By Ashley Han
Russell Vineyard is the newest addition to the Cal Aggie Alumni Association’s Beer and Wine Program, which connects alumni and the UC Davis community to a rich network of alumni wine and beer makers. The family-owned and operated vineyard outside of Healdsburg is two lush acres and sits on a hilltop in the middle of a 208-acre ranch.
“Our family business was started over 50 years ago,” said Bruce Russell ’67 CRED ’68 MA ’72 Ph.D. ’77. “My father owned a dairy, first outside of Sonoma and then outside of Sebastopol. When he sold the dairy, we moved to Healdsburg where he raised beef cattle, sheep and even grew strawberries for Mariana Fruit Co. My father attended UC Davis but did not graduate because of the Great Depression. I took classes like animal husbandry and livestock judging to stay in touch with my roots, before taking over the farm in 1998.”
Russell is now a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, having previously been chair for 10 years. He frequently travels back to California to help his wife, Bette, who runs the vineyard while he is away.
The Alumni Wine and Beer Program provides alumni with memorable experiences through wine tastings and educational events. Russell Vineyards’ 2014 Russian River Syrah was hand-picked, custom-crushed and aged in neutral French oak barrels for two years before bottling 300 cases in 2016.
“Our vineyard is small and our wine is only sold at fine-dining restaurants, Whole Foods and on russellwine.com,” Russell said. “Spending years as a graduate student and attending Picnic Day every year, it's great reconnecting with UC Davis through the Alumni Wine Program and sharing my passion with my alma mater.”