man on forklift
Winery operations manager Dave Corey will work directly with Allan Hancock College students in both the on-campus winery and vineyard. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

Back in April, well before grapes in the on-campus vineyard began to ripen, longtime winemaker and viticulturist Dave Corey was hired to oversee winery operations at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

Corey, who with his wife, Becky, owns Orcutt’s Core Wines, will be responsible for the winemaking, vineyard care and sales of wine for the college’s Viticulture and Enology Foundation.

He isn’t an instructor, per se, he said: “My role is more one of support than teaching.”

On Aug. 1, Corey and I walked row after row of grapevines in the vineyard across College Avenue from the winery. The vines in the nearly 4-acre site are cultivated by Corey, students in
the viticulture operations classes, and, during school breaks, by a vineyard management company.

Students learn how to prune, maintain cover crops and control pests, and to thin vine shoots and drop clusters so that grapes ripen uniformly.

The vineyard sports an array of varietals, among them pinot noir, albarino, torrontés, chardonnay and syrah, said Corey, a longtime Santa Maria resident. 

The Viticulture and Enology Foundation supports both educational and cultural programs in the areas of agribusiness, viticulture and enology, and it operates the bonded winery on the Santa
Maria campus.

Hancock is one of just three community colleges in California to have a bonded winery, and is the only one located south of San Francisco, Corey said. (The other community colleges with
bonded wineries are Napa Valley Community College and Santa Rosa Junior College).


Winery Operations Manager Dave Corey examines grapes ripening in the Allan Hancock College campus vineyard, which includes nearly 4 acres of multiple wine grape varieties. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

Hancock’s viticulture and enology program started classes in 1987, and received its bond to sell wine in 2014, Corey said.

Early this month, Corey was anticipating when the first wine grapes — those destined for the program’s sparkling wines — might arrive at the winery.

Classes started Monday and Corey hoped the fruit to be used for both the sparkling and rosé wines would be ripe by late August or early September, just in time for students in the winemaking class to jump into high gear.

Corey brings decades of viticulture, winemaking and marketing experience to the viticulture and enology program at Hancock.

“With more than 20 years of experience in multiple facets of the wine industry, Dave brings a wide range of hands-on experience to our winery facility,” said Agribusiness Program Director and professor Alfredo Koch.

“He’s grown grapes, produced and sold high-scoring wines, developed a tasting room and has a passion for learning; all of these things will benefit our students.”


Dave Corey, an avid bicyclist, bikes to campus from his Orcutt home a couple of days per week. Behind his bicycle are cases of empty bottles donated to the winery by Santa Maria’s Rancho Sisquoc Winery. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

Corey and Koch will both continue to network in the region’s wine industry to secure donations of grapes from the region’s winemakers.

Rancho Sisquoc Winery will donate both merlot and syrah grapes to the program, Corey noted, and he hopes to procure cabernet sauvignon from J. Lohr Winery in Paso Robles.

He also hoped to line up donations of more red grape varietals, among them grenache, mourvedre, cabernet franc, petite verdot and malbec.

Corey hopes to guide students in crafting a red field blend from grapes grown in the campus vineyard.

He will promote the campus winery both on campus, with the use of more maps pointing to the winery, and in the community at large.

“Lots of this is just getting the word out about the Friday tastings,” and the new wine club open to the public, Corey noted. 

Hancock’s wines have been featured at various tasting events, among them the Lompoc Rotary Wine Tasting & Auction in February of this year. And its 2016 Pinot Noir received a 90-point
rating from Wine Enthusiast and is available at Costco in Santa Ana, Corey noted.

Corey earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, San Jose, and a master’s in entomology and plant physiology from Kansas State University. Prior to entering the
wine industry in 1996, Corey worked in Salinas and the Central Valley in agricultural field, working with cotton, almonds, citrus, walnuts, kiwi, table grapes, apples and stone fruit.

His first job in the wine industry was as a pest control adviser with Cambria Winery and Vineyards.

In 1999, Corey launched Vital Vines to provide technical support for vineyard owners and managers who favored sustainable agriculture. In 2001, he and Becky Corey founded Core
Wines, and have operated a tasting room in Orcutt for 13 years.

The couple are parents to three boys: Fletcher, 13; Nolan, 11; and Kellen, 7.

The Santa Maria campus winery is opening for tastings from 2 to 6 p.m. every Friday. The winery is located in Building O, Room 211. The college currently has 11 different wines for sale and four wines available for tasting. The tasting flight includes chardonnay, pinot noir rosé, pinot noir and syrah.

All wines are available for purchase by the bottle, and the wine club, open to the public, offers six bottles twice each year, Corey said.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.

Laurie Jervis

Laurie Jervis, Noozhawk Columnist

Laurie Jervis can be reached at The opinions expressed are her own.