp ’11, and Abby Stamp ’13 are also on staff.)

Says Chris Stamp: “We never bring in fruit that isn’t grown locally… We want all our wines to have a sense of place.”

Sparkling: Johnson Estate Winery 2021 Sparkling Traminette

The history of Johnson Estate Winery stretches back to Frederick Johnson 1901, who purchased a family farm in Westfield, NY, along Lake Erie’s southern shore, in 1908, and built an apple cold-storage facility there. The estate passed to his son (Frederick Spencer Johnson ’43), who turned it into a winery, becoming the first farmer to plant French-hybrid wine grapes in Western New York.

Wine vats and barrels at Johnson Estate Winery
Vats and barrels at Johnson Estate.

His three children—Frederick Johnson Jr. ’75, MBA ’77; Elizabeth Johnson ’76; and Anthony Johnson ’80—inherited the farm and planted new European vinifera vineyards. Today, the 115-acre vineyard grows 13 varieties of grapes under the direction of Frederick Jr. and his wife, Jennifer Schroeder Johnson, MBA ’79, who became owners in 2010.

Fred and Jennifer note that the best part of running a family winery and farm is “the appreciation that we can, in building and creating new traditions … continue to be stewards of the family land, its business, and our community in ways that leave each in a little better condition than we found it.”

Top: Illustration by Caitlin Cook / Cornell University. All images provided.

Published November 20, 2023


  1. Janis Versteeg Olson, Class of 1976

    I am glad you are selecting wines to represent Cornell from Cornell Grads. While we are a very small producer of wine from local grapes and our vineyard, we are in Western North Carolina. I wonder how many other states have wineries that are owned and run by Cornell Grads. besides NY and Oregon.

  2. Scott Keenum, Class of 1976

    How do we order?

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