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The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Michael Boroba and Robert Wemple and Ken Fugelsang

Viticulture and Enology Alumni Spotlight: Michael Borboa

(February 18, 2023) -- On National Drink Wine Day, we congratulate Fresno State viticulture and enology alumnus Alum Michael Borboa for winning a national contest to name a new wine grape variety.

He created the name 'Aromella’ for the aromatic, Muscat white wine grape hybrid, which ranks high for winter hardiness and productivity. 

Michael Borboa, The Wine Group head winemakerA senior winemaker at The Wine Group the past nine years, he was one of two winners from over 1,100 submissions in the contest for two new grapes created by Cornell researchers and was announced earlier this month (story).

Those from his graduating class in 2005 might also remember him as a campus winery student assistant and the Viticulture and Enology Department’s Undergraduate Student Achievement Award recipient at commencement.

Since then, he has also served as a head winemaker at Oak Ridge Winery (Lodi) and oversaw its OZV and Moss ROXX brands, while developing new brands and its white wine program. After graduation he also worked at Bear Creek Winery (Lodi), and oversaw a full range of higher end blends as its export winemaker.

Read more about the grape naming process, and how Fresno State has shaped his career in this interview.


Q: How did you choose the wine grape name, and what did you think about its characteristics when you tasted it?

“I was working on a sales pitch for an international wine buyer, and decided to use a rhyming exercise that I use for writing song lyrics to describe the possible label options. The wine we were trying to sell was Symphony, a Muscat Blanc/Grenache Gris hybrid. Symphony is known as an aromatic wine similar to Muscat. I have not had the chance to taste the grape, however the wine, which I have tasted and made by Goose Watch Winery is fantastic. The wine displays rich spicy aromatics akin to a Gewurztraminer.”

“After the sales meeting I went back to my desk and listened to NPR and heard about the Cornell University naming contest. Within 10 minutes of wordsmithing, I produced Aromella. I submitted it along with a few others, and the rest is history.”


Q: Talk about your current position in the wine industry and your typical responsibilities.

“I have been with The Wine Group for nine years, and as a Senior Winemaker I am leading the Almaden Madera winemaking department that includes two direct reports. One of the most rewarding aspects of my work includes recruiting for our winemaking internship program. This TWG program has developed numerous Fresno State students. Many of them have since become integral members of the winemaking industry across the U.S. and abroad.”

Q: What parts of your job do you enjoy the most?

““Harvest or ‘Crush’ as it is called by far is the most enjoyable time of year - new challenges and opportunities to turn California’s grape bounty into wine.”


Campus winery studetnt assistantsQ: How did your experiences on campus in classrooms and working at the Fresno State Winery help career-wise and to get to your position today?

“My time at Fresno State allowed me to push my own boundaries and limitations. The campus Viticulture and Enology Research Center faculty went above and beyond to support me and all the students. I was able to facilitate a scholarship contract between the Scholars Service Grant (now tied through the Jan and Bud Richter Center) and the Viticulture and Enology Research Center.”

“I could go on and on but would like to summarize by saying Fresno State and the campus winery provided me the opportunity to garner as much success as I was willing to work for. Although there were many that moved my career forward, Professor Kenneth Fugelsang was my mentor and champion. His guidance and counseling taught me lessons far beyond the classroom. He taught me how to hold my head up and let the world know that I am here, and that it is my turn to excel.”

Michael Borboa at graduation receptionQ: Were there any other faculty and staff that had the biggest influence on you?

“Doctors Roy Thornton and Susan Rodriguez, Dr. Robert Wample, Dr. Sayed Badr and Dr Sanliang Gu and staff members Cynthia Wood & Helen Chrisman were also so supportive.”