Cleo de la Torre/Tobbi to produce wine, and leave whining students behind

After three fruitful years, CHS English and Journalism teacher Cleo de la Torre, more commonly referred to by the student body as Ms Tobbi, is leaving CHS in order to explore the next great unknown: the wine business. However, true to her fashion, de la Torre’s aspirations are not that of your every-day wine merchant.

Alongside her husband, she plans to work closely with independent farmers in the coming year to produce wine through a new, more sustainable method that champions natural processes. Though this career shift may appear surprising, it, in a way, is really de la Torre coming full circle. Prior to teaching at CHS, de la Torre worked as a journalist for a number of publications and primarily wrote about food and beer while her husband was a beer brewer. She chose to instead pursue a more stable career in teaching for mostly economic reasons. As early as the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, she had no expectation to resign nor any idea as to the direction her future would take. Then, what began as a fun conversation between de la Torre and her husband eventually developed into a tangible possibility — one that would require her full time and attention.

“If we are going to take it seriously, we have to dive in,” de la Torre said. “And I can do that. I have a lot of skills. Teaching, especially, has provided me with a lot of skills and opportunities to work with different people and different platforms, whether it’s making a website or figuring out how to work an app. All those things kind of led me to make this decision.”

De la Torre’s time at CHS was not just a filler period. For all the knowledge she took away from the experience, she bestowed upon others in equal measure. De la Torre made a significant impact on the staff and student body alike with her creativity in the classroom and her dedication to her students. In just three years, she became involved with the IB program and sponsored multiple clubs, always willing to go above and beyond for others. Now, she plans to tackle her new business with the same fervor that her teaching always reflected.

De la Torre and her husband’s involvement with the craft beer movement introduced them to the world of wine. One of its latest movements particularly drew their attention. The pair’s current aspirations are inspired by the newly established natural wine movement, a stark contrast to industrial modern-day wine manufacturing. It is a method that supports and promotes independent farmers who grow their grapes naturally rather than through mass production. De la Torre is passionate about this wine making process and its larger ecological implications.

“It’s not just slapping a label on a bottle,” de la Torre said. “It’s really championing a style of wine production that we really think should move the world.”

The natural wine movement could mark a transition towards more sustainable practices in the world of wine for years to come. De la Torre has high hopes for an agricultural shift in the California wine industry and plans to be at the forefront of that change.

If all goes according to plan, her and her husband’s company, aptly labelled Bravo West Wines — both a celebration of the plentiful and unique grapes of the West Coast and a tribute to its namesake, a friend of the couple — should have its first wine batches on the market come 2021. Though currently working with a wine farmer, de la Torre dreams of producing her own wine further down the line. She also hopes to one day open a brick and mortar winery in Pasadena alongside her husband that CHS staff and graduated students (that are of age) could frequent.

De la Torre calls her end to teaching bittersweet. One of her biggest regrets is that she did not stay with the school long enough to see the class of 2021, the first students she ever taught, graduate. However, this is not goodbye. Though she is ready to embark on her next chapter, de la Torre will miss teaching dearly and plans to stay involved with students, staff, and events put on by the high school. In fact, de la Torre has a message for her past students:

“If anyone wants to go pick some grapes every now and then, you’ll have a job come harvest season. Keep me in mind. I’ll definitely keep you in mind!”