The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Viticulture Student Spotlight: Esteban Garcia
First-generation viticulture and enology college student Esteban Garcia has successfully balanced a busy schedule (as a student, father of two, and internships with O'Neill Vintners and Constellation Brands) on his way to an undergraduate degree.
He has also tapped experience from campus research related to astringency indexes and Pierce's grapevine disease to expand his viticulturist career path in new directions.
Learn more about the 28-year-old's road from Mexico to Allan Hancock College, Fresno State and a position with Sea Smoke Vineyard in this recent interview.
Q: Where are you from, and why did you choose to attend Fresno State?
Garcia: "I consider Santa Maria, CA my hometown because I grew up there, but my native land is the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. A professor at Allan Hancock College, Ric Fuller (who also oversees its vineyard), encouraged me to pursue higher education, and was the one who told me about the viticulture program at Fresno State.”
Q: Which classes and faculty members had the biggest influence on you while at Fresno State?
Garcia: “Viticulture professor Sonet Van Zyl has had a big influence on me because she was always there to guide me and answer any questions. I have also learned a lot of new things in the plant science courses that will help me in my future career.”
Q: Have you been involved with research on campus, and how will it benefit your career path?
Garcia: “Yes, I currently hold a position as a student research assistant under Dr. Stephan Sommer in the Viticulture and Enology Research Center, which has provided great experience in an area that I hadn't focused on much before.”
Q: What was your background in agriculture before you started at Fresno State?
Garcia: “My family has always worked in agriculture. I come from a long line of indigenous people from Oaxaca where my ancestors worked the land and would grow corn for their everyday needs. I have picked strawberries, lettuce, broccoli, raspberries, and grapes, and in 2019 I held a position as a viticulture technician at Sea Smoke (Wines).”
Q: Have you done any internships while at Fresno State?
Garcia: “Yes, my first internship was as a winemaking intern with Constellation Brands, Inc. in Madera, and my second internship was as a viticulture technician with O'Neill Vintners & Distillers. During these internships, I was also able to refine my communication skills and learn time management skills.”
Q: Are you a part of any other clubs or organizations at Fresno State?
Garcia: “I’m currently the treasurer for the Viticulture Club, and volunteer whenever there is a chance. One of the great opportunities I had was helping at the FFA pruning contest here at Fresno State.”
Q: Have you received any scholarships related to campus, the Jordan College, or Ag One?
Garcia: “Yes - for the school year of 2021-2022, I was awarded the W&M Plummer Scholarship,
Perenchio Family Scholarship, Ag One-Women on Wine Riverside Scholarship, CSUF Viticulture
Club Scholarship, Ag One-Ross Borba Sr. Family Scholarship, Marc Radin Agriculture
Scholarship and H&N Moordigian Scholarship."
Q: Have you overcome any challenges to get where you are today, and how have they shaped to into the person you are?
Garcia: “One of the main challenges I had to overcome was the language barrier. It was difficult for me to learn English as my second language. I also overcame the obstacle of managing my time. For seven years I was a full-time student, dad and employee. Finally, I had to overcome the financial struggle of being a first-generation college student.”
Q: Are there any other interesting notes about yourself that you would like to include?
Garcia: “I enjoy mixed martial arts (MMA), and whenever I have free time, I stop by my local MMA gym for some training."
Q: What's your potential next career steps after graduation?
Garcia: “I have accepted an offer from Sea Smoke as a viticulutrist. I hope to gain experience that will allow me to become a vineyard manager and eventually a director of vineyard operations. I’m also planning on applying for the MBA program here at Fresno State.”