Four years ago, Harvard University bought an old cattle ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. On an arid expanse north of Santa Barbara, California, the school’s endowment set out to make money from a notoriously tricky business: vineyards.

Thirsty wine grapes need water, a lot of it. So Grapevine Capital Partners, which manages Harvard’s investment, won county approval for huge ponds to store groundwater as part of an irrigation system for thousands of vines.


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