illustration of wine being poured into a glass

Wine Program Offers Limited-Edition Red, White to Alumni Oenophiles

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By Joe Wilensky

Earlier this year, sommelier Thomas Pastuszak ’06 had a tough but enviable job: selecting two winners from among the twenty-one wines—all created by Cornellian vintners—submitted for consideration by the University’s Alumni Wine by Cornell Alumni Affairs collection.

Now in its fourth year, the collection comprises one red and one white—each featuring a Big Red-themed label designed by a Cornellian—marketed only to the alumni community. The 2021 collection, whose artwork was created by Peter Gerakaris ’03, launched in mid-September. Supplies are limited; check the website for more information, including which states allow shipping.

Raise a toast to this year’s winners:

Red: County Line Vineyards 2019 Pinot Noir

Eric Sussman ’90, BS ’92, at County Line Vineyards, located on California’s Sonoma Coast
Eric Sussman ’90, BS ’92, at County Line Vineyards, on California’s Sonoma Coast. (Photo: Provided)

Founder Eric Sussman ’90, BS ’92, studied agriculture in CALS, where he developed a passion for winemaking. He spent four years as an associate winemaker in California before opening County Line Vineyards, located on the Sonoma Coast. His winning wine, priced at $35 per bottle, is described as a “brambly fruit entry … charmingly offset by earthen forest floor undertones and alluring notes of crushed rose petal and bergamot tea.”

Says Pastuszak: “Made from organically grown Sonoma Coast fruit, this wine is aged in neutral French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered, showcasing a generous aromatic profile and a supple mouthfeel. While lovers of New World Pinot Noir will enjoy this wine's bold character, Old World wine drinkers will surely appreciate its elegance, minerality, and overall balance.”

White: 2019 Hosmer Winery Chardonnay

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Cameron Hosmer ’76, pictured with a glass of wine and wine barrels, founded Hosmer Winery, located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake in Ovid, NY, with his wife, Maren, in 1985
Cameron Hosmer ’76 co-founded Hosmer Winery, on the shore of Cayuga Lake. (Photo: Provided)

Like the University itself, this offering hails from far above Cayuga’s waters: the winery is located in Ovid, on the lake’s western shore. CALS alum Cameron Hosmer ’76 and his wife, Maren, founded the winery in 1985 after spending 15 years cultivating their 70 acres.

Their winning entry comes from some of their oldest vines, planted in 1975. Priced at $20 per bottle, it’s characterized as opening with lime blossom, jasmine, and rose, with lemon curd, cumin, and quince on the mid-palate and a finish featuring orange blossom and papaya.

Pastuszak describes the wine as “beautiful grapes that are transformed into this lovely bottling.” The Chardonnay “shows generous fruit and integrated oak character, yet also a restraint and minerality that nods to great White Burgundy from France—a crowd-pleaser for sure, but also a bottle that serious wine lovers will be impressed by.”

Meet the sommelier

Sommelier Thomas Pastuszak ’06
Sommelier Thomas Pastuszak ’06. (Photo: Provided)

Pastuszak studied neurobiology and classical piano at Cornell, changing career paths while working in restaurants to cover student loan expenses. He began his sommelier career as wine director at Colicchio & Sons in New York City and later joined the Eleven Madison Park team that created the NoMad Restaurant, which opened in 2012 with Pastuszak as wine director.

He is currently executive wine director of all NoMad’s properties.

The ‘art’ of wine

Peter Gerakaris ’03 pictured at work in the studio
Gerakaris at work in his studio. (Photo: Provided)

The paired labels for the 2021 collection feature colorful artwork by Gerakaris—painted motifs that marry elements of the Cornell Botanic Gardens and references to the campus map. If viewed side by side, they create one continuous image.

A New Hampshire native, Gerakaris holds a BFA from the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and an MFA from Hunter College. His pieces have been acquired by private collectors as well as institutions including the National Museum of Wildlife Art, the New York City Department of Education, and the U.S. Art in Embassies Program. He describes his work as engaging “nature-culture themes through a global lens.”

Top image: Illustration by Cornell University.

Published: October 27, 2021


  1. Anna Pollock, Class of 1994

    So happy the collection came together so beautifully! Great to have the Finger Lakes and California represented, masterfully chosen by Thomas Pastuszak, and demonstrating the breadth of Cornell alumni in wine. The swoon-worthy labels by Peter Gerakaris make it all the more lovely! Go Big Red!

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