University of California, Davis, donors Earl and Linda Ault say they had no idea what they were doing when they started their winery.
Earl became interested in the wine industry while they were living in Eastern Washington in the mid-1970s, when there were only a handful of wineries in the area. It was a burgeoning industry, but untapped in the Pacific Northwest at the time. Now, the couple owns the popular Cedar Mountain Winery in Livermore, and they’ve done well enough to have the opportunity to give back through the Earl and Linda Ault Endowed Fund at UC Davis in the form of a planned gift.
Earl and Linda enrolled in UC Davis’ Continuing and Professional Education courses when they bought their vineyard in 1988, and they’ve continued to take classes there ever since. They have taken courses in growing grapes, branding classes, brandy making and filtration.
“The professional courses aren’t meant for academics, or to push you into a degree program,” Earl said. “What we loved is that they were taught by people in the wine industry, geared toward those who were pursuing career opportunities or who owned their own small winery.”
Off and running
Cedar Mountain Winery started in a three-car garage using only used and refurbished equipment. But with their knowledge from the UC Davis Extension courses and some late nights after their day jobs at Livermore National Labs as physicists, the Aults turned their winery into a commercial venture in 1990.
“People are terrified of making mistakes, but I say if you’re not failing 15 to 20 percent of the time, you’re not trying hard enough,” Earl said.
Now, Linda and Earl continue to incorporate their hobbies into the Cedar Mountain brand. Earl is an accomplished artist and creates many of the wine bottle label designs. Linda has been a recognized amateur chef for more than 20 years and studied at the Great Chefs at Robert Mondavi Winery, with Julia Child and Martha Stewart, to name a few. The Aults have also trained students interested in the wine industry.
“We’d have two interns every semester and pretty soon everyone wanted to intern with us because instead of having them drag hoses or clean floors, we enjoyed teaching them and giving them hands-on experience,” Linda said.
Pouring resources into education
Earl and Linda are self-proclaimed “UC and CSU system people,” and believe in the importance of education, which is the driving force behind their estate gift commitment to the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis. The gift will go exclusively to their scholarship fund, which was created four years ago. Earl and Linda hope it will make a difference in the lives of many students as they explore future career paths.
The Aults were also integral in the formation of the Viticulture and Winery Technology associate degree program at Las Positas College over 10 years ago in Livermore. The units earned in the program are transferable to UC Davis or Fresno State.
“I hope our gifts to UC Davis and elsewhere offer students the chance to ‘go for it’––to pursue their passions,” Linda said. “We want to provide support and encouragement.”
Earl and Linda Ault have joined the growing 1,100 members of the prestigious Peter J. and Carolee W. Shields Society — which recognizes generous donors who have made planned gifts to UC Davis.
Planned gifts include will and living trust provisions, life income gift arrangements, such as charitable remainder trusts, charitable gift annuities or pooled income funds, and designations of UC Davis as a beneficiary of a retirement plan or life insurance policy. Unite your legacy with UC Davis. Learn more about planned giving.