By Trevor Stewart
The UC Davis Cal Aggie Alumni Association is celebrating two of the longstanding traditions of UC Davis, Picnic Day and Pajamarino, with the UC Davis Alumni Wine Program. The Wine Program partnered with Bucher Wines and brick & mortar wines to create Aggie Traditions, a perfect wine pairing to enjoy with friends, family and fellow Aggies.
A family legacy
After CAAA Life Member John Bucher ’84 graduated from UC Davis with a degree in agricultural science and management, he returned home to the dairy farm in Healdsburg, California. Faced with an industry undergoing dramatic changes, he approached his father about diversifying into growing grapes for wine. It was a process – he began with five acres in the 90s and grew the vineyard to about 40 acres by 2012. After selling the fruit for years, he and his wife, Diane, crushed their first grapes for the Bucher label in 2011 and released their first wines in 2013, while still running a successful organic dairy farm.
When the opportunity came up to partner with the UC Davis Alumni Wine Program for the Aggie Traditions label, John and Diane said it was a no-brainer.
“Not everyone can write big checks, but partnering with the alumni wine program was a way we felt we could contribute,” Diane said. “It is a great way to stay connected to UC Davis.”
John advises aspiring Aggie viticulturists and winemakers to make the most out of the One Aggie Network.
“Don’t be afraid to get involved and stay linked with your peers,” John said. “You also have to roll up your sleeves and work, but in the end, the reward is worth it.”
From the gridiron to the vineyard
Matt Iaconis ’09 came to UC Davis to play football and study to become an astronaut. But everything changed after a football injury. He decided to take an Introduction to Winemaking course because it fit his physical rehabilitation schedule. After graduating, Iaconis traveled the world to learn about wine – working in Australia, New Zealand, France and back home in California. In 2011, instead of launching rockets into space, Iaconis launched his own Healdsburg-based wine label, brick & mortar, with the help of his wife Alexis and Uncle Troy.
“What I love about wine is the process is so linear, which is easy for my mind to wrap around, coming from an engineering background,” Iaconis said. “You start with dirt and you eventually get to the finished product.”
The calling card of brick & mortar is selecting grapes from high-elevations sites. Iaconis finds the natural taste of these grapes comes through with minimal interference.
“UC Davis didn’t just give me a degree – it taught me how to think. In my industry, it is important to be a critical thinker,” Iaconis said. “I do what I can to create those opportunities for up-and-coming Aggie winemakers by staying connected and giving back to UC Davis.”
Purchase the Aggie Traditions wine collection, which features the classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir by Bucher Wines and the Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Chardonnay by brick & mortar.