The Fresno State Vineyards' 2003 California Solaré dessert wine - a new ice-style wine released for the first time in December - won a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Four other student-produced wines also earned medals.

Fresno State, the first university in the nation bonded to produce, bottle and sell wine commercially, was the only university among the 1,572 wineries from 20 states in the competition. The contest, which drew 3,800 entries, is the largest among American wines.

Fresno State Wines' five medal winners are (all but one are from the Fresno State Vineyards):

· Double gold, 2003 California Solaré dessert wine. (A Double Gold means unanimous gold from all judges)

· Silver, 2004 California Tempranillo

· Silver, 2004 Fresno County Syrah from Saviez Vineyards

· Silver, 2003 Petite Sirah

· Bronze, 2004 California Syrah

The Tempranillo and the Saviez Syrah were released in December along with Solaré. The 2003 Petite Sirah was released last year and the 2004 California Syrah is scheduled to be released in late March of this year.

A public tasting of the award-winning wines will be held Feb. 24 at the Fort Mason Center's Festival Pavilion in San Francisco.

Fresno State's wines are available in the Farm Market on campus.[Cline, Harry] Various retail outlets also carry the wines.

Since becoming the first bonded university winery in the nation in 1997 with its first competition in the California State Fair that year, Fresno State has earned more than 200 medals in most of the wine industry's major competitions nationally and internationally.

Under the direction of winemaster Kenneth Fugelsang, enology students play a major role in the winemaking process. As part of their curriculum, they learn to perform all the laboratory and winery procedures required of winemakers. The Viticulture and Enology Department currently has approximately 150 students enrolled and offers a bachelor of science degree in enology and in viticulture, a master of science degree in viticulture and enology, a Certificate of Special Study in Enology and a Certificate of Special Study in Sustainable Viticulture.

The Solarè won the Chronicle's Double Gold in the Late Harvest Dessert Wine Category. The vintage is the Fresno State Winery's interpretation of the ice wine style first produced accidentally in Germany in 1794 when an unexpected hard freeze forced Franconia (modern Rheingau) winemakers to process frozen grapes. It was not until the mid-1800s that ice wine was intentionally made.

Fresno State's Solarè was produced from fully-ripened Viognier grapes grown in Madera County and harvested in fall 2003. The fruit was immediately frozen and held until January of the following year when it was pressed, Fugelsang said. Sixty gallons of juice at 39 percent sugar, was clarified and fermented in neutral French barrels for 10 months at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, as fermentation naturally subsided. One year later, the alcohol content was increased using Muscat brandy produced from grapes grown on the campus vineyard. The blend was aged another year before bottling.

Fugelsang explained that wines made from grapes that are artificially frozen (not frozen on the vine) are designated "ice wine style."

"Ice wine flavor should be intense but balanced," Fugelsang said. "Fresno State's Solarè is a profusion of honeysuckle aroma followed by rich fully-ripened pear, peach and mango flavors. The experience culminates with rich tropical orange-vanilla flavors and incredibly long finish. Solarè is an ideal dessert pairing with fruit and cheese."

The Solarè ice wine style and the other award-winning wines will be featured at the Fresno State Winemaster's Weekend at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite March 2-3, 2007.

That event is one of several planned during the winery's 10th anniversary year which will include a special observance of that milestone in the fall. Other upcoming events for the viticulture enology program at Fresno State may be viewed at http://cast.csufresno.edu/ve/veevents/veevents.htm.