“I always liked plants and was going to do a botany major,” said Madison, who will graduate from high school next week.
The Camarillo teen changed her mind when she toured Northern California and drove through Santa Barbara County’s wine country.
“I was college touring and I had this epiphany,” Madison said. “This is where I want to be in 10 to 20 years. I see myself on my vineyard, making wine and having an herb shop.”
She changed her academic focus from botany to studies in oenology, the scientific study of winemaking, and viticulture, the study of grape cultivation.
The Camarillo teen said her academic major surprised her friends and family, as she knows very little about wine—largely due to her to age.
“I don’t know, I’m not 21 yet,” she said.
The future viticulturist joked that she can’t go wine tasting for a couple of years and doesn’t know whether she prefers red or white.
“It’s kind of idealistic, but it’s my dream. I see good food and good wine in my future.”
In high school, Madison focused on philanthropic clubs, such as Habitat For Humanity, and was the president of Cam-Force, a student group aimed at stopping child sex trafficking.
She was also the school’s mascot in her freshman and sophomore years.
“I’m an artsy person, but I always knew I was going to do something in the sciences,” she said.
Madison will attend the horticulture and crop science school at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with help from the Robert N. Miller scholarship, a $1,000 scholarship awarded to students enrolled in wine business programs.
Robert “Bob” Miller helped establish California’s Central Coast as a premier wine-growing region. He died in 2006.
Miller’s family set up the scholarship for students who study wine and attend Cal Poly or Alan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria.
The wine industry in California is booming. The state is the fourth-leading wine producer after France, Italy and Spain, according to Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based wine advocacy group.
In 2011 there were 3,540 wineries in the state, up from 1,704 in 1992, and that number continues to grow throughout California and the U.S.
Wayne Howard is the interim director of the Wine and Viticulture program at Cal Poly, the program Madison will be enrolled in this fall.
The program has about 264 students, its highest number ever.
“We had our first graduates in 2005, and we graduated four students,” Howard said. “This June we have 42 graduating seniors.”
Students in the program come from a wide range of backgrounds, Howard said. Some come from families that own vineyards; others are simply interested in the wine industry.
According to the school’s website, the program has a 100- acre state-of-the-art commercial vineyard where students make their own wine, which helps them appreciate the wine from “vine to glass.”
Madison said she looks forward to the wine program at Cal Poly and hopes to intern at some of the nearby wineries, a requirement of the program.
With 300 wineries near the school, Howard said, “students don’t have difficulty finding wineries that want them as interns.”
Madison said her father, who also has a background in agriculture, knows someone who owns a winery, and she will probably intern there.