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Sean McMinn

UPDATE 4:53 p.m.

Former Cal Poly wine and viticulture professor Keith Patterson was scheduled to teach two courses during spring quarter, according to wine and viticulture program director Jim Cooper. The search to find professors for those classes officially began Thursday, Cooper said, and he expects the two spots to be filled shortly.

“People in the industry loved Keith, and people have been sort of coming out of the woodwork to help,” Cooper said.

Cooper learned of Patterson’s death Thursday morning from his daughter, but said he had heard this past week that Patterson had entered Hospice care. He said students and faculty were “devastated” when he sent out an email to the department informing them of Patterson’s death.

“If Keith hadn’t had come to Cal Poly, the viticulture program as we know it wouldn’t be here,” Cooper said. “I think he played a role in planting the campus vineyard, and literally touching the lives of vit students who have gone into positions all over the state.”

The wine and viticulture program is talking to Patterson’s family about the possibility of a memorial taking place at Cal Poly, Cooper said.

Original post

Former Cal Poly wine and viticulture professor Keith Patterson died Thursday morning, the end of a long-term illness that forced him to retire in Summer 2012.

Patterson was respected by both students and faculty in the department, said Michael Costello, who taught wine and viticulture at Cal Poly with Patterson for 13 years. His death was expected, Costello said, though Patterson had been a guest lecturer in one of Costello’s classes as recently as January.

“He always had a story to tell, an experience to relate to the lesson,” Costello said. “This program will miss him. He was really the face of Cal Poly wine and viticulture to the state.”

Cal Poly alumnus Alex Kemp, who graduated from Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture department in Spring 2012, said Patterson was one of his favorite teachers. He connected with his students because he was a funny guy, always cracking jokes, he said.

“(I am) just shocked, really disappointed,” Kemp said. “He had a lot to offer as a teacher. And if you wanted to know something, he was always there to help you out.”

Wine and viticulture program director Jim Cooper announced Patterson’s death on the department’s Facebook page, telling students the professor died “peacefully this morning at his home in Santa Margarita.”

“Keith’s passion for viticulture teaching and research, and for life, had an enormous impact on countless individuals throughout the wine industry,” Cooper wrote. “He will be missed for generations to come.”

It is not yet known if a memorial for Patterson will be held at Cal Poly.

Join the Conversation


  1. Dr. Patterson was a friend, mentor, and professor to all in the WVIT program. He will truly be missed.

  2. Keith Patterson was a good friend of mine. I worked with Keith teaching viticulture in 2002 and 2003, and we had many good times. Keith and I shared a background in Eastern viticulture, and we once had a Norton tasting with the students.

    Keith was indeed a fine man, and passionate about Cal Poly and his students. He left his mark on them, and through them on American viticulture.

    I am sad because I was unable to contact him, from Tasmania, before he died.

    I have lost a fine friend and Colleague, and my sympathies go to his family and friends, and to the Cal Poly community

  3. Dr. Patterson is surely the face of Cal Poly Wine & Vit. He is also the heart. He will be missed to the marrow. The life blood of the central coast vines has skipped a beat. An infectious love of life. An incredible ability to spark passion in students. An immeasurable pride and love for his two girls. His students-his other children-currently manage vineyards, cultivate crops, blend juice, and bottle award winning wines all over this state, and internationally. He will live on, in our hearts, and in every vine, grape, harvest and bottle his students participate in. His anecdotes and life lessons, in his gentle Arkansas lilt, will echo in our hearts forever. Rachel and Victoria. He will always be remembered.

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