Wine tasting in support of Sac State athletics

Miriam Arghandiwal

From the vintage Crystal Basin Cellar in El Dorado to the Charles Krug vineyard of Napa Valley, rich wines produced by Sacramento State alumni will be showcased Friday on campus during the 4th Annual Stinger Wine and Food Festival.

The Sacramento State Stinger Athletic Association and 14 winemaking Sac State alumni have gathered together to provide an evening of wine tasting. In addition to wine, the association has also invited 10 food vendors to cater various finger foods.

Craig Perez, Sac State’s development director and member of the association, said the event was originally created by himself, Sac State athletic director Terry Wanless and Sac State alumnus Larry Augusta.

Their goal was to get the support of a wide variety of people for athletics.”We had the golf tournament where mostly men came, then we had the crab feed that appealed to families. With the wine and food classic we wanted to create a more upscale setting and date-like environment,” Perez said.

The Stinger Athletic Association is a booster club that is made up of primarily Sac State alumni who have a past in Sac State sports.

The association holds many fundraising events throughout the year.

These fundraising events include an annual golf tournament and an annual crab feed, and are held to raise scholarship money for Sac State student athletes.

Associate athletic director Mark Livingston said the Stinger Wine and Food Festival will not have a planned program for the night, so people can come and mingle around freely while drinking wine, eating great food and winning raffle prizes.

He said the event has been phenomenal in previous years and is expected to sell out all 350 tickets this year.

“As long as they make sure they’re 21 years old first, they can come and enjoy the evening. It’s a great way to network with other alums and see where they’ve been, and also just a great a way to learn about wine,” Livingston said.

The Stinger Athletic Association was started in the early 1980s.

The association is one of the oldest booster clubs in Sac State’s history and dedicates its efforts toward raising money to fund scholarships.

“The wine and food classic usually raises about $20,000 to $25,000 in one night. A full scholarship for a one student costs about $15,000 a year, so in one night we make roughly enough to fund one and a half students,” Livingston said.

Wanless said although the money is equivalent to what one student needs to have a full-ride scholarship, it can benefit multiple students.

“We break them up into partial scholarships. We have 550 student-athletes and funds enough for 208 of them to have full scholarships, but that funding is broken up and distributed among multiple students, so one student will get a scholarship that covers 50 percent of their tuition, another will receive 20 percent tuition. All in all, we’re able to help over 300 students receive financial aid in some form,” Wanless said.

Livingston said it is essential for the athletics department to provide scholarships to their students to remain a participant in Division I level sports.

“We have to able to recruit strong healthy athletes and to do that we have to be able to offer scholarships,” Livingston said.

Staying part of Division I sports is important to a university because with respect to academics, Livingston said, many outsiders refer to athletics as the “front porch.” This front porch is used by the public to view and draw conclusions regarding the quality of the many programs within the “house” of a university. Therefore, he said, the Intercollegiate Athletic programs have the responsibility and ability to enhance the vision of the universities they serve.

Peter Zimmerman, a Sac State alumnus and former men’s volleyball player, is now partial owner of the Crystal Basin Cellar’s winery.

He said he comes back annually for the festival to donate his wine to support the athletics department.

“I like to come back and see where other alums are and just support Sac State in any way I can. Others are wealthy and can donate money; I can donate wine,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman is donating five different kinds of wine: Cabernet, France, Malbec, Syrah and Mourvedre. Along with the wine, he will also be giving out a raffle ticket for a barrel tasting experience at his winery in Camino.

“The wine and food classic helps with networking. A lot of alums buy wine from me and many people I see at these events come up to the winery during fall, which is our harvest time, to see how it all works,” Zimmerman said.

Although Zimmerman graduated with a degree in physical education and is now a physical therapist as well, he said his passion lies in winemaking.

“The hustle and bustle of the crush is fun, I love the grape varietals and being able to turn those into wines and make them all distinctly different. It’s an art form; I leave my DNA in every bottle of wine. I make my wine different from everyone else,” Zimmerman said.

Along with Zimmerman, other alumni, like Marc Mondavi, will also be attending. Mondavi’s grandfather Cesare Mondavi owned and operated the original vineyard of Napa Valley, the Charles Krug vineyard. Mondavi now operates and owns the vineyard alongside his brother Peter Mondavi Jr. and his father Peter Mondavi Sr.

Perez said he is glad this one commonality has kept alumni coming back to help Sac State athletics.

“They were all part of a team and created bonds with each other. Those hours of running in the rain and going on all those bus trips, you become very close to your team and even coaches. It creates a bond between a student and the school that makes them want to come back years later, and see each other and help make sure that other students get those same opportunities,” he said.

Perez said even though alumni lend a great hand to help athletics, they are not the only ones who can do so. Donating is possible in many ways, he said.

“Students too can help make these opportunities by coming to fundraisers and supporting games. They can feel good that they helped a fellow student out and make bonds that they too can remember even if it’s not through sports,” Perez said.

Miriam Arghandiwal can be reached at [email protected]