The Ohio State University Alumni Association

The Oval Collection Wines

The Oval Collection -- uncork a bottle of Buckeye excellence

Expertly crafted and exclusively for alumni and friends, there’s a varietal for every palate and party. 

And we ensure that a portion of every wine purchased goes toward supporting student scholarships. With every bottle, you’ll help deserving students pursue a Buckeye education.

The Ohio State University Alumni Association has partnered with prestigious vintners and vineyards to create The Oval Collection — a diverse assortment of wines that features a variety of tastes, styles and blends.

Each label is different, and this year’s four feature iconic imagery of campus and showcase Ohio State history. Informative and collectible, every bottle is a way for you to connect with your alma mater in celebration and remembrance.

Giving back never tasted so good, so find your favorite varietal today.


The 2019 wines

The wines chosen for the 2019 collection highlight an array of flavors, tastes and pairing options. This year’s collection also features two wineries owned and operated by Ohio State alumni.

A bottle of red Cabernet Sauvignon wine on a dark background

Cabernet Sauvignon, BonAnno, 2016, California 

This seductive BonAnno cab is a deep ruby red and shows classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas of spice and sage, followed by a mix of blueberries and blackberries with fresh raspberry notes.

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A bottle of white Chardonnay wine on a dark background

Chardonnay, Brutocao, 2017, California

A barrel-fermented chardonnay, this delicious white from Brutocao fosters aromas of pears, apricots, vanilla and lemon that evolve into lush tropical fruits with a long, velvety finish of vanilla bean and spice.

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A bottle of red Zinfandel wine on a dark background

Zinfandel, Pech Merle, 2017, California

A robust and stately old vine zinfandel from Pech Merle, this new vintage opens up with lively scents of dark fruits, boysenberry, Mexican baking chocolate, vanilla, allspice, fresh mint and cedar.

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A bottle of white Riesling wine on a dark background

Riesling Reserve, Chalet Debonné, 2017, Ohio

The grapes for Debonné Rieslings are grown in its “South River” Vineyards. They are cold-fermented in stainless steel at 58 degrees for approximately 16 days. This produces light spice, peach and apricot aromas and flavors that linger in the finish.

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Ohio State alum turns farm life into winemaking 

Photo of the Pech Merle Winery team stand in front of a wall of greenery drinking wine.

Bruce and Cheryl Lawton, center, founded Pech Merle Winery in 2007 and currently produce 7,000 cases a year.


As a student at Ohio State, Bruce Lawton ’81 began making wine.

Well, he made one barrel and, “it was terrible,” Lawton admits.

But Lawton was far from dissuaded. In fact, wine appreciation and wine-making permeated his professional and personal life in the years since he left Columbus, Ohio for the west coast.

Then, in 2007, Lawton and his wife, Cheryl, traveled to Pech Merle Cave in the Lot River Valley of France. It became the inspiration for their winery, which they founded in 2008 in Sonoma County, California.

Since then, Pech Merle Winery has earned more than 200 gold medals and a barrel-full of awards, honors and praise in the years since, producing 7,000 cases of wine each year.

One of those wines was selected for the Oval Wine Collection: Pech Merle’s 2017 North Coast Reserve Zinfandel. Described by one sommelier as “robust and stately with a rustic twist … an outstanding old vine selection that delivers,” this limited edition wine has earned numerous accolades, including a 95-point score gold medal/best-in-class at the 2019 Sunset International Wine competition.


Q: What is your reaction for having a wine selected for the Oval Collection?

A: I’m really proud of our wines and excited about the opportunity to reconnect with Ohio State. It brings it all full circle for me. There are over 530 wineries in Sonoma County and Mendocino County, producing some of the best wines in the world. It’s a tough business and very competitive. This Reserve Zinfandel has been celebrated in the industry and we’re honored that the Oval Collection recognizes the quality and value in the bottle.


Q: Why do you think this wine was selected?

A: The wine comes from the Addor Vineyard in Mendocino County. Ninety-two year old Felix Addor farms this vineyard with direction from our Winemaker, John Pepe. This old vine vineyard is one of the few left of its age. The vine vigor and fruit quantity is very limited and nursing these vines through the growing season produces a concentrated robust flavor that is obvious from the first taste. We blend 2 percent Carignan, 3 percent Syrah for added structure.

“When you’re talking about Zinfandel, you can talk about the spicy characteristics. It pairs well with a lot of barbecued meats, slow-cooked meats. It can be a great sipping wine.”

– Bruce Lawton ’81

Photo of various Pech Merle corks in a pile.

Pech Merle’s 2017 North Coast Reserve Zinfandel was recently chosen for inclusion in the Oval Wine Collection.

Q: Are you originally from Ohio?

A: Yes, I grew up on a farm near Barlow in southeast Ohio, close to Marietta. My family has owned the farm since 1796. It’s one of the older family farms in Ohio with original owners. My 90-year-old mom still lives on the farm and I come back as often as possible to take care of the farm maintenance chores.


Q: What does it take to produce great wine?

A: Honestly, the best wines are made in the vineyards. Of course, the weather changes every year, but we are fortunate to live in a climate with long dry growing season moderated by cool evenings that are nearly perfect for grape growing. But Zinfandel is a notoriously difficult grape variety to grow. Its tight grape clusters ripen unevenly. Therefore, the management of the vineyard — from pruning in the dormant season, leaf canopy training, bloom set, canopy leaf removal for ultimate ripening and harvest plan — become critical for wine quality and flavor. Sourcing from the very best Vineyards becomes the key.

Luckily we have a great winemaker (John Pepe) who shares our passion. We work with him on vineyard sourcing, fermenting protocols, barrel programs and exhaustive blending trials to get the flavor profile we want for the end product.


Q: When did you start making wine?

A: I made my first barrel of wine at Ohio State while taking Wine in Western Culture in the autumn of 1981. I got the bug earlier from my older sister, Cheryl. She made wine in her bedroom, hidden in a barrel disguised as an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can. It exploded one day and the jig was up. Her high school winemaking days were over and she passed the inspirational torch to me.


Q: What was your experience here at Ohio State like?

A: Ohio State was a kick in the pants. I was straight off the farm in my John Deere cap so it took me while to get the lay of the land. I really became excited about school in Spring '79 once I found the Aviation classes and became a private pilot. Football Saturdays were a highlight, obviously. I worked at the Varsity Club as a bartender and waiter. I also worked at the University Airport line service pulling planes from hangars and refueling.

I majored in Agricultural Engineering Systems and my faculty advisor Jim Papritan was a positive force. I became involved as President of the Student Club and National Vice President and traveled to many of the eastern states representing those organizations.

I had a great group of the same four college roommates I stayed with through graduation. Sunday dinners were always an event and wine was typically part of the menu.

See all the flavors and varietals of The Oval Collection, and uncork a bottle of Buckeye excellence.

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