Unbalanced: Wine time at the ND Reunion

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

Surveying the people seated in the Jordan Auditorium at Mendoza College of Business, John Bargetto ’88 smiled in wonder. “I’m impressed at your dedication to sustainability,” he said. “It had nothing to do with wine tasting, right?”

I can’t answer for the 100 or so in attendance at this particular Saturday afternoon Notre Dame Reunion event, but I was definitely there for the wine. However, I also enjoy touring wineries, so I was interested in the Bargetto Winery’s attempts to run a profitable business while being stewards of the land.

Bargetto is director of winemaking at his family’s company, whose main winery is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains’ town of Soquel, California. He said the business focuses on three E’s — environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially equitable.

Among the winery’s sustainability efforts was adding skylights to cut down on lighting needs; switching to biodiesel fuel for their tractors; avoiding Styrofoam in packaging; and planting cover crops, which add organic matter back to the soil, control erosion and attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs.

“Gophers are the bane of our existence,” Bargetto commented as he showed a slide depicting a barn owl ensconced in a bird house. Although there’s no proof that the predators might actually help with the gopher problem, Bargetto said with a smile, the winery splurged and set up two owl boxes anyway. The real method used to capture gophers, which can eat through the entire root system of grapevines, he said, is to set traps.

While not so nice to gophers, the company does extend kindness to its community. As part of its “socially equitable” goal, he said, the winery gives a portion of its proceeds each year to a nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz County.

As his talk winded down, Bargetto discussed the three types of wine —chardonnay, merlot and pinot noir — awaiting sampling in the Jordan Atrium. Because of the Santa Cruz Mountain area’s cool climate, he said, “Our region is best known for pinot noir.”

Those words sealed the deal for me, and when I joined a line at one of the three serving stations in the Jordan Atrium, pinot noir was my choice. The server was not stingy with the pour, and after a stop at the long table laden with cheese, cracker and veggie plates, I happily participated in a Notre Dame reunion tradition by chatting with an acquaintance I’d not seen in several years. Heather, working as a freelancer photographer at the May 31-June 2 reunion, and I agreed that the Bargetto Winery 2010 pinot noir was indeed a fine wine and the afternoon was indeed a fine time and, if you had to work at reunion, this was a fine way to do it.

Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine. Email her at schaal.2@nd.edu.