More than 300 people turned out Sunday at Santa Rosa Junior College for its third annual Wine Classic and witnessed its in-demand current and former culinary and hospitality students in action.

While about 15 of them served food at the event, 2008 graduate Rich Hayssen, now at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, prepared some of the food.

He credited his work at the college’s Shone Farm facility in Forestville — which produces its own wines, produce and beef products — with preparing him for the food-and-wine pairings at Kendall-Jackson in Fulton, one the county’s top tourist attractions.

“I was able to see where fresh farm-to-table cooking came from,” Hayssen said. “When I made my way to Kendall-Jackson, I was actually working in the garden picking fresh produce and knowing how fresh it can be.”

Funds raised for the event at Lawrence A. Bertolini Student Center will support the college’s wine, culinary arts and hospitality programs as well as student scholarships. Tickets were $75 per person, which allowed attendees to sample more than 50 wines from 30 Sonoma County wineries.

Last year’s event raised more than $39,000.

A class from the college’s hospitality program helped put on the event as part of the students’ final grade, said Jim Cason, a SRJC culinary arts instructor.

“This is just a wonderful opportunity to showcase our students,” said Frank Chong, SRJC president.

Chong added the event also allows SRJC graduates from years past to reacquaint themselves with new programs on campus.

Christopher Silva, president and chief executive officer of St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa, noted how many SRJC graduates are employed in the hospitality sector, whether at a winery or a restaurant.

“You can visit just about any winery in Sonoma County and the workforce will be populated to some extent by SRJC graduates,” Silva said. He serves as chairman of SRJC’s wine studies advisory board.

Silva said one challenge has been that many residents have moved to Sonoma County after college, and never visited the campus or become familiar with its vast resources.

“This is one way to getting them on-site, from seeing the campus, meeting Dr. Chong and tasting some of its wines,” Silva said.

“A lot of decision-makers from wineries are here.”

The festivities this year celebrated two local businesspeople as honorary co-chairs: Art Ibleto, who is known as Sonoma County’s “Pasta King” and operated the Spaghetti Palace at the Sonoma County Fair for more than four decades; and Evelyn Cheatham, who founded the Worth Our Weight culinary apprentice program for at-risk youth.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or