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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
The Forde Files 

Cummings Valley association offers $5,000 grant to study local viticulture

The Forde Files No 103


Tina Fisher Cunningham

Jo Anne Huckins, president of the Cummings Valley Protective Association; right, Clydell Lamkin, treasurer, at Souza Family Vineyard.

The Cummings Valley Protective Association is offering $5,000 – for starters – to a masters or doctoral student who will study the wine-growing environment in that pristine valley.

"We will provide funding for a viticulture grad student to do a thesis project on the new and future award-winning vineyards of Tehachapi," said Jo Anne Huckins, president of the association.

"We want to encourage people to plant vineyards."

The forensic study would explore all the elements that create unique wine – the variations in geology, soil, climate, elevation, water. It would include a 20-year forecast on what the viticulture in Cummings Valley will look like in 20 years.

The study will encompass a year, and the student researcher does not have to live in Cummings Valley full-time. He or she could commute from California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo or California State University at Fresno, the schools with major viticulture programs. The association will find housing for the student, perhaps in an RV or a bed and breakfast.

"The association board approved the funding of $5,000 with a provisional $2,000 add-on provided the thesis is moving along," Huckins said.

The study would be a way to reach out to other wine growers, she said.

"It's an investment in Cummings Valley and the entire area. It's a positive investment. This is really exciting and it just scratches the surface.

"We approved it 10 days ago at the board meeting. We want to move ahead. It is a unique opportunity for an industry critical to the economy of California."

She said that other wine-growing areas have grown rapidly in recent years, and Cummings Valley can as well.

The wine growers in the area are hoping to gain enough acreage to be granted the important appellation d'origine controlee designation, indicating the wine grapes were grown in a specific district. "Nobody who has tried to grow here has failed," said Bob Souza, owner with his wife Patty of the first vineyard in the Tehachapi region. Now they are one of five major vineyards, with a handful of smaller ones coming up. All have won prizes at important competitions.

"There's something going on here. It's the best place to grow, we're all learning," Souza said.

Interested students please call association treasurer Clydell Lamkin, 661-822-5299; email


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